Epic Games releases Unreal Engine 4.18
Google’s new ARCore augmented reality technology. Unreal Engine 4.18, released earlier this week, introduces early support for ARCore, with cameras unified between it and Apple’s ARKit framework.
Originally posted on 22 September. Scroll down for news of the official release.
Epic Games has released a public preview of Unreal Engine 4.18, the latest update to its game engine and development environment, adding support for Google’s ARCode augmented reality technology.
The update, which is still under active development, also reworks Unreal Engine’s Media Framework, and rolls out improvements to the engine’s rendering and audio toolsets.
Support for Apple and Google’s AR technology, with unified camera behaviour
The big change in Unreal Engine 4.18 is the new augmented reality technology: UE4 now supports the preview of ARCore, Google’s AR SDK for Android devices, as well as ARKit, Apple’s equivalent for for iOS.
Epic has also created a new shared ‘XR’ (Extended Reality) layer in the engine to make “[camera] behaviour more consistent between VR and AR platforms”.
Although AR support is still in its early stages, passthrough cameras and camera control and synching have already been unified between ARKit and ARCore.
Volumetric lightmaps now used by default when rendering, improvements to skylights
When rendering, Unreal Engine now uses volumetric lightmaps by default, improving the quality of indirect lighting for movable objects, fog, particles and instanced meshes.
Users can also now set cell size and maximum memory usage when generating volumetric lightmaps with Unreal Engine’s Lightmass toolset.
Skylights are also now represented to Lightmass using a filtered cubemap with a “much higher default resolution”, improving illumination of heavily occluded areas of a scene.
There is also now support for multiple bounces when illuminating scenes with skylights, although Epic says that the effect is really only noticeable on materials with high diffuse values.
In addition, the forward shading renderer introduced in Unreal Engine 4.14 is now available for iOS as well as desktop applications, although on iOS, it currently only supports TAA antialiasing, not MSAA.
Media Framework updated to improve playback of 4K and 360-degree video
The Media Framework, used to play back video and audio in-game, has also been updated and several media player plugins “largely rewritten”.
The work is intended both to improve performance and stability and to support “upcoming advanced use cases such as real-time video compositing”: a process begun with the new Composure plugin in version 4.17.
According to Epic, overall goals include support for stereoscopic and 360-degree video, hardware-accelerated 4K playback, and improved integration with Sequencer, UE4’s cinematics editing toolset.
Updates to the physics and audio toolsets
Sequencer itself gets a few “minor improvements”; and the new Clothing Tools added in version 4.16 for editing cloth physics properties directly inside UE4 are no longer classed as experimental.
Outside the art tools, Unreal Engine’s audio toolset gets a range of experimental new features, including Sound Buses, which enable multiple sound sources to be combined into a single real-time sound source.
The audio plugin architecture has also been updated for “smoother integration with smoother integration for third-party developers wishing to override core mixing features”.
According to Epic, the changes make it possible to mix and match plugins overrideing Source Spatialization, Source Occlusion, and Reverb, and to swap in new plugins without having to restart the editor.
Other changes include support for Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code IDE on Windows, Linux and Mac, and updates to scripting and game localisation. You can read a full list via the link at the foot of the story.
Updated 26 October 2017: Unreal Engine 4.18 has now been officially released.
Epic Game’s blog post announcing the release goes into a lot more detail about the features summarised above, and lists a number of other smaller features: as usual, the release notes run to hundreds of changes.
Pricing and availability
Unreal Engine 4.18 is available for 64-bit Windows 7+, Mac OS X 10.10.5+ or Linux. Use of the editor is free, but Epic takes 5% of gross beyond the first $3,000 per quarter for any product you release commercially.