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Unreal Engine 4: prepare yourselves for next-gen

Tuesday, 2nd April 2013 18:33 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Epic Games showed off its gorgeous Unreal Engine 4 during GDC. VG247′s technologically inept Stephany Nunneley witnessed and felt the hotness in the standing-room only mini-theater.

After viewing the UE4 demo I’m finally starting to get excited about what’s to come, and I’m now ready and willing to upgrade my PC. Just give me the gameplay to go along with the visuals, please.

I am probably not the best person to send to engine tech demos, as you probably gleaned from my FOX Engine and Battlefield 4/Frostbite 3 reports. It’s hard enough for me to program my DVR, let alone understand what’s going on with shaders, Javascript, HTML, or WebGL. The only thing I know about C++ is that it’s used to run some of my games – and I only know this because I see listed in the program files on my PC’s control panel.

While I may not have a grasp of what constitutes development, I can appreciate the hard work which goes into creating games. And I definitely came away impressed with the demo Epic showed of UE4 at GDC last week.

The main point I walked away with was that of ease of use. The tools on show made me think – just for a moment – that anyone could create an awesome looking game using this engine. If you have a basic understanding of code and can read a menu and drag a mouse, you should be able to use UE4. Epic makes it sound so simple.

It probably isn’t. But if I had the slightest idea of how to make a game, I would probably use Epic’s engine due to its Blueprint editor. This allows developers to create games with ease and speed. It also has this neat animation tool and the ability to generate landscapes by clicking and dragging. Trees, flowers, grass, and other flora can be added with the click of a mouse, and if you want to add mountains you just drag your mouse around using the Unreal Landscape terrain editor. The lighting modules shown? Impressive. Very impressive.

Not only has Epic made it easier to create games for virtually any platform with UE4, but it has made the engine more developer friendly all around. I recall a conversation I had with the firm’s former director of production, Rod Fergusson, at GDC in 2010. I mentioned that a lot of the time you can just look at a game and tell it was made using Unreal Engine 3. While he agreed with me, he said his favorite games were the ones where you couldn’t tell were using the engine.

As the current console generation aged, it became harder to tell whether a game was UE3 or not. It doesn’t look as though this will be the case with UE4: straight out of the gate, everything will look different.

This was confirmed when Mark Rein announced the engine runs on C++, which will allow developers to create games for mobile, browser and next-gen consoles. Showing just how gorgeous games can look on next-gen using UE4, Epic showed off a damn impressive demo called Infiltrator running on PC, along with last year’s Elemental demo running on PS4 hardware.

Elemental looks fabulous on PS4, but I play games predominately on PC, so I came away with healthy dose of admiration for Infiltrator which was shown running in real-time by the firm’s Alan Willard.

During the demo, Willard played around with various game layers and lighting by turning the latter on and off, showing the actual outlines of everything included in the scene with a slight watercolor hue. While the on-screen visuals were impressive, it was mindblowing to see the actual scope of the objects involved from a design standpoint.

Plus, the engine unifies the physics and collision systems using NVIDIA’s latest PhysX technology, meaning UE4 PC games should make your screens scream with joy. The Persona animation system, which includes state support and the power of Blueprint scripting for animation adjustments and previews during setup, will allow for more realistic movement and visuals in character creation.

All rather lovely, and mentally impressive for someone without any grasp of engineering, design, or development.

The tech demos I saw at GDC reinforced what we all knew anyway: next-gen games are going to be visually stunning. What remains to be seen, though, is whether developers will be able to scale new engines to create something different from what’s being offered on current hardware.

For months now, I have not been excited over next-gen. Sure, better visuals are always nice, but pretty is as pretty does; and without the next-gen gameplay to go along with the graphics, we’ll just be playing the same things we are now. Only “prettier.” At GDC I was given a look at three next-gen engines, and while I was impressed with FOX Engine’s photorealism, and Frostbite 3′s lighting and destructible environment abilities, I preferred the UE4 demo – not only because it was explained in layman’s terms to me, but because, to me, it honestly “looked” next-gen.

