Epic Games Unveil Unreal Engine 5 With Breathtaking PS5 Demo

In the second presentation so far of Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest after the reveal of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 And 2, Epic Games unveiled the next-generation game engine that is Unreal Engine 5. Designed with features that will make future game worlds even more detailed and dynamic than ever, we even got a look at how things would run in real time via a tech demo on the PS5.

Lumen in the Land of Nanite is a fully playable demo that would have made its debut at Game Developers Conference. It features two of Unreal Engine 5’s brand new tools.

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Nanite virtualised micropolygon geometry frees artists to create as much geometric detail as the eye can see. That means film-quality source art comprising hundreds of millions or billions of polygons can be imported directly into Unreal Engine—anything from ZBrush sculpts to photogrammetry scans to CAD data—and it just works. Nanite geometry is streamed and scaled in real time so there are no more polygon count budgets, polygon memory budgets, or draw count budgets; there is no need to bake details to normal maps or manually author LODs; and there is no loss in quality.

Lumen is a fully dynamic global illumination solution that immediately reacts to scene and light changes. The system renders diffuse interreflection with infinite bounces and indirect specular reflections in huge, detailed environments, at scales ranging from kilometers to millimeters. Artists and designers can create more dynamic scenes using Lumen, for example, changing the sun angle for time of day, turning on a flashlight, or blowing a hole in the ceiling, and indirect lighting will adapt accordingly. Lumen erases the need to wait for lightmap bakes to finish and to author light map UVs—a huge time savings when an artist can move a light inside the Unreal Editor and lighting looks the same as when the game is run on console.

The way light and objects interact on-the-fly, as well as all the objects in the world throughout the demo were all in real time, all thanks to the PS5 doing all the processing work.

In an interview with IGN, Epic Games CTO Kim Libreri shared his thoughts on the company’s latest reveal.

I think a lot of people [will ask], ‘Oh is [the demo] real?’ But you know that demo was grabbed from the back of a PlayStation 5 development kit. An HDMI cable went into a disc recorder and played out real-time — no editing, no tricks, that’s what comes off the box.

Epic Games CTO Kim Libreri

According to Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney who spoke to Eurogamer, that is also only made possible with the kind of hardware that is under the hood of the PlayStation 5.

A number of different components are required to render this level of detail, right? One is the GPU performance and GPU architecture to draw an incredible amount of geometry that you’re talking about – a very large number of teraflops being required for this. The other is the ability to load and stream it efficiently.

One of the big efforts that’s been done and is ongoing in Unreal Engine 5 now is optimising for next generation storage to make loading faster by multiples of current performance. Not just a little bit faster but a lot faster, so that you can bring in this geometry and display it, despite it not all fitting and memory, you know, taking advantage of next generation SSD architectures and everything else…

Sony is pioneering here with the PlayStation 5 architecture. It’s got a God-tier storage system which is pretty far ahead of PCs, on a high-end PC with an SSD and especially with NVMe, you get awesome performance too.

Epic founder and CEO, Tim Sweeney

Of course, technology is rapidly improving, and by the time we get our hands on games made with Unreal Engine 5 (available in 2021), the hardware for PCs would have made leaps and bounds. But for now, it is great to see an industry-leading engine maker recognising the hardware innovations made at Sony and PlayStation for the PS5.

The ability of Unreal Engine 5 to offer photorealism and fidelity, but also increase the efficiency and productivity of developers working on it is unprecedented. It is simpler for creators to create more complicated things in a sense. With Lumens and Nanite, the engine is primed to render changes immediately and in real time, the interactivity and dynamism are a harbinger of the great things to come.

Also present in the demo are next-gen features already available in Unreal Engine 4.25, such as Niagara VFX improvements, Chaos physics and destruction, animation system enhancements, and audio advancements.

In addition, Epic Games are making sure developers are benefiting monetarily as well. If you are using Unreal Engine, royalties will be waived for the first US$1 million in revenue.

The best quality of assets, dynamic lighting, all interacting independently without baked in rendering. The next-generation of console and PC games are going to be amazing.