Unreal Engine 4.5 Recently Released

Subject: General Tech | October 19, 2014 - 11:20 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, epic games

Epic Games released Unreal Engine 4.5 last Tuesday, and it is one of their largest releases since launch. While most point-releases occur on a four-to-six week schedule, this one took about nine weeks.

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The headlining feature from the press release is Ray Traced Distance Field Soft Shadows. In the real world, lights have an actual size. A light bulb is not an infinitesimal point, it fills up your hand when you grab it (when it is off and cooled to roughly room temperature, of course). If a surface can see a light, it is lit by it. If the surface cannot see the light, it is not lit by it, which looks like it is covered in shadow. If a light is big enough that part of it lights a part of a surface, but part of it is blocked, you get "soft shadows".

Ray Traced Distance Field Soft Shadows is a dynamic effect, which means that it can update over time. This is very useful if, for instance, the object that is casting a shadow gets blown up by a rocket launcher or, less entertainingly, the sun sets. The effect is also particularly quick, with scenes rendering in just a couple of milliseconds (you get about 16ms to hit 60 FPS). This is faster than cascaded shadow maps (a method to generate shadows that is optimized for shadows near the camera) in benchmarks listed at Epic's documentation.

epic-ue45-sss.png

Unreal Engine 4.5 has also updated Subsurface Scattering. I am not exactly sure what is different, because Unreal Engine 4 had SSS for quite some time now, but they changed something. This technique is useful to create realistic skin, but is also very useful for oceans, ice, and wax.

Although Ray Traced Distance Field Soft Shadows and Screen-Space Subsurface Scattering are the most interesting feature to write about, I would consider C++ Hot Reload to be the most important feature of this version. To explain it, I will need to first describe how Unreal Engine 4 is designed. When you subscribe, you are given source code access to the engine on GitHub; alternatively, you can download the Unreal Engine Launcher, which allows you to manage canonical builds of Unreal Engine. When a version of the engine is run, it will open a project in Unreal Editor. These projects could be programmed either in C++ or Epic's flowchart-based scripting system, "Blueprints". Complete games could be made in Blueprints, and developers are encouraged to do so, but they are often used for simple objects (lights and elevators), modifications of complex objects, and rapid prototyping.

epic-ue45-hotreload.png

Rapid prototyping is the key part of my explanation. Remember how there is "engine code" that, when compiled, opens an editor to run "game code" for any given project? Despite the E3 2012 demo, many changes in a project's C++ source require the editor to be shut down and reloaded when game code is compiled. This led people to use Blueprints as a prototyping tool, not because of its logical, visual layout, but because you could manipulate objects several times in just a couple of minutes and without closing the editor. Now C++ is said to be a first-class citizen in this regard (unfortunately I have not had time to test this). As long as you are not modifying the engine's code, just the C++ code associated with your project, your changes should be possible while remaining in editor.

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Also updated, and finally supported by default, is Unreal Motion Graphics (UMG). UMG is a UI platform that is built upon Slate, which itself is the main UI platform for Unreal Engine 4 (Unreal Editor, for instance, is created with Slate). Basically, it extends Slate and includes a Flash Professional-like editor for it, complete with styles, animations, and scaling for high-DPI devices.

Because I am not in the DirectX 12 private beta, I am unsure whether that branch has been updated. Microsoft has announced that it was based on Unreal Engine 4.4. They have not said anything publicly since, at least not regarding that.

Unreal Engine 4.5 is available now for subscribers through GitHub or the Unreal Engine Launcher.

Source: Epic Games

Developer's View on DirectX 12 Alongside Maxwell Launch

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 20, 2014 - 12:06 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, nvidia, microsoft, maxwell, DirectX 12, DirectX

Microsoft and NVIDIA has decided to release some information about DirectX 12 (and DirectX 11.3) alongside the launch of the Maxwell-based GeForce GTX 980 and GeForce GTX 970 graphics cards. Mostly, they announced that Microsoft teamed up with Epic Games to bring DirectX 12 to Unreal Engine 4. They currently have two demos, Elemental and Infiltrator, that are up and running with DirectX 12.

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Moreover, they have provided a form for developers who are interested in "early access" to apply for it. They continually discuss it in terms of Unreal Engine 4, but they do not explicitly say that other developers cannot apply. UE4 subscribers will get access to the Elemental demo in DX12, but it does not look like Infiltrator will be available.

