NVIDIA Introduces AI Interactive Graphics Research: 3D from Real-World Video

Subject: General Tech | December 3, 2018 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: ue4, nvidia, NeurIPS, deep learning, ai, 3D rendering

NVIDIA has introduced new research at the NeurIPS AI conference in Montreal that allows rendering of 3D environments from models trained on real-world videos. It's a complex topic that does have potential beyond scientific research with possible application for game developers, though this is not to the "product" stage just yet. A video accompanying the press release today shows how the researchers have implemented this technology so far:

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"Company researchers used a neural network to apply visual elements from existing videos to new 3D environments. Currently, every object in a virtual world needs to be modeled. The NVIDIA research uses models trained from video to render buildings, trees, vehicles and objects."

The AI-generated city of a simple driving game demo shown at the NeurIPS AI conference gives us an early look at the sort of 3D environment that can be rendered by the neural network, as "the generative neural network learned to model the appearance of the world, including lighting, materials and their dynamics" from video footage, and this was rendered as the game environment using Unreal Engine 4.

"The technology offers the potential to quickly create virtual worlds for gaming, automotive, architecture, robotics or virtual reality. The network can, for example, generate interactive scenes based on real-world locations or show consumers dancing like their favorite pop stars."

Beyond video-to-video this research can also be applied to still images, with models providing the basis for what is eventually rendered movement (the video embedded above includes a demonstration of this aspect of the research - and yes, dancing is involved). And while all of this might be a year or two away from appearing in a new game release, but the possibilities are fascinating to contemplate, to say the least.

Source: NVIDIA

Unreal Engine 4.20 Released. YOLO!

Subject: General Tech | July 18, 2018 - 08:13 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, epic, ue4, swag

Okay so I only had one shot at that joke… and I’ma gonna take it.

Epic Games has just pushed their 21st release of Unreal Engine 4 since it launched to the public back in March 2014. A lot has changed since then… including one feature that has been lurking pretty much since the beginning: Niagara, the new visual effects editor, is finally available in Early Access!

When I say it is near the beginning – I mean it. Here’s a forum post from about four-and-a-half months after 4.0 launched where some users dug it up with some INI-file changes. The idea is that it will replace Cascade, which has been hanging around since Unreal Engine 3, as the default particle and effects editor. It’s a bit more than I can go into in a news post, but you will want to check out Epic’s GDC 2018 talk to see a ~45-minute demo of the new module. Basically, it’s a visual scripting system for the particle effects, but that doesn’t really explain it too well.

Another major upgrade is that Unreal Engine 4.20 finally uses the C++ compiler that is available in Visual Studio 2017. Previously, to use Visual Studio 2017, users would need to build with the 2015 toolchain. Support for C++ and its standard library is pretty good in Visual Studio 2015 but being able to use the latest features if you want to is always a plus.

Also, Epic is now pushing some of their development branches to GitHub. This allows you to keep up with a specific branch of features, especially if you are the type of studio that maintains their own engine fork and wants to cherry pick certain commits.

As always, Unreal Engine 4 is free to download and use. Royalties do apply for most works created with the engine, based on a small percentage of revenue, but the engine, itself, is free.

Source: Epic Games

Estranged Demo in HTML5 (Indie Title in Unreal Engine 4)

Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2018 - 08:12 PM |
Tagged: ue4, html5, webassembly, estranged

Compiling from C++ to WebAssembly is a thing now. This allows browsers to circumvent JavaScript (or integrate with it if the developer wants to) for high-performance applications. It also does this with relatively low compile times, especially on browsers like Firefox Nightly.

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Proof that it’s running Unreal Engine: A toilet.
Also, the seat works. I tried.

It’s also a supported feature with Unreal Engine 4 as of 4.18.

As such, we’re beginning to see a few games built into the technology. One such demo, Estranged, is about an indie title about a fisherman. The demo currently has the Prelude level and a shooting range. Performance isn’t the best, but it’s interesting to see running in a web browser. It will continue to get better than WebAssembly (and browsers) support multi-threading, too.

Source: Estranged

Epic Games Handed Out Another $200,000 in Dev Grants

Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2018 - 01:42 AM |
Tagged: epic games, ue4

On January 16th, Epic Games announced handing out a total of $200,000 USD across thirteen recipients. This is a part of their Unreal Dev Grants program, which donates money to people that they think are doing cool things with (or alongside) their engine, no strings attached. It’s a simple bursary to let cool people do cool things in the realm of Unreal Engine.

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Of this round of winners, twelve are listed in the blog post: ten are games, one is a feature film, and one is a game development tool. I don’t know what the thirteenth is, unless they’re counting one of the entries as two for some reason.

