Epic debuts Unreal Engine 4: first shots and details

Thursday, 17 May 2012 14:54 GMT By Johnny Cullen

Epic’s released the first screens of Unreal Engine 4, showing off the capabilities of the new engine as part of a Wired feature on next-gen.

Unreal 4: The Main Points

First public showing for the next-gen engine after an NDA-heavy, closed doors showing at GDC in March this year.

Demo made in the space of three months using a team of 14 at Epic using an Nvidia Kepler GTX 680 graphics card.

Will feature tools that’ll streamline production on games, including Kismet 2.

A bigger blowout is set to happen next month, most likely at E3.

Epic Games has publicly debuted Unreal Engine 4, the next-gen engine it hopes will bring the next big graphical leap to the next hardware cycle.

The cinematic demo shown was a two-and-a-half minute clip that Wired described thus: “If H. R. Giger and George R. R. Martin took peyote together. And had a baby. And that baby had a fever dream”.

It shows a heavily-armored demon on a throne in a mountain fortress. As he begins to waken, a magma vent starts throwing up smoke and embers.

As the demo progressed, it showed a volcano on the verge on eruption. Eventually, the volcano spewed black smoke while embers mixed with falling snowflakes.

Once finished, the demo was then shown in real-time in a first-person perspective, according to a detailed Wired feature on the tech.

“[Epic’s senior technical artist Alan] Willard maneuvers his avatar into a dimly lit room where a flashlight turns on, revealing eddies of dust—thousands of floating particles that were invisible until exposed,” said the Wired piece.

“In another room, globes of various sizes float in the air. Willard rolls a light-emanating orb along the floor (think of a spherical flashlight that rolls like a bowling ball) and beams of light wobble and change direction, illuminating parts of the room and revealing the clusters of floating spheres with a kind of strobe effect,” said the text, before noting this kind of thing isn’t possible on next-gen hardware.

The tech demo, which was shown using a Nvidia Kepler GTX 680 graphics card, was in production for up to three months using a team of 14 engineers inside Epic.

“I had sleepless nights over this damn thing in the beginning, but I think we got the disasters out of the way,” said art director Chris Perna, who was in charge of producing the feel of the demo.

Epic design director Cliff Bleszinski said the next-gen graphics need to be on par with Avatar.

“There is a huge responsibility on the shoulders of our engine team and our studio to drag this industry into the next generation,” he said.

“It is up to Epic, and Tim Sweeney in particular, to motivate Sony and Microsoft not to phone in what these next consoles are going to be. It needs to be a quantum leap.

“They need to damn near render Avatar in real time, because I want it and gamers want it – even if they don’t know they want it.”

Noted in the piece is how one particle in a game can slow down performance. The UE4 demo features millions of these particles if the hardware is up to scratch. Bleszinski said this will be a move used a lot in development once UE4 is widely available.

“Mark my words, those particles are going to be whored by developers.”

Epic has included tools within UE4 that will shorten “production pipelines and lower production costs,” according to Wired. One such tool included is Kismet 2, a new visual scripting program packed within the engine.

It will allow level designers to bring worlds to life instead of relying on programmers to do so, according to senior engine programmer James Golding.

The engine was shown for the first time behind closed doors back at GDC in March.

Epic is set to fully debut Unreal Engine 4 to the public in June. While it isn’t specified in the Wired piece where that would take place, all bets point towards E3.

First shots are below.

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