Alongside the big news of Unreal Editor For Fortnite, content store Fab and new programming language Verse there was - of course - the usual upgrades to Unreal Engine, the foundation for tens of thousands of games - including mobile - all around the world of entertainment.
Described by Epic as “the backbone of the Epic ecosystem” the team announced that 77% of all Unreal users have moved over to Unreal Engine 5, which was introduced at last year's State of Unreal event in April 2022.
Now - as Unreal Engine 5.2 - these users are being treated to the usual new tweaks and features. In fact, users can download a real-time demonstration of ‘what’s new’ via the Epic Games Launcher and GitHub in an experience entitled Electric Dreams.
Realistic world-building and physics
The rest of us were able to enjoy a video of Electric Dreams in action, featuring a photorealistic Rivian R1T (the smash-hit all-electric pick-up that's in big demand right now) as it picked its way through a landscape of trees and vegetation all built with Quixel Megascans, and mountains and rocks courtesy of Quixel MegaAssemblies.
A new shading system named Substrate allows artists to compose and layer different shading models to achieve new levels of fidelity and the demo showed off its skills on the Rivian’s interior. Substrate is shipping in 5.2 as ‘Experimental’.
And the action with the Rivian didn’t end there as Unreal’s new vehicle physics were brought to bear on the model as it made its way over rocks and roots, accurately modeling the vehicles air suspension. Naturally there were more than a few puddles at play to expertly show off Unreal’s improved abilities simulating fluids and mud
And Unreal’s power for building huge worlds was clearly at play as new in-editor and run-time Procedural Content Generation (PCG) tools that both allow artists to auto-build with defined rules and parameters that still work seamlessly with hand-placed content when a finishing touch is required.
New faster, easier, better performance capture
And, of course, Unreal’s power isn’t just limited to animating mere machines. Digital humans are hot right now and Unreal 5.2’s next-level tools take the whole ‘is that real?’ aesthetic to a whole new level.
The power comes courtesy of MetaHuman Animator, a new feature set for Unreal’s existing MetaHuman framework allowing users to reproduce any facial performance as high-fidelity animation on MetaHuman characters.
You can of course use costly helmet-mounted cameras to achieve your source input or can simply use your iPhone. The system can quickly transfer any detail and nuance captured onto any MetaHuman you have in progress.
Epic describes the results as being “the quality of facial animation required by AAA game developers and Hollywood filmmakers, while at the same time being accessible to indie studios and even hobbyists.”
All in all the power at play is truly state of the art and with an increasing presence in mobile we should expect our games to take a significant step up in graphical fidelity as the new 5.2 tech rolls out and finds favour.