Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 01:39 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ue4, epic games, pc gaming
Epic Games has released a preview build of Unreal Engine 4.18. This basically sets a bar for shipped features, giving them a bit of time to crush bugs before they recommend developers use it for active projects. This version has quite a few big changes, especially in terms of audio and video media.
WebAssembly is now enabled by default for HTML5.
As for the cool features: Epic is putting a lot of effort in their media framework. This allows for a wider variety of audio and video types (sample rates, sample depths, and so forth) as well as, apparently, more control over timing and playback, including through Blueprints visual scripting (although you could have always made your own Blueprint node anyway). If you’re testing out Unreal Engine 4.18, Epic Games asks that you pay extra attention to this category, reporting any bugs that you find.
Epic has also improved their lighting engine, particularly when using the Skylight lighting object. They also say that Volumetric Lightmaps are also, now, enabled by default. This basically allows dynamic objects to move through a voxel-style grid of lighting values that are baked in the engine, which adds indirect lighting on them without a full run-time GI solution.
The last thing I’ll mention (although there’s a bunch of cool things, including updates to their audio engine and the ability to reference Actors in different levels) is their physics improvements. Their Physics Asset Editor has been reskinned, and the physics engine has been modified. For instance, APEX Destruction has been pulled out of the core engine into a plug-in, and the cloth simulation tools, in the skeletal mesh editor, are no longer experimental.
Unreal Engine 4.18 Preview can be downloaded from the Epic Launcher, but existing projects should be actively developed in 4.17 for a little while longer.
Subject: General Tech | August 2, 2017 - 11:41 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, epic games, unreal engine 4, ue4
Apart from a Fortnite clip that they snuck in, Epic Games has published a video to highlight the recent use of Unreal Engine 4 in the enterprise. The game engine is attractive to several industries, including architectural visualization, product demos, and even rendering video for TVs and movies. For instance, you can walk through a building (even in VR) that you’re intending to create and move walls around, or customize a car and see it in that state before you order it.
One that caught my eye was the Paris VR demo from The Chainsmokers and Sony Music. This was the first that I’ve heard of it, but I find kind-of abstract, music video demos interesting. It reminds me a little of the Ellie Goulding WebGL demo from back in 2011. It should be a cute little demo if you have a PSVR, although you can also watch a playthrough on YouTube.
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 28, 2017 - 11:00 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: epic games, ue4, nvidia, geforce, giveaway
If you are an indie game developer, and you could use a little more GPU performance, NVIDIA is hosting a hardware giveaway. Starting at the end of July, and ongoing until Summer 2018, NVIDIA and Epic Games will be giving away GeForce GTX 1080 and GeForce GTX 1080 Ti cards to batches of Unreal Engine 4 projects.
To enter, you need to share screenshots and videos of your game on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, tagging both UnrealEngine and NVIDIA. (The specific accounts are listed on the Unreal Engine blog post that announces this initiative.) They will also feature these projects on both the Unreal Engine and the NVIDIA blog, which is just as valuable for indie projects.
So... hey! Several chances at free hardware!
Subject: General Tech | March 13, 2017 - 08:02 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: webassembly, ue4, mozilla, epic games
HTML5 was a compile target for Unreal Engine since Unreal Engine 3, but it was supposed to be a bigger push for Unreal Engine 4 then it has been. At the time, Mozilla was pushing for web browsers to be the main source of games. Thanks to Flash, users are even already accustomed to that use case; it’s just a matter of getting performance and functionality close enough to competing platforms, and supporting content that will show it off.
That brings us to Zen Garden. This demo was originally designed to show off the Metal API for iOS, but Epic has re-purposed it for the recently released web browser features, WebAssembly and WebGL 2.0. Personally, I find it slightly less impressive than the Firefox demo of Unreal Tournament 3 that I played at Mozilla Summit 2013, but it’s a promising example that big-name engines are taking Web standards seriously again. You don’t get much bigger than Unreal Engine 4.
So yeah... if you have Firefox 52, then play around with it. It’s free.
Subject: General Tech | November 15, 2016 - 06:04 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: vulkan, ue4, pc gaming, epic games
Every couple of months, Epic Games drops a new version of Unreal Engine 4 with improvements all over. As such, you should check the full release notes to see all of the changes, including the fifty-one that Epic thinks are worth highlighting. Here are some that I think our readers would enjoy, though.
