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Epic showcases Unreal Engine 4's dynamic lighting, fast iteration capabilities
Epic showcases Unreal Engine 4's dynamic lighting, fast iteration capabilities
June 8, 2012 | By Kris Graft

June 8, 2012 | By Kris Graft
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    9 comments
More: Console/PC, Programming, Production, E3



As the game industry's biggest players showed off their upcoming games for the current console cycle this week, Gears of War developer Epic Games was looking to the future, showing Unreal Engine 4 to select media outlets -- including Gamasutra -- during E3.

UE4 is Cary, NC-based Epic's key to the next-generation of video game graphics. If the widespread adaptation of this generation's UE3 is any indication, this new engine will serve as the foundation for many games across many platforms, from Epic as well as external engine licensees.

Epic senior technical artist Alan Willard spent much of the time during his presentation exhibiting the engine's full realtime dynamic global illumination capabilities. The engine supports fully emissive surfaces, with objects able to change the kind of light they can emit.

Particle effects during the demo were impressive. [See a UE4 developer walkthrough on GameTrailers' Youtube channel.] Thanks to support for GPU particles, UE4 displayed in one room over 1 million particles, each being affected by an emissive sphere controlled by Willard.

Willard showed another room that exhibited how particles were affected by light. When the room was darkened, you could see large particles. Turn on a flashlight, and it reveals countless smaller, reflective pieces of virtual dust.



Other features of UE4 include glossy specular reflection, full-shadowed and -lit subsurface-scattering, a fully-deferred renderer, per-pixel lens flare, full eye adaptation (simulating when you walk from a dark room to a bright outdoors) and other improvements.



For game developers, Epic has taken steps in UE4 to streamline the development process. Halfway through his technical presentation, Willard showed that he had been inside the editor the whole time, demonstrating that developers can instantly switch between tools and the engine's immersive mode, which should substantially reduce iteration time.

The user interface is more flexible in UE4 as well, with dockable modules. As revealed last month, it implements the visual scripting editor Kismet 2, allowing even non-programmers to build interactive scenes by converting code that determines in-game objects' behaviors into interactive flowcharts with pull-down menus.

This is next-generation technology, but Willard confirmed that the demo shown was running on an off-the-shelf, high-end graphics card, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 (it retails for $500-$600). For Epic's cinematic demonstration of UE4, click here.



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Comments


Jérémie Noguer
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Looks like they got "inspired" by Unity's UI. That's a good thing.

Kevin Patterson
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It's very impressive, Epic (along with Crytek, Ubisoft, Lucasarts, and Square Enix) are giving me the next gen fever, I just hope MS and Sony release a machine that can handle these type of graphics.

Duvelle Jones
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Agreed, it is very impressive but...
Here is my problem with Epic's (and others) want to push the graphical bar on consoles without any sense of graphical scalability...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IH2w2l1JTs4
$599 USD. Or the $600 console.

Does any one remember this colossal error? The simple fact that Sony priced themselves out of market with a system that was so advance that even under-pricing the system wasn't enough to make consumers buy it... That was this Generation. The Playstation 3's original price point. If Epic and others seem to want to insist on pushing the bar with console hardware, this is what they are up against. A firm desire to keep costs LOW and a system relatively simple.... why, to make a system affordable enough for people to buy it.
With what I have seen with the Vita, it's clear that Sony doesn't want to go down that road again despite the fact it ended up happening anyway (which has more to do with price expectations than anything else, a related problem). And any consideration for new hardware will take this (which caused a two year lull in the PS3 life cycle) into account.

If Epic and others are not careful... they will be asking Microsoft and Sony to be manufacturer a $600 console again. The market made it's vote the first time, what would you honestly expect to happen if two manufacturing company's asked consumers to make the same vote with there wallets again?
If Microsoft and Sony are smart and what is requested of them seems to drive itself to the $600 console. I would expect Microsoft and Sony to refuse to head down that path, especially Sony whom know what happens when you do this first hand.

Ron Dippold
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I know a lot of people who will be very happy to not have to place thousands of lights per map.

Thomas Nocera
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Along with Microsoft's SmartGlass concept and the captivating WatchDog trailer, Epic Game's UE4 certainly ranks as a top contender for the most important product showcased this year at E3. What the UE4 will do in the near future to both visually improve next gen games and expedite game development, I think qualifies UE4 to be 2012 E3's big winner.

Vytautas Katarzis
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"The engine supports fully emissive surfaces, with objects able to change the kind of light they can emit" - can someone explain why this is awesome? Because emissive "surfaces" existed since UE3 and as far as I know, you could change their colors.

Joel Durham
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Emissive surfaces now dynamically cast light on their surroundings. That my friend, is a pretty big deal. :)

Freek Hoekstra
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what they did not do however is dynamically light the scene (it could statically light the scene using lightmaps calculated in lightmass) this means that if you have lava flowing into your scen you will not have to create a series of lights that follow the general shape and move them to follow the lava, you just make the material emissive and the scene will be lit dynamically.

this is a great step and will surely optimize iteration times and open doors to destruction, as destruction without adapting the lighting is a no go. overall I think the demo was impressive although the GI itself looked a bit almost oversaturated to me, but apparantly the demo was made by 14 people in under 3 months which is a testament to how quick this engine is capable of churning out content.

overall the Samaritan demo was visually equally impressive to me, but the tech behind this engine is a clear step forward, Agni's philosophy from square really blew me away though and I am looking forward to see a good engine shootout again, may the best engine win :D

Miguel Posada
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Difference is this time is all real-time. Emissive surfaces on UE3 are only possible through baked precomputed lightmaps, you can't add or move them while the game is playing. Same with global illumination bounces, they are also precomputed and static on UE3.


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