It's been a year since Unreal Engine 5 became available to everyone. The latest version of the Epic Games engine is referred to as a game-changer, and for a good reason: it empowers the creation of more immersive and realistic games than ever before. In this article, we will explore both the technical capabilities and non-technical benefits that UE5 offers to game developers.
We spoke to the UE Technical Director at Dragons Lake, Volodymyr Ivanov, on the capabilities of UE5 and why learn it in 2023. Volodymyr is Unreal Engine professional certified by Epic Games. He is also the main lecturer of the Unreal Engine 5 Internship launched by Dragons Lake this spring.
Unreal Engine 4 is already a powerful engine that offers best-in-class solutions for game development, but the latest version takes it to the next level. UE5 introduces a range of improvements that refine existing approaches and add new helpful features:
These innovations have paved the way for game creators to overcome previously insurmountable challenges and create visually stunning and complex game environments that were unachievable using older tools. Now, let's take a closer look at the capabilities of UE5 and the technologies that drive them.
Probably the most remarkable thing about UE5 is Nanite – a revolutionary technology that offers exceptional visual quality and scalability by utilizing Virtualized Geometry. First, it breaks down each mesh into clusters with varying levels of detail. Considering distance and screen resolution, Nanite generates LODs for each cluster and then intelligently streams geometry data based on what the camera sees at any moment.
Nanite also uses an efficient screen-space culling technique to optimize rendering performance even more. By analyzing the camera view, it figures out which clusters are visible and should be rendered, reducing the workload on the GPU. This allows for incredibly complex scenes with millions of polygons to maintain optimal frame rates and performance.
Equally impressive, there is a global illumination solution called Lumen. It accurately simulates how light behaves in a scene. Gone are the days of traditional baked lighting methods; Lumen adapts to environmental changes in real-time, providing more realistic and dynamic lighting requiring less manual work from artists.
UE5 also provides new opportunities for managing physics and collisions. The primary system responsible for that is Chaos Physics. Using LOD and smart collision detection, it allows for more realistic and interactive physics-based simulations in a game. Its Chaos Destruction feature lets developers create dynamic and destructible environments that react to in-game events and player actions.
Chaos Physics also offers automatic complexity adjustment for physics objects based on their distance from the camera, ensuring high performance in physics-heavy scenes. It seamlessly integrates with other systems like Niagara, Animation Blueprints, and Control Rig for dynamic character interactions with the environment and VFX.
When it comes to rendering open-world environments, UE5 uses all available tools for streaming. In addition to Nanite, Lumen, and LODs, World Partition plays a crucial role. It keeps memory usage efficient by loading and unloading game world sections based on the player’s location.
Previously mentioned Chaos Physics is optimized for large-scale simulations, enabling efficient handling of complex physics modeling and interactions even in large, open-world environments.
The engine also uses occlusion culling algorithms that identify visible objects for rendering, ensuring only necessary assets are displayed. Other features like Asset Compression and Streaming further enhance memory usage and performance.
There are many animation capabilities provided by UE4 that were moved or improved in UE5: Animation Blueprints, Morph Targets, Retargeting, Root Motion, and much more. But it also offers some new tools like Control Rig, Full-Body IK Solver, and many helpful nodes.
Control Rig is a versatile rigging system, enabling artists and developers to efficiently create advanced character and object rigs for procedural and data-driven animations within the engine. Full-Body IK Solver can handle complex interactions between the character's body parts, making creating animations that adapt to varying environments and situations easier.
Another notable feature is the Sequencer, which gives the ability to make non-linear animations and cinematics. While its core functionality remains similar between UE4 and UE5, the enhancements in user experience, performance, and integration make the UE5 version a more robust and streamlined tool for creating animations and cinematics.
It is also worth mentioning a Layered Animation. It has separate tracks in the Animation Blueprint that can be controlled and blended individually. Each layer has specific animations or logic, which lets you focus on different parts of character movement, like the upper and lower body, for example.
Regarding sound design, UE5 introduced a new audio system MetaSounds. It uses a node-based, procedural approach, allowing complex, dynamic sounds that react to in-game events.
Not only that, but MetaSounds can also synthesize audio in real-time, which means less reliance on pre-recorded samples and more opportunities for procedural and adaptive audio. Plus, UE5 has improved spatial audio and acoustic simulation features, making the audio experience even more immersive and realistic.
To finish with, the Audio Synesthesia plugin provides a suite of analysis tools for extracting information from audio signals, which can then be used to drive gameplay, visuals, or other aspects of the project.
Given the capabilities listed, Unreal Engine 5 makes it possible to create high-quality games that are sure to impress players. However, it's not just the technical advantages that make it stand out. Here are some other reasons why UE5 is a top choice for game developers in 2023:
If you're eager to master Unreal Engine 5, don't miss a chance and apply for internship at Dragons Lake. During a six-month program, you will gain hands-on experience in all aspects of UE5 development, from designing game mechanics to writing code related to network logic. Successful graduates get the opportunity to join the Dragons Lake team.
Dragons Lake studio is part of the Room 8 Group family of brands. The studio is a PC and console development company that provides advanced technical and creative services to support AAA game development. Dragons Lake covers all game development stages, from early concepts to final build.