Though Microsoft and Sony weren’t showing off any new hardware at E3, and Nintendo’s display was less than satisfactory, Epic Games was eager to give a glimpse of what the newest version of their Unreal Engine series can do. Alan Willard, senior technical artist and designer for Epic, led an impressive demo. Though we weren’t privy to the demo, having not gotten the chance to make it to E3 this year, others who did had a lot to say about it.
For this version, reflection is the key. UE4 has special illumination effects that allow the reflection of light off of every object and material to effect every other object in an environment. This seems to happen partly because of the amount of particle effects in a particular environment, as much as 1 million in a single room alone. The effect is also caused by how each object is rendered.
Epic also demonstrated an interesting lighting feature that replicates the effect of a human being’s eye adapting to a dark room after being in the light. These effects are examples of what is becoming important in next-gen engines…subtlety. This will become key to how well a game reflects a developer’s intent on the screen.
Speaking of developers, Willard showed that UE4 has increased many-fold the speed at which alterations to code can be made. Designers can literally update the game code or art design while the game is running and watch how those effects are reflected in the actual environment.
Epic is still in the final stages of determining hardware requirements. When Willard was asked about the possibility of UE4 technology scaling down to mobile platforms, he answered, “Scaling down to mobile is an interesting question – will it be down?” With the success Epic had with Infinity Blade, there’s no doubt that iOS will figure prominently in the hardware requirements for the engine.
He also stressed that Epic is still waiting on the final specs on next-gen hardware from Microsoft and Sony, so what everyone saw at the demo is what Epic is pushing for, not what they will look like on the next consoles.
Will we see UE4 on the Mac? Though no mention was made at the demo about the Mac version, there’s no indication that this engine won’t follow in the footsteps of its predecessors. Which means Mac devs and gamers probably won’t see it until everyone else has had their fun already.