DirectX 12 is expected to target games for Holiday 2015.

Source: Microsoft

Free as in UT!

Subject: General Tech | May 8, 2014 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: gaming, unreal engine 4, Unreal Tournament, kick ass, epic games

The only way Epic could have excited gamers more than the announcement that Unreal Tournament is coming back is to announce that it is utterly free with no DLC or pay-to-win ... which is exactly what they did!  It will be built on Unreal Engine 4, the one you can license at $19 a month and will be designed from the ground up to be moddable and eventually there will be a marketplace where modders can trade, sell or give away their work.  Polygon wasn't given any hint of a release date but this news is so exciting it almost makes you forget UT3 ever existed!

Of course you don't have to wait to join in on some classic UT2K4 action, just head to the Gaming Forum and see when the Fragging Frogs will be playing next.

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"Developer Epic Games revealed today that the multiplayer shooter's next incarnation — in development in Unreal Engine 4 for Linux, Mac and Windows PC and called simply Unreal Tournament — will be free, moddable and collaboratively developed with fans."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Polygon

Epic Games Teases Unreal Tournament Announcement

Subject: General Tech | May 4, 2014 - 04:14 AM |
Tagged: Unreal Tournament, unreal engine 4, unreal, ue4

Unreal Tournament will make a comeback. This Thursday, on the official UnrealEngine Twitch.tv channel, Epic Games will make some announcement about the future of the franchise. The only other concrete information that we have is in the original tweet from Paul Meegan, their vice president of product development for about a year and a half.

 

 

So, Unreal Engine 4 dev community and Epic. That could mean any number of things but it sure seems to suggest that the community will have an active hand in its development. As our readers know, UE4's licensing structure has transitioned from an undisclosed, large fee upfront and a percentage of revenue to a small monthly subscription (and five percent of revenue). Full source code is provided to these licensees.

Perhaps the game is not, itself, the product?

Or maybe it is. Who knows. I just get an... off... feeling from the structure of this preannouncement (and that is not a bad thing). It is set to occur on the stream where they record Unreal Engine training videos. They explicitly mention "UE4 Dev Community + Epic". Why the community so front and center?

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According to Edge, Epic is currently working on three titles: Fortnite, an unannounced mobile game, and an unannounced "high-end next generation title". The mobile title is currently in pre-production and will not be "formally announced for some time". This, of course, leaves one of two possibilities: it is the "high-end next generation title" or Epic is not counting it as an official title, for some reason.

Going a little further, Fortnite is said to be PC exclusive. If Unreal Tournament is their high-end next generation title, it will either be their only offering on the next generation consoles, or they do not have a planned offering on a next generation console.

As fun as it is to speculate, I should be clear that this is entirely speculation. We will know more when Epic makes their announcement, Thursday at 2PM EDT.

Unreal Engine 4.1 Launched: Console and Linux Support

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | April 27, 2014 - 01:50 AM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, ue4, epic games

Epic Games has just incremented the minor version number of their popular engine by releasing Unreal Engine 4.1 to all subscribers. While the dot-zero was available privately for quite some time, it was made public barely a month ago. Its headlining feature is a few extra platforms: Linux, SteamOS, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. Each of these are included in the 19$ per month and 5-percent royalty agreement -- excluding outside fees, such as those required to become a registered developer with Sony and/or Microsoft, obviously.

You will also need a capable Windows PC to deploy a game to Playstation 4, Xbox One, Linux, or SteamOS... "for now". This implies that development on other platforms is being considered. Development from OSX seems likely, as does Linux, but creating games on an Xbox One or Playstation 4 seems a bit far-fetched. Who knows though? If any company has good enough relationships with Sony and Microsoft to make it happen, it would be Epic.

 

I am guessing... Dreamcast support is a "no". It was not that ahead-of-the-curve.

The actual update notes are just shy of 7000 words and about 20 pages long, so platforms are not everything. Epic has been adding a lot of content and templates to the engine and their marketplace, including the Elemental demo first seen at E3 2012. The editor was also updated with numerous improvements, such as better FBX importing (FBX is a cross-application 3d file format).

Also, it is available now.

Source: Epic Games

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