Epic Games (which now has a studio in Edinburgh) has given game developers huge new incentives to choose the Unreal engine for future games.
While the company’s unveiling of the new Unreal Engine 5 (UE5) may be grabbing many of the headlines, two other announcement may well prove more important for game creators.
Developers can now use the Unreal engine, freely, up until the first $1 million of gross revenue, at which point there is a 5% royalty. The company is also making this new deal retroactive to January 2020.
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney told MCV:
“The Unreal Engine business model is a royalty based model where we succeed when you succeed. With this generation, retroactive to January of this year, we’re exempting every game’s first million dollars in revenue from the royalty, so it’s a little bit easier for indie developers to get started and not have to worry about the cost of the engine until they’re really successful.”
Epic has also made its Online Services freely available, giving every developer the opportunity to offer true cross-platform gaming.
Epic’s Online Services is infrastructure which enables the multi-device approach used by the studio’s megagame, Fortnite. It enables the game to be played across all major consoles, operating systems and devices (iOS & Android coming soon), with unified friends lists, game-matching, lobbies, cloud-saving, etc.
Online services can be merged together a developers existing account services, platform accounts, or Epic Games accounts, which according to MCV: “reach the world’s largest social graph with over 350 million players and their 2.2 billion friend connections across half a billion devices.”
The launch of the Unreal 5 engine, included a stunning demo of the new technology, running on a PlayStation 5. Two major aspects of the engine are Nanite, which handles level-of-detail and promises movie-like photorealism – in real-time, and Lumen, which handles dynamic lighting, also in real-time, without requiring light maps to be created separately.
UE5 will not be confined to the next generation of games consoles, as the technology will scale appropriately, enabling games created at the highest quality levels, to automatically adjust to current generation devices, including mobile.
Development Time Minimised
The results are undeniably impressive, however there may also be additional benefits to developers in terms of the amount of work required to create complex, detailed and high-quality content. The UE5 demo makes use of Quixel Megascans, which are used in film CGI, but were too large to be easily handled within a dynamic game environment.
PS5 Meets UE5
In an extensive interview with MCV, Tim Sweeney also revealed a number of details of the PlayStation 5 hardware, the demo is running upon:
“Sony’s new PlayStation 5 is a remarkably balanced device – an immense amount of GPU power, but also a multi order of magnitude increase in storage bandwidth, which makes it possible to not just render this kind of detail, but actually stream it in dynamically as the player’s moving through the world.
“That’s going to be absolutely critical to entering the scale of detail and bigger open world games. It’s one thing to render everything that can fit in memory, but it’s another thing to have a world that might be you know, 10s of gigabytes in size.”
A preview version of Unreal Engine 5 is scheduled for early 2021, with a full release later the same year.