Epic Games' first major announcement at this morning’s State of Unreal presentation is huge; next-gen real-time 3D content creation in both game and non-game workflows gets a shot in the arm with new UE5 features, enhancements, and support.
Well, the wait is over – Unreal Engine 5 has been released! In this morning’s State of Unreal presentation, Epic Games has announced the availability of the latest and greatest version of its state-of-the-art flagship game engine that fuels millions of game and non-game real-time 3D content production pipelines around the world.
A company blogpost provides extensive details on what’s inside UE5; the post notes that while some new features like Lumen and Nanite haven’t been validated for non-game workflows, the new version will support workflows created in UE 4.27, and that all creators will benefit from a redesigned Unreal Editor, better performance, artist-friendly animation tools, an extended mesh creation and editing toolset, improved path tracing, and more.
While we suggest heading over to the UE site to read more on new features and functions, including UE5 release notes, here are a few highlights from the announcement:
Next-generation real-time rendering
- First off, there’s Lumen—a fully dynamic global illumination solution that enables you to create believable scenes where indirect lighting adapts on the fly to changes to direct lighting or geometry—for example, changing the sun’s angle with the time of day, turning on a flashlight, or opening an exterior door.
- UE5’s new virtualized micropolygon geometry system, Nanite, gives you the ability to create games and experiences with massive amounts of geometric detail.
- Specifically designed to work well with Lumen and Nanite, Virtual Shadow Maps (VSMs) provide plausible soft shadows with reasonable, controllable performance costs. Nanite and VSMs intelligently stream and process only the detail you can perceive, largely removing poly count and draw call constraints, and eliminating time-consuming work like baking details to normal maps and manually authoring LODs—freeing you up to concentrate on creativity.
New Open World toolset
- A new World Partition system changes how levels are managed and streamed, automatically dividing the world into a grid and streaming the necessary cells.
- Team members can now also simultaneously work on the same region of the same World without treading on each other’s toes, thanks to a new One File Per Actor (OFPA) system, while with Data Layers, you can create different variations of the same world—such as daytime and nighttime versions, or intact and broken geometry—as layers that exist in the same space.
- The groundwork has been laid for creating absolutely massive worlds in UE5—without the need for rebasing or other tricks—with initial support for Large World Coordinates (LWC), which uses double-precision values under the hood.
Built-in character and animation tools
- With Unreal Engine 5, you can animate in context, reuse existing animations, and adapt animations to suit gameplay conditions at runtime.
- For animation authoring, there’s a powerful new suite of artist-friendly tools that enable you to work directly in the Unreal Editor. Highlights include the ability to quickly and easily create rigs and share them across multiple characters with the enhanced, production-ready Control Rig, then animate them in Sequencer, where you can save and apply the poses with the new Pose Browser, and apply blended keys with undershoot or overshoot using the Tween tool.
- An entirely new retargeting toolset enables you to quickly and easily reuse and augment existing animations. With IK Retargeter, you can transfer animations between characters with different skeletons and proportions—you could even retarget a human’s animation to a wolf, for example.
- There are also a number of new features that you can use to adjust animations at runtime to compensate for different gameplay scenarios—such as different speeds or terrains—for better believability and immersion.
In-editor modeling, UV editing, and baking
- UE5 sees a significantly expanded and enhanced toolset for mesh modeling, UV editing, and baking; they combine to form a powerful workflow that enables artists to develop and refine assets right in the Unreal Editor.
- There’s a massive array of new and enhanced tools for mesh creation and editing, representing a fundamental leap forward. These updates—which also include multiple enhancements to core modeling, sculpting, and remeshing and simplification—are supported by architectural advancements that create the framework for future tools. Watch this space!
- The suite of UV editing tools have been significantly updated and expanded.
- The baking and mesh attributes toolset has also been significantly expanded.
Enhanced editor UI and workflow
- It’s time for a makeover! Unreal Engine 5 sports a modernized appearance, streamlined workflows, and optimized use of screen real estate, making it easier, faster, and more pleasing to use.
- With Quixel Bridge now fully integrated, you have direct drag-and-drop access to the entire Megascans library, with no separate download steps.
- To free up more space for viewport interactions while still keeping tools and content within easy reach, we’ve added the ability to easily summon and stow the Content Browser via a hotkey or button and to dock any editor tab to a collapsible sidebar.
Stunning final-pixel imagery
- Introduced in Unreal Engine 4.27, the Path Tracer is a DXR-accelerated, physically accurate progressive rendering mode that requires no additional setup. For those creating still imagery or linear content, it enables you to produce offline renderer-quality imagery right from Unreal Engine, and in a fraction of the time.
Head over to the Unreal Engine site to read all about the new UE5 release – where to download, how to find free sample projects - including the brand-new City Sample and Lyra Starter Game - and more.
Source: Epic Games
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.