All three demos were impressive, but after viewing the UE4 demo I’m finally starting to get excited about what’s to come, and I’m now ready and willing to upgrade my PC. Just give me the gameplay to go along with the visuals, please.

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19 Comments

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  1. Erthazus

    the only problem is that this demo was on GTX 680. Ps4 and Next Box won’t do this at the same quality and even if they do, they will probably do it not at the same resolution, not with the same frame rate and not with the same stunning effects.

    http://www.cinemablend.com/games/PS4-PC-Unreal-Engine-4-Demon-Knight-Comparison-54146.html

    Simple comparison of the first gen UE4 demo on the PS4.
    PS4 and Xbox Next will probably get what is now on the PC.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. nollie4545

    Lol to the max. Mentions Nvidias PhysX, which neither console will support…..

    #2 1 year ago
  3. Bill_E_Talent

    Just gonna leave this here:
    http://www.vg247.com/2013/03/08/ps4-nvidia-pledges-physx-support/

    #3 1 year ago
  4. Erthazus

    @2, PS4 and I think neext Xbox will support PhysX. There is no reason why they can’t or should not.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. monkeygourmet

    Erth has a point here.

    I was really underwhelmed with what I have seen on PS4 so far now that the smoke has cleared. I’m worried the 720 will have even less power, and if that’s the case, it’ll maybe the first time I go PC over console next gen.

    The ’680 costs more than the PS4 on its own argument’ doesn’t hold up too well. If your already gaming on a modest PC, a 680 is a viable upgrade considering a PS4 and pads, games etc… Will cost a fair chunk too.

    I really hope this was terribly optimised as it just shows how big the gap will get in a very short space. It feels like we are on the verge of something bigger what with Keplar, GRID & Tegra tech increasing in speed and price point almost everyday.

    It makes me wonder if Sony had just waited a little but longer the could have stumped for a better CPU and GPU rather than missing out on features of Unreal 4 before its even started to be used.

    I really hope Ms plan on making something that can run Unreal 4 with full effects at 1080p and 60fps. That should def be the benchmark this gen and Sony already look to have missed that.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. blackdreamhunk

    Nvidia Geforce 700M Series are coming out so price drop on the gtx 680 real soon

    Nvidia Geforce 700M Series Specifications Released – Improvements Over the 600M Kepler Range

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahblhPVdqII

    as well as the new Intel chip sets and there is talk of DDR4 too.

    I am not impressed by unreal tech videos.

    #6 1 year ago
  7. OlderGamer

    MG +1

    I been saying it all along. Next gen is going to be nice but not mind blowing.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. monkeygourmet

    @7

    Yup! :/

    I really want to build a rig, but as I don’t have a PC at the moment I would have to do it from scratch.

    Also, as I would want it to play things like Witcher 3, BF4 and Metro with all bells and whistles, it’s going to have to be pretty ‘meaty’.

    What I plan to do is see how the launch of PS4 and 720 goes then check out the new GPU’s for PC around early 2013. See how they stack up in price and performance against the 680 / 690. If its all looking good and the PS4 / 720 don’t really ‘bring it’ powerwise, then I’ll probably build the rig first and get a console as a secondary.

    Easier said than done, I keep blowing my next gen budget every month! bought far too much Vita stuff this month! ;)

    #8 1 year ago
  9. No_PUDding

    “Pretty is as pretty does”, BAM take that next-gen. And don’t get back up.

    Class act Nunneley, class.

    #9 1 year ago
  10. OlderGamer

    Vita!! You fanboy you! ;)

    I am lucky, my wife is a Techie guru. She can build me mine. But she always says it doesn’t make much sense anymore to build. So much of teh stuff at the store is good right out of the box and at as low if not lower cost as part(plus her time and effort to do it). I spent somewhere between 500usd and 600usd for what I am using and love it. I am sure guys like Erth could build me a way better system, maybe even for less money. But my days of being that hardcore are behind me. Most of what I enjoy playing isn’t that graphicly intense. Civ V doesn’t exactly burn thro graphics power.

