Announcements on the state of Unreal 2023: Fortnite’s Unreal Editor, Unreal Engine 5.2 and more
Epic Games held its State of the Unreal keynote at GDC 2023 (Game Developers Conference), held on Wednesday, revealing its long-term plans for content creation, in addition to new tools used in upcoming games. The nearly eight-hour presentation was streamed live on the company’s YouTube channel, discussing updates to Unreal Engine 5.2, a new performance capture system, an Unreal editor for Fortnite, and more. We also got a fresh look at the reboot of Lords of the Fallen, Hexworks’ upcoming dark fantasy title, focusing primarily on its high-res models and lighting technology, powered by Unreal Engine 5.
With that, here’s a roundup of the biggest announcements from Epic Games’ State of Unreal 2023 presentation:
Unreal editor for Fortnite
As its name suggests, this tool is a unique version of Unreal Engine that allows players to create and publish their work directly in Fortnite, whether it’s new environments, absurd models or experiences of game. Running on PC, the app is integrated directly into Fortnite, providing access to over four years of content and assets to play with. It also comes with a “live edit” feature that allows any member of your team to join your UEFN session, regardless of platform, and collaborate on creations. Additionally, players can import custom assets and animate them, while adding extra depth with Unreal Engine 5’s Lumen, the real-time global illumination system.
Unreal Editor for Fortnite comes with a new programming language “Verse”, offering “powerful customization capabilities”, such as manipulating or chaining devices. Epic Games says Verse is designed as a programming language for the metaverse, with “features coming soon to allow future scalability to large open worlds,” a press release adds. UEFN is now available on the Epic Games Store as a public beta.
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Developer Ninja Theory is leveraging Unreal Engine’s MetaHuman Animator technology in its upcoming Hellblade II: Senua’s Saga to achieve photorealistic facial expressions in its characters. The tool allows developers to use an iPhone or a stereo helmet-mounted camera (HMC) to capture every nuance of the actor’s performance, then transfer every detail and animation to his digital parents to bring them to life. The tool is due out this (US) summer and claims to produce the kind of quality facial animation expected of AAA games and even Hollywood filmmakers (eg: Love, Death and Robots).
“With the iPhone you may already have in your pocket and a standard tripod, you can create believable animation for your MetaHumans that will connect emotionally with your audience, even if you don’t consider yourself an animator,” add a blog post.
Unreal Engine 5.2
Epic Games has teamed up with vehicle builder Rivian to create the beautiful Electric Dreams demo, to showcase changes to Unreal Engine 5.2, now available through the Epic Games Launcher and GitHub. In it, a photorealistic Rivian R1T electric truck drives through an overgrown forest, while showcasing the new Substrate shade system. For the demo, the presenters changed the truck decal to an opal color, to better show how light interacts with the surface. The effect is achieved through multiple layers, and the reflection is seen changing live when a layer of dust is added on top.
Unreal Engine 5.2 also introduces Procedural Content Generation Framework (PCG) tools that allow artists to “define rules and parameters to quickly populate large and highly detailed spaces” in an efficient way. Assemblies/procedural models, when dropped onto an existing plain, interact in real time with other nearby elements, updating their appearance accordingly.
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Lords of the Fallen Technical Trailer
This new trailer from Hexworks took us on a gothic journey to Skyrest Bridge, one of the first locations in Lords of the Fallen, a 2014 reboot sequel. The developer claims to have used 3D scans of people to foster a better in-game character customization system – body types, faces, etc. – in addition to using UE5’s chaos physics engine to facilitate movement effects on weapons or clothing. It was interesting to see Hexworks use a Bloodborne-esque character to demonstrate this effect – a nice nod to an iconic game.
The Lords of the Fallen trailer then touched on the lighting system, which again uses Unreal’s Lumen GI lighting system to create lighting effects that bounce off surfaces in real time. In the game, players will intermittently travel between two worlds – Axiom the realm of the living and Umbral the realm of the dead, which were designed side by side, allowing for seamless exchange between them. “It means our artists and designers can make sure these worlds feel intrinsically connected, like two sides of the same coin,” the narrator said.
Creator Economy 2.0
The new Creator Economy 2.0 means that developers who create and publish islands in Fortnite will benefit financially, based on engagement. Epic Games will share 40% of the net revenue generated from Fortnite’s Item Shop – skins, battle passes, etc. – with creators of eligible islands. Curiously, the wording seems to suggest that Epic itself is eligible for compensation. “…both islands of independent creators and those of Epic such as Battle Royale.”
Epic Games is consolidating all of its asset marketplaces – Unreal Engine Marketplace, Sketchfab, Quixel Bridge, and ArtStation Marketplace – under the “Fab” brand name. It basically functions as a one-stop destination for creators to discover, share, buy, or sell digital assets, in its huge library. Sellers earn an 88% revenue share and the platform offers content ranging from 3D models, visual effects, sound, and more. Fab is set to launch later this year, although an alpha version of the Fab plugin is now included in Unreal Editor for Fortnite.
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