I will not be covering the games in this post – feel free to check the blog.

This leaves me with two: BlueprintUE.com and Allahyar and The Legend of Markhr.

The latter is a feature-length film that is rendered in Unreal Engine. It is from 3rd World Studios in Pakistan, and it has a bit of a Pixar-esque art style. Epic Games has in their EULA that capturing linear video from Unreal Engine 4 does not require a royalty, because the software is not being distributed, just the imagery produced by it is, which makes UE4 an interesting choice for video production. It is fast and high-quality, although it adds an extra stage in the content pipeline… but it’s a stage that you’re used to if you do UE4 work. Honestly, I’ve been considering UE4 as a render system for the animations I’ve done earlier, but I settled on Blender Cycles just because I had too many other things to worry about. I did know that the Paragon trailer was done in-engine, though. Maybe in the future.

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As for BlueprintUE.com, it is a tool that allows users to copy and paste blueprint networks into a web-based flow chart editor. Users can then add comments and share the logic with others. As far as I can tell, you cannot directly manipulate the blueprints in the editor, and they have not said that this feature is in development – but I’d be surprised if they haven’t at least thought of it.

Check out all the entries on the Unreal Engine blog.

Source: Epic Games

Unreal Engine 4.18 Preview Published to Epic Launcher

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 01:39 PM |
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.

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WebAssembly is now enabled by default for HTML5.

First, we’ll discuss platform support. As you would expect, iOS 11 and XCode 9 are now supported, and A10 processors can use the same forward renderer that was added to UE4 for desktop VR, as seen in Robo Recall. That’s cool and all, but only for Apple. For the rest of us, WebAssembler (WASM) is now enabled by default for HTML5 projects. WASM is LLVM bytecode that can be directly ingested by web browsers. In other words, you can program in C++ and have web browsers execute it, and do so without transpiling to some form of JavaScript. (Speaking of which, ASM.js is now removed from UE4.) The current implementation is still single-threaded, but browser vendors are working on adding multi-threading to WASM.

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.

Source: Epic Games

Unreal Engine 4 Enterprise Sizzle Video

Subject: General Tech | August 2, 2017 - 11:41 PM |
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.

NVIDIA and Epic Games Announce "Edge" Program

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 28, 2017 - 11:00 PM |
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.

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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!

Source: Epic Games

Imagination PowerVR Ray Tracing with UE4 & Vulkan Demo

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 2, 2017 - 02:23 AM |
Tagged: Imagination Technologies, PowerVR, ray tracing, ue4, vulkan

Imagination Technologies has published another video that demonstrates ray tracing with their PowerVR Wizard GPU. The test system, today, is a development card that is running on Ubuntu, and powering Unreal Engine 4. Specifically, it is using UE4’s Vulkan renderer.

The demo highlights two major advantages of ray traced images. The first is that, rather than applying a baked cubemap with screen-space reflections to simulate metallic objects, this demo calculates reflections with secondary rays. From there, it’s just a matter of hooking up the gathered information into the parameters that the shader requires and doing the calculations.

The second advantage is that it can do arbitrary lens effects, like distortion and equirectangular, 360 projections. Rasterization, which projects 3D world coordinates into 2D coordinates on a screen, assumes that edges are still straight, and that causes problems as FoV gets very large, especially full circle. Imagination Technologies acknowledges that workarounds exist, like breaking up the render into six faces of a cube, but the best approximation is casting a ray per pixel and seeing what it hits.

The demo was originally for GDC 2017, back in February, but the videos have just been released.

Epic Games Releases Zen Garden Demo for WebAssembly

Subject: General Tech | March 13, 2017 - 08:02 PM |
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.

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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.

Source: Mozilla

Another Beautiful, Profound Breach of Nintendo Trademarks

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2017 - 08:13 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, ue4, Nintendo

Once again, one of CryZENx’s videos found its way into my YouTube recommendations list. This one outlines progress on their recreation of various Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time elements in Unreal Engine 4. While the graphics have been updated significantly, such as using inverse-kinematics for foot positioning, they have also remade the original pause menu, which wraps around the camera like a box (with no top or bottom).

If anyone is wondering, inverse-kinematics is an animation tool that focuses on goals, as opposed to individual rotations. Instead of bending a knee by X degrees and bending the hip by Y degrees, you say that the foot of the skeleton must be at some point, and the skeleton adjusts to make that happen. This is obviously much easier for animators to visualize in many situations, especially when trying to align to objects that you know will be in range of the skeleton, but not exactly where.

I’m not exactly sure how Nintendo hasn’t struck their Patreon and YouTube pages yet, given their reaction to other fan materials. I’m glad it’s up, though. They’re quite impressive homages to the games they love.

Source: CryZENx