Thursday, May 14th, 2020 Posted by Jim Thacker

Watch Epic Games’ amazing new Unreal Engine 5 demo

Epic Games has posted its first preview of Unreal Engine 5, the next-generation release of the game engine and real-time rendering system, which is due to ship next year.

Its gorgeous new demo, Lumen in the Land of Nanite, runs in real time on the upcoming PlayStation 5, and shows off two key features of Unreal Engine 5: virtualised geometry and dynamic global illumination.

New virtualised geometry system lets artists import high-res source assets without conversion
The Lumen in the Land of Nanite demo – a narrated recording of which can be seen above – shows a female character navigating her way through an underground environment, breaking out into the world above.

As the title suggests, it shows off two key features of Unreal Engine 5: Nanite, its new virtualised micropolygon geometry system, and Lumen, its new dynamic global illumination system.

Nanite geometry is streamed into the engine on demand and scaled losslessly, removing – or at least reducing – the need for manual preparation tasks like baking normal maps or authoring LODs.

The end of polygon count budgets as we know them?
According to Epic, that makes it possible to use “film-quality source art” – anything from high-res ZBrush sculpts to raw scan data – directly inside Unreal Engine.

In the case of the Lumen demo, literal film-quality data was used: the cinematic versions of Megascans assets were used to create rocky environment.

The engine then reduces around one billion triangles of source geometry to 20 million drawn triangles per frame: some so small that they render as single pixels.

The demo also shows a 33-million-triangle sculpt of a statue imported directly from ZBrush and instanced 500 times within the environment.

In a blog post, Epic claims that this means “no more polygon count budgets, polygon memory budgets, or draw count budgets … and no loss in quality”.

Dynamic global illumination with support for infinite light bounces
The other major new feature shown in the demo is Lumen, the new dynamic global illumination system.

According to Epic, it “renders diffuse interreflection with infinite bounces and indirect specular reflections in huge, detailed environments, at scales ranging from kilometers to millimeters”.

Again, it should reduce the need for manual preparation tasks – in this case, baking light maps – and increase interactivity: one neat part of the demo shows a swarm of bugs driven by Niagara, Unreal Engine’s new particle toolset, reacting to the beam of the character’s flashlight.

Should run in real time on a mid-to-high end content creation workstation
The demo runs in real time on the upcoming PlayStation 5.

By content creation standards, its hardware specs are fairly achievable – a 3.5GHz eight-core CPU, a GPU with FP32 compute capability of 10.28 Tflops, and 16GB of GDDR6 system RAM – so for offline rendering, we’d expect similar performance on a mid-to-high-end DCC workstation when Unreal Engine 5 ships in 2021.

Read more about Epic Games’ Lumen in the Land of Nanite Unreal Engine 5 demo on the firm’s blog