Friday, January 28th, 2022 Posted by Jim Thacker

ToolChefs ships AtomsUnreal 3.0 in beta

Toolchefs has released the first public beta of AtomsUnreal 3.0, the new version of the Unreal Engine plugin for Atoms Crowd, its crowd animation framework.

Changes include what Toolchefs terms ‘XPU animation’, the option to compute simulations more efficiently on CPU and GPU, greatly improving performance; plus support for runtime variation, and for Unreal Engine 5.

A skeleton-based crowd system for common DCC applications
Created by former crowd tools developers at MPC and Framestore, and first released in 2017, Atoms Crowd is a cross-application skeleton-based crowd simulation system.

It integrates with a range of key VFX and game development tools, including Maya, Houdini and Unreal Engine, and supports workflows based around the FBX, Alembic and USD file formats.

The software has been used at major VFX facilities including Cinesite, Image Engine and Reel FX.

New in AtomsUnreal 3.0: XPU animation
The major feature in AtomsUnreal 3.0 include what Toolchefs terms ‘XPU animation’: a new system that harnesses both a user’s CPU and GPU more efficiently to maximise simulation performance.

Whereas previously, a crowd character’s pose was calculated solely on the CPU, with XPU animation, the CPU is used only for the root motion, with the rest of the pose being calculated on the GPU.

In the demo shown at 21:10 in the video above, the new system raises simulation performance signicantly, with frame rates jumping from 70 fps to 120 fps.

“No more baking of textures for vertex animation,” promises Toolchefs’ blog post. “Just plug and play your state machine”.

Runtime variation, better hero character workflow and Unreal Engine 5 support
Other new features include support for generating variants of crowd agents at runtime, rather than having to prepare separate assets in advance; and improved workflow for promoting agents to hero characters.

Smaller changes include support for LODs and frustum culling in the editor.

The software also now supports Unreal Engine 5, the next major version of the game engine, currently available in early access; and can deploy to new platforms including Xbox and Nintendo Switch.

Pricing and system requirements
Atoms Crowd is available for Windows 10 and RHEL/CentOS 6.5+ Linux. AtomsUnreal 3.0 is available in beta for Unreal Engine 4.25+. The software is rental-only.

For individuals, a node-locked Atoms RT licence, which includes AtomsUnreal, costs £75/year; for studios, a floating or node-locked licence costs £1,590/year. Find full pricing information here.

Read a full list of new features in AtomsUnreal 3.0 in the online changelog

Read more about the Atoms Crowd product family on Toolchefs’ website