    #10 1 year ago
  11. OlderGamer

    Steph “For months now, I have not been excited over next-gen. Sure, better visuals are always nice, but pretty is as pretty does; and without the next-gen gameplay to go along with the graphics, we’ll just be playing the same things we are now. Only “prettier.””

    Hits it right on the head for me and a lot of other people I know.

    #11 1 year ago
  12. zinc

    Next will definitely have some nice looking cut-scenes.

    #12 1 year ago
  13. Diingo

    Compare Call of Duty 2 to Battlefield 3 on the Xbox 360 — same hardware, but far better visuals. The difference is night and day when comparing to launch day console games (which at their time were supreme in visual design). That tech demo will look like crap in about 5 years in a similar way COD2 looks bland compared to it’s followup titles.

    #13 1 year ago
  14. monkeygourmet

    @13

    But compare COD2 to BLOPS2 Trollololollolollollolloloo :D

    I know what you are saying though, thing is, things are really creaking now. Crysis 3 on 360 is virtually unplayable in some sections due to shitty visuals and Framerate.

    #14 1 year ago
  15. fearmonkey

    Look at the Bioshock:infinite console to PC comparison videos. The difference of how much better the sharper texures, higher res, and better lighting makes is huge. Bring on the next gen, even if your a PC gamer, it will be better for everyone when all games have Direct 11 and high res textures :)

    #15 1 year ago
  16. _LarZen_

    Great visuals is great, but what I am hoping for is smarter AI in games. And games that move away from the run & gun principle that is in 99% of today’s FPS games.

    When you think about it its kinda sad that with all the possibilities one can do with a first person game that just running around killing others is the norm. It’s just sad.

    #16 1 year ago
  17. spoffle

    The consoles will certainly support PhysX, but it will just be the software only PhysX, not GPU PhysX, exactly the way it already is on the current consoles. nVidia isn’t going to give up hardware PhysX, they rely on people’s ignorance of the way PhysX works to think their GPUs are vastly superior when the reality is that out of all the games that use the PhysX API, less than 10% of them run the PhysX on the GPU.

    #17 1 year ago
  18. MadFingerz

    heh, I don’t see the point of comparing those tech demos now, most likely Epic hasn’t optimized the engine for the PS4 yet. Besides, 1st party games will always look better so look at that when judging a console’s horsepower. I mean take The Last of Us for example…5 years ago many people would say there’s no way that’s a PS3 game.

    #18 1 year ago
  19. DeyDoDoughDontDeyDough

    Honestly, guys. It’s like none of you have ever been around for a generational leap before. Or have exceptionally poor memories.

    Next-gen console release titles will be on a par with anything knocking about on PC at the outset (games-wise, not benchmark numbers, not tech demos) – and no, we’re not talking a bajillion times a bajillion pointless pixels or five hundred frames per second more than we can need to make a coherent gaming experience. That’s REDUNDANT power. We’re talking awesome-looking games, at a playable frame rate.

    Give it a year, and those same consoles nudge noticably ahead of what we’ve seen on any PC as developers launch a raft of second-generation titles built to allow the technology to stretch its legs. Meanwhile, PCs continue to be a secondary consideration to developers and are barely optimised messes that require multiples more power just to match what the consoles are effortlessly outputting. This is usually the point in the generation when PC gamers are forced to shut the fuck up for a year or two and give those who enjoy games (as opposed to those who enioy counting pixels) some long-awaited peace and quiet. This period usually lasts for a couple of years.

    After that, usually a couple of thousand bucks in upgrades later to the average PC owner, the PC finally starts to nudge ahead again. At this point, the PC brigade resume their bleating about how the consoles have ruined their chosen platform, how their new graphics card is being held back by them and so on and so on.

    And round it goes. Tiresome, guys extremely tiresome. It takes a stunning lack of wherewithall to neither see nor understand at what point in that cycle we’re currently at.

    #19 1 year ago