After debuting Unreal Engine 4, the next iteration of its popular game engine, behind closed doors at the Game Developers Conference in March, Epic Games is finally letting the public have a peek at the technology's power
The company is doing more than showing what's possible with Unreal Engine 4, though; it's actively lobbying Microsoft and Sony to ensure that their next-generation systems will help games built with its engine reach their full potential.
"There is a huge responsibility on the shoulders of our engine team and our studio to drag this industry into the next generation," said Epic's Cliff Bleszinski in an interview
with Wired. Bleszinski has led the design team on Epic's Gears of War
franchise, which has been a showpiece for Unreal Engine 3.
"It is up to Epic, and [CEO] Tim Sweeney in particular, to motivate Sony and Microsoft not to phone in what these next consoles are going to be. It needs to be a quantum leap. They need to damn near render Avatar in real time, because I want it and gamers want it -- even if they don't know they want it."
Sweeney, who has worked on Unreal Engine 4 since 2003, added, "We're much more in sync with the console makers than any other developer is. That means we can give detailed recommendations with a complete understanding of what is going to be commercially possible."
Epic demonstrated the potential of Unreal Engine 4 to console makers, graphics card companies, and select developers two months ago, offering a demo of the engine's new features and capabilities. Wired also previewed the engine, and published details about the demo
One of Unreal Engine 4's key additions include dynamic lighting based on objects' inherent properties rather than on sets of preprogrammed effects. The technology replicates real-world lighting so that surfaces show accurate reflections, "colors mix, translucent materials glow, and objects viewed through water refract."
The engine's demo, which was running on Nvidia's consumer-level Kepler GTX 680 graphics card, also showed off other photo-realistic effects with fire, lens flare, blokeh distortion, environmental destruction, and details in landscapes miles away. Epic demonstrated how Unreal Engine 4 can handle particle effects, like millions of burning embers, with powerful enough hardware, too.
Outside of its graphical capabilities, Epic discussed Unreal Engine 4's updated visual scripting tool, Kismet 2. The feature makes it so that even non-programmers can build interactive scenes, by converting code that determine in-game objects' behaviors into interactive flowcharts with pull-down menus.
Furthermore, Unreal Engle 4 has features that are designed to shorten production pipelines and lower production costs, such as allowing developers to see many of the changes they've made to a game (e.g. lighting elements) immediately, without having to wait for those edits to take effect.
Epic intends to give the public a demonstration of Unreal Engine 4 next month, presumably during E3 (June 5-7).