Epic's Unreal Engine has received a new 5.2 update. In the blog highlighting the bigger changes to come, the company highlighted its efforts to "further expand UE5’s groundbreaking toolset" in ways that offer more freedom in how characters and worlds are created by game developers.
The release of 5.2 brings with it Substrate, an "experimental feature" revealed back at GDC 2023. Substrate lets artists create rules and parameters to objects in real-time. With it, developers can create more photorealistic environments and provide "layered looks" to objects.
Epic recommended it not be used on production work. It advised that users offer feedback as it "continue to refine [Substrate's] functionality."
Unreal's Procedural Content Generation
5.2 also boasts a new framework for Procedural Content Generation (PCG) that Epic says can be used directly inside of Unreal Engine. With the in-editor tools, users can make rules and parameters to "populate large scenes with Unreal Engine assets of your choice, making the process of creating large worlds fast and efficient."
Interestingly, the update also contains an enhanced virtual production toolset. While its focus on color grading and virtual camera operation is more geared towards filmmakers, developers may find a use for it in cutscene creation, or perhaps in storyboarding cutscenes.
That toolset can be used in an incoming iOS app for an ICVFX editor that controls stage operations. Similar to Substrate and the PCG, the stage operator will offer "creative control...where filming is actually taking place, without having to call back to the Unreal Engine operators."
For the full list of changes with Unreal Engine 5.2, Epic has posted a full, lengthy list of notes.