GDC 14: Unreal Engine 4 Launches with Radical Changes

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 19, 2014 - 08:15 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, gdc 14, GDC, epic games

Game developers, from indie to the gigantic, can now access Unreal Engine 4 with a $19/month subscription (plus 5% of revenue from resulting sales). This is a much different model from UDK, which was free to develop games with their precompiled builds until commercial release, where an upfront fee and 25% royalty is then applied. For Unreal Engine 4, however, this $19 monthly fee also gives you full C++ source code access (which I have wondered about since the announcement that Unrealscript no longer exists).

Of course, the Unreal Engine 3-based UDK is still available (and just recently updated).

This is definitely interesting and, I believe, a response to publishers doubling-down on developing their own engines. EA has basically sworn off engines outside of their own Frostbite and Ingite technologies. Ubisoft has only announced or released three games based on Unreal Engine since 2011; Activision has announced or released seven in that time, three of which were in that first year. Epic Games has always been very friendly to smaller developers and, with the rise of the internet, it is becoming much easier for indie developers to release content through Steam or even their own website. These developers now have a "AAA" engine, which I think almost anyone would agree that Unreal Engine 4 is, with an affordable license (and full source access).

Speaking of full source access, licensees can access the engine at Epic's GitHub. While a top-five publisher might hesitate to share fixes and patches, the army of smaller developers might share and share-alike. This could lead to Unreal Engine 4 acquiring its own features rapidly. Epic highlights their Oculus VR, Linux and Steam OS, and native HTML5 initiatives but, given community support, there could be pushes into unofficial support for Mantle, TrueAudio, or other technologies. Who knows?

A sister announcement, albeit a much smaller one, is that Unreal Engine 4 is now part of NVIDIA's GameWorks initiative. This integrates various NVIDIA SDKs, such as PhysX, into the engine. The press release quote from Tim Sweeney is as follows:

Epic developed Unreal Engine 4 on NVIDIA hardware, and it looks and runs best on GeForce.

Another brief mention is that Unreal Engine 4 will have expanded support for Android.

So, if you are a game developer, check out the official Epic Games blog post at their website. You can also check their Youtube page for various videos, many of which were released today.

Source: Epic Games

NVIDIA Introduces New GeForce Game Bundles

Subject: General Tech | March 12, 2014 - 09:23 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, nvidia, gtx 700, GeForce 800M, game bundle, daylight

NVIDIA recently announced the launch of two new game bundles for purchasers of certain GeForce GTX desktop of GeForce 700M and 800M mobile series graphics cards. The new bundles will offer up a redeemable code for the Unreal Engine 4-powered survival horror game DAYLIGHT to buyers of new desktop cards or a total of $150 of in-game currency in three Free-To-Play titles when buying a system with a new NVIDIA mobile GPU (or as an alternative to the DAYLIGHT bundle with desktop cards).

NVIDIA GeForce Gaming Bundle Daylight.jpg

The DAYLIGHT game bundle is included with certain GeForce GTX 600 and 700-series desktop graphics cards. Users will get a redeemable code for a downloadable version of the game which can be activated on release day (April 8, 2014). Specifically, the eligible graphics cards for this bundle are as follows:

  • GTX TITAN
  • GTX 780 Ti
  • GTX 780
  • GTX 770
  • GTX 760
  • GTX 690
  • GTX 680
  • GTX 670
  • GTX 660 Ti
  • GTX 660

Alternatively, NVIDIA is offering $150 (total) in in-game currency for three free to play games to users that purchase a notebook with a 700M or 800M mobile GPU or as an alternative to the Daylight game bundle when purchasing certain desktop GPUs. The bundle will offer $50 of in-game currency for Heroes of Newerth, Path of Exile, and Warface. Users that purchase a mobile GPU (700M or 800M series) or GTX 750 Ti, GTX 750, GTX 650 Ti, or GTX 650 from a participating e-tailer or system builder will be able to get this game bundle.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX Gaming Bundle Fre-To-Play Games.jpg

According to NVIDIA, both of its new game bundles are available now with cards and pre-built systems from Newegg, Amazon, Tiger Direct, NCIX, et al, and nationwide system builders respectively. NVIDIA has put together a full list of participating partners along with further information on the following bundle information pages:

Source: NVIDIA

GDC 14: Mozilla & Epic Games Run Unreal Engine 4 in Firefox

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 12, 2014 - 09:17 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 14, mozilla, epic games, unreal engine 4

Epic Games has been wanting Unreal Engine in the web browser for quite some time now. Back in 2011, the company presented their Citadel demo running in Flash 11.2. A short while later, Mozilla and Epic ported it to raw JavaScript and WebGL. With the help of asm.js, which is a series of optimizations for JavaScript, Unreal Engine 3 was at home in the browser at near-native speed, with no plugins. Epic's Tim Sweeney and Mark Rein, in an interview with GamaSutra, said that Unreal Engine 4 will take it beyond a demo and target web browsers as a supported platform.