First, Vulkan support for mobile devices has apparently moved out of experimental. While this will not be enabled for desktop applications, it's interesting to note that DirectX 12 is still in experimental. Basically, if you squint and put blinders on, you could sort-of see some element of Vulkan beating DirectX 12 to market.
Second, Unreal Engine 4 has significantly upgraded their forward renderer. In a lot of cases, a deferred renderer is preferable because it's fast and consistent; the post-process shader only run once per output pixel, ignoring lighting triangles that are covered by other triangles. The way this is structured, though, makes multisample anti-aliasing impossible, which is slightly annoying on desktop but brutal in VR. As an added benefit, they're also using forward shading to help the deferred renderer with translucent materials.
Unreal Engine typically uses a lot of NVIDIA SDKs. This version updates PhysX up to 3.4, which allows “continuous collision detection” on rigid bodies. This means that fast moving object shouldn't pass through objects without colliding, because the collision occurred between two checks and was missed, if this feature is enabled. They are also adding the Ansel SDK, which allows players to take high-detail screenshots, as a plug-in.
Skipping down the release notes a bunch, Unreal Engine 4.14 also adds support for Visual Studio 15, which is the version after Visual Studio 2015 (Visual Studio 14.0). Both IDEs are, in fact, supported. It's up to the developer to choose which one to use, although Visual Studio 15 makes a lot of improvements regarding install and uninstall.
Finally, at least for my brief overview, Unreal Engine 4.14 begun to refactor their networking system. It sounds like the current optimizations are CPU-focused, but allowing more network-capable objects is always a plus. Epic Games claims they are benchmarking about 40% higher performance in this area.
Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2016 - 05:33 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: epic games, valve, htc, vr funhouse, nvidia
In early September, we posted about a VR game jam that was coming to Hamburg, Germany by Epic Games, NVIDIA, HTC, and Valve. The companies wanted to increase the amount of content available so, with the release of the VR Funhouse mod kit, they rented a boat, docked it really well, and let indie developers do their thing around the clock. Seven teams of three-to-five participated, and the public were invited to play around with the results.
Most of the entries deviated from the literal fun-house theme to some extent. Probably the most original game is one where users play a kid in a candy store, trying to evade detection while gorging on sweet, sweet candy. Go figure, it's called Kid in a Candy Store. The closest to the literal interpretation of the theme is Beer Beer Beer and Sausages, where you serve carnival food, with real beer and mustard fluid simulations.
Two of the games, Beer Beer Beer and Sausages and Waiter Wars, are available for free on the VR Funhouse Steam Workshop page. I'm not sure what happened to the rest. The Unreal Engine post seems to suggest that they are supposed to be here, but maybe some of the teams are looking to polish it up a little first.
Subject: General Tech | September 6, 2016 - 05:58 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, epic games, valve, htc, vr funhouse, vive
So Epic Games, NVIDIA, and HTC (with Valve) are hosting a game jam aboard the MS Bleichen ship in Hamburg, Germany. The purpose is to develop mods for VR Funhouse. Nothing says a fun VR experience like room-scale experiences on a boat. Hopefully it will be firmly docked to prevent judges from getting sea-sick... or not. Maybe that will make the carnival games even better?
The jam takes place between September 24th and September 26th. Epic, NVIDIA, and Valve will be donating prizes to the event. Tickets cost 16.67 Euros, although I'm guessing that doesn't include food or a place to sleep -- they don't say one way or the other. The general public can also buy tickets for the last day, to experience the creations.
Subject: General Tech | July 27, 2016 - 08:47 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, epic games, unreal engine, unreal engine 4, ue4, uwp
The head of Epic Games, Tim Sweeney, doesn't like UWP too much, at least as it exists today (and for noble reasons). He will not support the new software (app) platform unless Microsoft makes some clear changes that guarantee perpetual openness. There really isn't anything, technically or legally, to prevent Microsoft (or an entity with authority over Microsoft, like governments, activists groups who petition government, and so forth) from undoing their changes going forward. If Microsoft drops support for Win32, apart from applications that are converted using Project Centennial or something, their catalog would be tiny.
SteamOS would kick its butt levels of tiny, let alone OSX, Android, and countless others.
As a result, Microsoft keeps it around, despite its unruliness. Functionality that is required by legitimate software make it difficult to prevent malware, and, even without an infection, it can make the system just get junked up over time.
