Epic debuts Unreal Engine 4: first shots and details

Thursday, 17th 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.



  1. DeyDoDoughDontDeyDough

    Very, very unimpressed with these images.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Patrick Garratt


    #2 3 years ago
  3. Gekidami

    Cant say i’m being blown away either, though it looks like they chose some pretty crappy scenes to show off.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. The_Red

    I don’t know about the technical aspects but they look rather nice.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Lewis247

    Interesting to say the least.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. Patrick Garratt

    The shots are local now.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. Hunam

    Still looks a bit plasticy, but the environments are certainly bigger.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. Phoenixblight

    This is a tech demo they aren’t going to waste their artists on creating scenes for a tech demo its all about what the engine can do. You just a handful of artist and tell them to create something within a day or two of what the engine can do, that’s exactly what this is.

    Video of what the engine is like in action with a Nvidia 680.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. endgame

    This is very disappointing. It looks average at best. Not even close to how Frostbite looks. But that’s console footage right? Because if it’s PC footage.. it’s Epic Fail as usual. But that’s the only way Epic knows how to do it so we’re used to it.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. endgame

    Oh! Wow Phoenix! This engine can support resolutions of up to 360p? Outstanding mate! Outstanding!

    #10 3 years ago
  11. Gekidami

    Sure they dont look bad, but they’re not exactly a massive leap from the best we’ve already got this gen. Those pics look pretty much on par to a few console games and as Endgame points out, considerable less impressive than Frostbite 2 on PC.

    But like i said, i think a lot of it is also down to them picking a rather crappy scene.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. mehdidante

    @1 u cant understand this photos because u are not a game developer otherwise they would talk to u . no offense

    #12 3 years ago
  13. albo88

    what are they showing a 3 year old tech we all ready have on our windows 7 machine yes bitches dx 11 and tessellation is old news whats next?

    #13 3 years ago
  14. TheBlackHole

    Animation is everything. Screens won’t do it justice.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. xino

    some people are obviously blind, trolling or just don’t know sh* about graphics.

    look at the 2nd pic. Have you seen the sfx particles around the guy’s eyes? that’s the only kind of particle dynamic effect you can see ONLY in CGI.

    or how about the second to the last picture? so much dynamic lightings and different sort of lightening.

    yes I would agree that it isn’t mind blowing.

    As the blackhole said, animation/video is what we need to see.

    #15 3 years ago
  16. Phoenixblight

    People have to understand that console is the money maker so that is what they will be basing all the development on the console and it will always be that way.

    Unreal has always been flexible and thats their key is the ability to mod so the developers can do what they want with Unreal. CryEngine you really can’t its just beating a statue with a ball pin hammer to get what you want out of it.

    #16 3 years ago
  17. albo88

    and this is just 1 example i mean come one

    the tech it have always been there its always up to game developers so don’t come with this bullshit of peoples don’t know shit a but graphic just cos u play with 2005 xbox 360 and a good for nothing blue ray machine like ps3

    #17 3 years ago
  18. Erthazus

    Guys, you are all wrong here. Seriously.

    They are not showing you here screens to show off the engine and it’s beauty. They showed how it works with polygons.

    Remember Samaritan? It was amazing in motion and it was just Unreal Engine 3.5 with latest addition.

    Also, expect a ton of Real Time Particle effects on this engine. It’s going to be awesome.

    #18 3 years ago
  19. laughing-gravy

    Nothing to impressive here. I expected a lot more, Crytek’s current gen tech looks as good if not better. Must try harder!

    #19 3 years ago
  20. ManuOtaku

    To tell you the truth, i like this, i hope this is the direction with the next gen graphics, i mean that they focus on details ,brigthness and/or colors than making them more life like, the particle effects on the eyes are good i like it.

    #20 3 years ago
  21. Ali Hayas

    They kept saying that UE4 makes UE3 looks like crap …. WTF with those screens looking like crap. Hell, UT3 in game cutscenes look better.

    #21 3 years ago
  22. Ali Hayas

    Oh and I have always thought that UE is the best engine.

    #22 3 years ago
  23. YoungZer0

    Erm, wow. I have seen screenshots of Skyrim (heavily modded) that look far better than this.

    #23 3 years ago
  24. fearmonkey

    We need to see the game in motion before we can gripe about the images.
    If you read the article, it talks alot about particles and how they have millions of them where just a few used to slow everything down.

    Also, the article states that the demo was ran on a single GTX680 rather than the three 580′s in SLI required to run last years samaritan demo.
    If they can approach Samaritan’s graphics and even surpass it using one card, that in itself is a big deal.

    Epic is carrying the flame of hardcore graphics, and hopefully they inspire Sony sand MS to not release a currentgen+ console next year or in 2014.

    #24 3 years ago
  25. jowadmax

    I realized that not only graphics makes the games that we’ve always dreamed of, I mean games that look like real life or like Avatar. Just fixing a camera to the player’s chest and showing half the gun or hooking it behind the player won’t give us a game that looks like Avatar! They need
    the thing that made 8-Days trailer back in 2006 amazing. Animation, interaction, I don’t know.. they need something totally different in presenting the games because no matter how much graphics you put, people will keep saying that’s not a great leap in gaming as long as you put it in classic FPS or TPS game.
    Just personal opinion.

    #25 3 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.