Today, Mozilla teases Unreal Engine 4 running in Firefox, ahead of GDC.

Speaking of speed, asm.js can now reach within 67% of native performance and Mozilla is still optimizing their compiler. While it is difficult to write asm.js-compliant code by hand, companies like Epic are simply compiling their existing C/C++ code through Emscripten into that optimized Javascript. If you have a bit of CPU overhead in your native application, it could little more than a compile away from running in the web browser, possibly any web browser on any platform, without plugins. This obviously has great implications for timeless classics that would otherwise outlive its host platform.

Both Mozilla and Epic will have demos in their booths on the conference floor.

Source: Mozilla

Unreal Engine 4 Pitch to Developers: Layered Materials

Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2013 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, udk

Epic Games seems happy with their Unreal Development Kit (UDK) initiative. Not only did UDK spawn a few games, such as Hawken and Antichamber, but also a bunch of employable artists trained on Unreal Engine. Similar to an artist comfortable with Photoshop, many level designers comfortable with your tools could influence a few studio licenses.

Part of alluring users is giving them a legitimate reason to use you.

Computing the color of a pixel, at least these days, comes down to running scripts called shaders bundled into a package called a material. A material gives geometry its distinct look be it metal, glass, plastic, or particles of a nuclear explosion. Each triangle could, traditionally, be assigned just one material.

A new feature with Unreal Engine 4 is, as heavily foreshadowed, the ability to layer materials through a mask. The benefits of this model are real and apply for both gamer and artist alike. The video (above) demonstrates a rocket with the Unreal Engine logo branded upon it with a different metal.

Rather than creating a high resolution material, the artist is able to create multiple simple materials and select which one to use with a masking texture. This makes it easier for artists to reuse a library of materials and could provide higher performance with reduced material count and complexity.

There is currently no launch information but, especially given its Youtube channel, we can expect Epic plans to bring Unreal Engine 4 to the Unreal Development Kit at some point.

Unreal Engine 4 on Mobile Kepler at SIGGRAPH

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | July 24, 2013 - 05:15 PM |
Tagged: Siggraph, kepler, mobile, tegra, nvidia, unreal engine 4

SIGGRAPH 2013 is wrapping up in the next couple of days but, now that NVIDIA removed the veil surrounding Mobile Kepler, people are chatting about what is to follow Tegra 4. Tim Sweeney, founder of Epic Games, contributed to NVIDIA Blogs the number of ways that certain attendees can experience Unreal Engine 4 at the show. As it turns out, NVIDIA engineers have displayed the engine both on Mobile Kepler as well as behind closed doors on desktop PCs.

Not from SIGGRAPH, this is a leak from, I believe, GTC late last March.

Also, this is Battlefield 3, not Unreal Engine 4.

Tim, obviously taking the developer standpoint, is very excited about OpenGL 4.3 support within the mobile GPU. In all, he did not say too much of note. They are targeting Unreal Engine 4 at a broad range of platforms: mobile, desktop, console, and, while absent from this editorial, web standards. Each of these platforms are settling on the same set of features, albeit with huge gaps in performance, allowing developers to focus on a scale of performance instead of a flowchart of capabilities.

Unfortunately for us, there have yet to be leaks from the trade show. We will keep you up-to-date if we find any, however.

Source: NVIDIA Blogs

Computex 2013 / E3 2013: Unreal Engine 4 Partners Program

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 6, 2013 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, ue4, E3 13, E3, computex

We are bleeding through the overlap between Computex and E3 media windows; this news has a somewhat relevant fit for both. Unreal Engine 4 is coming and I expect we will see one or more demos and UE4-powered titles over the next week. In fact, I would be fairly shocked if we do not see the end of the Elemental Demo with the Xbox One E3 keynote. We may also potentially see Unreal Engine 4 running on mobile devices and maybe even HTML5 at some point throughout the tradeshow, either canonically through Epic or via a licensee product.

This morning, Epic opened the Unreal Engine 4 Integrated Partners Program (IPP). Of course they already have a couple of members, most of which were partners with Unreal Engine 3.