UWP, on the other hand, is slimmer, contained, and authenticated with keys. This is theoretically easier to maintain, but at the expense of user control and freedom; freedom to develop and install software anonymously and without oversight. The first iteration was with Windows RT, which was basically iOS, right down to the “you cannot ship a web browser unless it is a reskin of Internet Explorer ((replace that for Safari in iOS' case))” and “content above ESRB M and PEGI 16 are banned from the OS” levels of control.
Since then, content guidelines have increased, sideloading has been added, and so forth. That said, unlike the technical hurdles of Win32, there's nothing to prevent Microsoft from, in the future, saying “Okay, we have enough software for lock in. Sideloading is being removed in Windows 10 version 2810” or something. I doubt that the current administration wants to do this, especially executives like Phil Spencer, but their unwillingness to make it impossible to be done in the future is frustrating. This could be a few clauses in the EULA that make it easy for users to sue Microsoft if a feature is changed, and/or some chunks of code that breaks compatibility if certain openness features are removed.
Some people complain that he wasn't this concerned about iOS, but he already said that it was a bad decision in hindsight. Apple waved a shiny device around, and it took a few years for developers to think “Wait a minute, what did I just sign away?” iOS is, indeed, just as bad as UWP could turn into, if not worse.
Remember folks, once you build a tool for censorship, they will come. They may also have very different beliefs about what should be allowed or disallowed than you do. This is scary stuff, albeit based on good intentions.
That rant aside, Microsoft's Advanced Technology Group (ATG) has produced a fork of Unreal Engine 4, which builds UWP content. It is based upon Unreal Engine 4.12, and they have apparently merged changes up to version 4.12.5. This makes sense, of course, because that version is required to use Visual Studio 2015 Update 3.
If you want to make a game in Unreal Engine 4 for the UWP platform, then you might be able to use Microsoft's version. That said, it is provided without warranty, and there might be some bugs that cropped up, which Epic Games will probably not help with. I somehow doubt that Microsoft will have a dedicated team that merges all fixes going forward, and I don't think this will change Tim's mind (although concrete limitations that guarantee openness might...). Use at your own risk, I guess, especially if you don't care about potentially missing out on whatever is added for 4.13 and on (unless you add it yourself).
The fork is available on Microsoft's ATG GitHub, with lots of uppercase typing.
Subject: General Tech | June 1, 2016 - 06:26 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: unreal engine, ue4, unreal engine 4, epic, epic games
Epic Games has released Unreal Engine 4.12, which adds quite a bit, especially cinematic tools. Those who created games or mods in Unreal Engine 3 or 4 will know about Matinee, the interface to animate objects in a scene. It has finally been replaced with Sequencer, which is designed to feel more like Adobe After Effects or Adobe Premiere. They also add a bunch of features to DirectX 12 and Vulkan, but both are still in experimental preview. Vulkan, for instance, only implements rendering features for mobile, not desktop.
Beyond Sequencer, mentioned above, Epic has also added a bunch of new rendering technologies for high-end graphics. This includes High Quality Reflections, Planar Reflections, Grass and Foliage Scalability, and Twist Corrective Animation Node. These are quite interesting for someone like me, who has been getting back into pre-rendered animation recently, but finds that typical, production renderers (such as Cycles) are quite heavy, slowing me down. Epic was interested in bringing Unreal Engine into a video production workflow, even back in Unreal Engine 3, and it's good to see a lot of attention in this area. It might be enough to move me over at some point, especially for animations that don't have a hyper-realistic style. Even better -- this level of visual quality should land in some games, too.
Unreal Engine 4.12 is now available on Epic's Launcher.
Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2016 - 02:52 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: epic games, unreal engine, unreal engine 4
It has been in preview since December, but Epic Games has finally released Unreal Engine 4.11 for developers to create awesome things with. This version focused on performance and the features that were added for Paragon, which entered early access two weeks ago. DirectX 12 is still considered experimental, and Vulkan is missing officially (although John Alcatraz has a tutorial to add it to Unreal Engine built from source), but the rendering back-end has received significant changes to accommodate the new graphics APIs in the future.
The three features that I'm most interested in, apart from free performance, are lighting channels, capsule shadows, and improved building of static light. Light channels are very difficult to implement in a deferred renderer, but Epic managed. This means that you can have dynamic lights only affect certain objects in the scene, either for performance, if enough lights are ignored to justify the cost of the channels themselves, or for special effects, like making a specific object stand out in a scene. They also added new shading models for eyes, hair, skin, and cloth, and added a bunch of interesting audio features.
Unreal Engine 4.11 is available now from Epic's Launcher. It's free to use, but Epic takes a royalty on certain revenues.