Epic Games announced the newest version of its renowned game engine, Unreal Engine 5, on Wednesday, alongside a special demonstration on Sony’s PlayStation 5 showcasing its next-generation game engine in action. Included in the fully-playable PS5 demo, dubbed “Lumen in the Land of Nanite,” are two brand new technologies at the heart of Unreal Engine 5: Nanite, a virtualized micropolygon geometry system, and Lumen, a fully dynamic global illumination.
During the demo a young woman with special abilities ventures into ancient ruins amidst a rocky and arid land to discover the secrets of a lost civilization’s hidden temple. As she delves deeper and deeper into the temple’s photorealistic depths, the woman’s ability to control light reveals incredibly detailed sculptures, hieroglyphics, and artifacts. Throughout the 9 minute demo Epic Games highlights what Unreal Engine 5 can do with light, film-quality art, objects, draw counts, and more using Nanite and Lumen technology.
Watch the 4K resolution version of the demo below.
Here’s how Epic Games describes the two new centerpieces of Unreal Engine 5, Nanite and Lumen:
Nanite virtualized micropolygon geometry frees artists to create as much geometric detail as the eye can see. Nanite virtualized geometry means that film-quality source art comprising hundreds of millions or billions of polygons can be imported directly into Unreal Engine—anything from ZBrush sculpts to photogrammetry scans to CAD data—and it just works. Nanite geometry is streamed and scaled in real time so there are no more polygon count budgets, polygon memory budgets, or draw count budgets; there is no need to bake details to normal maps or manually author LODs; and there is no loss in quality.
Lumen is a fully dynamic global illumination solution that immediately reacts to scene and light changes. The system renders diffuse interreflection with infinite bounces and indirect specular reflections in huge, detailed environments, at scales ranging from kilometers to millimeters. Artists and designers can create more dynamic scenes using Lumen, for example, changing the sun angle for time of day, turning on a flashlight, or blowing a hole in the ceiling, and indirect lighting will adapt accordingly. Lumen erases the need to wait for lightmap bakes to finish and to author light map UVs—a huge time savings when an artist can move a light inside the Unreal Editor and lighting looks the same as when the game is run on console.
In addition to Nanite and Lumen, the Unreal Engine 5 demo also showcases existing Unreal engine systems such as “Chaos physics and destruction, Niagara VFX, convolution reverb,” and “ambisonics rendering.” The PS5’s new SSD helped enable the demo through supporting the much larger files that made up the environment’s shown. Unreal Engine 5 makes heavy use of the Quixel Megascan library, which includes “film-quality objects” that are rendered with “up to hundreds of millions of polygons.”
Unreal Engine 5 won’t be used by developers for the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 anytime soon. Epic Games says a preview for the new engine will be made available in 2021, and a full release will follow later that year. The full release of Unreal Engine 5 will support next-generation consoles, current-generation consoles, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android.
Epic’s current version of their engine, Unreal Engine 4.25, already supports next-generation consoles Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. The company is developing the Unreal Engine 5 with “forward compatibility” in mind, so that means games developed on the current engine will be able to be ported to the next-gen engine.
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