The founding IPP partners are:

  • Wwise from Audiokinetic
    • Manages large databases of sound effects and voice-overs
    • Manages subtitles and multiple dubbings of voice clips
  • Autodesk Gameware from Autodesk
    • Contains multiple packages including Beast, Navigation, and Scaleform
    • Scaleform is a Flash rendering engine for HUDs, menus, etc. developed using Flash Professional in 2D or 3D. It is what StarCraft II, Mass Effect, and Borderlands uses.
    • Beast is a lighting toolkit for global illumination, radiosity, etc.
    • Navigation is an AI solver, predominantly for pathfinding.
  • Simplygon from Donya Labs
    • Reduces polygon count of models so they take up less processing resources especially as they get further away from the camera.
  • Enlighten from Geomerics
    • Another Global Illumination solver, most popular usage being Battlefield 3.
  • SpeedTree for Games from IDV
    • Makes a bunch of efficient trees so studios do not need to hire as many minimum wage peons.
  • Intel Threading Building Blocks (TBB) from Intel
    • Helps developers manage C++ threading for multicore systems.
    • Deals with memory management and scheduling tasks
  • morpheme from NaturalMotion
    • Animation and physics software for designers to create animations
    • Works with NVIDIA PhysX
  • euphoria from NaturalMotion
    • Simulates animations based on driving conditions via the CPU, most popular usage being GTA IV.
  • PhysX and APEX from NVIDIA
    • You probably know this one.
    • GPU-based rigid body, soft body, fluid, and cloth solvers.
    • Allows for destructible environments and other complex simulations.
  • Oculus Rift from Oculus VR
  • Bink Video from Rad Game Tools
    • ... is not included! Just kidding, that stuff'll survive a nuclear apocalypse.
    • Seriously, check in just about any DirectX or OpenGL game's credits if it includes pre-rendered video cutscenes or video-textures.
    • I'll wait here.
    • In all seriousness, Rad Game Tools has been licensed in over 15,500 titles. It's been a meme to some extent for game programmers. This should be no surprise.
  • Telemetry Performance Visualizer from Rad Game Tools
    • Allows developers to see graphs of what their hardware is working on over time.
    • Helps developers know what benefits the most from optimization.
  • RealD Developer Kit (RDK) from RealD
    • Helps game developers create stereoscopic 3D games.
  • Umbra 3 from Umbra Software
    • Determines what geometry can be seen by the player and what should be unloaded to increase performance.
    • Sits between artists and programmers to the former does not need to think about optimization, and the latter does not need to claw their eyes out.
  • IncrediBuild-XGE from Xoreax
    • Apparently farms out tasks to idle PCs on your network.
    • I am not sure, but I think it is mostly useful for creating a pre-render farm at a game studio for light-baking and such.

We still have a little while until E3 and so we do not know how E3 will be, but I highly expect to see Unreal Engine 4 be a recurring theme over the next week. Keep coming back to PC Perspective, because you know we have a deep interest in where Epic is headed.

Source: Epic Games

Unreal Engine 4 Demo for PS4, Reduced Quality?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | February 26, 2013 - 08:07 PM |
Tagged: ps4, unreal engine 4

Unreal Engine 4 was present at Sony's Playstation 4 press conference, but that is no surprise. Epic Games has been present at several keynotes for new console launches. Last generation, Unreal Engine 3 kicked off both Xbox 360 and PS3 with demos of Gears of War and Unreal Tournament 2007, respectively. The PS4 received a continuation of the Elemental Demo first released at the end of E3 last June.

All I could think about when I watched the was, “This looks pretty bad. What happened?”

If you would like to follow along at home, both demos are available on Youtube:

As you can see from the animated GIF above, particle count appears to have been struck the worst. The eyes contain none of the particle effects in the PS4 version. There appears to be an order of magnitude or two more particles on the PC version than the PS4. There are no particle effects around the eyes of the statue. Whole segments of particles are not even rendered.

UE4_2_PCvPS4.jpg

In this screenshot, downsampled to 660x355, the loss of physical detail is even more apparent. The big cluster of particles near the leg are not present in the PS4 version and the regular cluster is nowhere near as densely packed.

And the lighting, oh the lighting.

On the PS4 everything looks a lot higher contrast without a lot of the subtle lighting information. This loss of detail is most apparent with the volcano smoke and the glow of the hammer but are also obvious in the character model when viewed in the video.

Despite the 8GB of RAM, some of the textures also seem down-resolution. Everything appears to have much more of a plastic look to it.

Still, while computers still look better, at least high-end PC gaming will still be within the realm of scalability for quite some time. We have been hampered by being so far ahead of consoles that it was just not feasible to make full use of the extra power. At least that is looking to change.

E3 12: Unreal Engine 4 -- What you (and we) missed at GDC.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | June 8, 2012 - 06:09 PM |
Tagged: video, unreal engine 4, E3 12, E3

Epic has released as much of their GDC demo as they are able to in an effort to end E3 2012 with a bang. They have included a second video to walk through the engine for developers to enjoy. We will explain to the masses why it is awesome.

Before we go any further -- the video you have been waiting months to see.

Be prepared for a particle-filled generation.

As was the case with Intel’s sand-to-CPU video -- the demo is pleasing but the supplementary info is the prize.

Epic released a 10 minute developer walkthrough to highlight the most important features of Unreal Engine 4. You can see it below and read on to see what that all means.

Yes, Unrealscript did not make it to Unreal Engine 4.

The first major feature of the engine is real-time dynamic global illumination and glossy specular reflection. Traditional video game graphics only considers the first bounce of light from a source -- if that bounce does not reach the player camera then it does not exist. Global illumination allows objects to be lit not just by light sources but also by light bouncing from neighboring objects.

It has been very popular to calculate how light interacts with objects ahead of time for the last generation as well as a portion of the generation prior to that. With those methods you are able to soften the shadows cast by light and make the scene feel much more naturally lit. The problem arises when anything in the scene moves or changes as obviously happens in a video game.

Unreal Engine 4 has the ability to calculate Global Illumination in real time. Dynamic lights such as muzzle flashes or flames are able to not just illuminate the area around them but also induce that area around it to light each other.

Also, static sources such as moonlight shining in the window against the floor can bounce from the floor and slightly lighten the walls with a bluish tint without being calculated ahead of time. Developers can try lighting effects without waiting for sometimes hours to see the results. This also means that what would have been once a pre-computed lit scene with nothing moving can now be destroyed and still remain properly lit. And now the moon can even move if the designer wants.

UE4-1-1.jpg

Specular material on the gold statue

UE4-1-2.jpg

Diffuse material on the gold statue, notice how the floor lighting from the statue desaturates and changes.

In this scene we see how light can reflect against a statue and influence the objects around it. A specular material has a much smoother and more mirror-like surface than a diffuse material which tends to scatter light in all directions. If you were to shine a laser against a mirror the beam would bounce and you would not see it unless you were in the reflected path whereas if you shine the laser against the wall you would see a dot regardless of how you look at it. This is because the wall, like a projector screen, is like trillions of microscopic mirrors all pointed in different directions which each take a tiny fraction of the light and sends it in a different direction.

In Unreal Engine 4, this effect means that a shiny surface will not only glare if you look at it but also light the objects around it differently than a diffuse surface. You can see that effect against the floor.

Read on after the break to continue with the discussion of Unreal Engine 4 features.

Unreal Engine 4 first screenshots. Wicked Sick?

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | May 18, 2012 - 04:24 AM |
Tagged: E3, unreal engine 4, ue4

Epic Games has demonstrated Unreal Engine 4 behind closed doors at GDC a few months ago. First screenshots have been released from that demo although not much more has been made public about it. While not completely epic, it definitely is exciting. Unreal Engine 4 is expected to be further unveiled at or near E3 in June.

Both Wired Magazine and PC Gamer have released screenshots and articles from the Unreal Engine 4 Game Developers Conference 2012 (GDC12) demo.

Epic has been quiet about the next generation of their game development platform. Only a handful of lucky individuals were shown the demo at the GDC and those who did could not share their experience. Epic has said that they would have liked to publicly demonstrate their product, but were unable to due to non-disclosure agreements that they themselves were placed under.

Unreal-Engine-4-3.jpg

I think that guy needs some thixomolded magnesium alloy. He seems to be running a little hot.

Either he’ll cool down, or produce a beautiful white bloom.

(Screenshot Credit: PC Gamer)

Wired claims that Epic will unveil the rest of Unreal Engine 4 in June which likely means that it will occur on or around the E3 press conference.

It is thus easy to speculate that whatever gagged Epic will likely be unveiled at E3 too.

The major hook of the demo was that it was running in the editor and not in a baked game executable. This means that developers will have a much easier time creating their game and will also have to spend much less time preparing to work. About the only concrete tidbit in the article is that Unreal Engine 4 will not have baked lighting. Unreal Engine 4 will likely use a technology similar to Battlefield 3 where global illumination is calculated at runtime -- nearly a must for properly lit destructibility.

Both sources have their own set of screenshots. Check out both Wired and PC Gamer so you do not miss any pixels.

Source: PC Gamer