The Unreal Engine 5, launched in 2022, is a landmark within the gaming industry. The engine comes with the next-level features of the already powerful game engine and sets benchmarks within the industry. In addition, it took several aspects vital to game development to the next level, particularly the high-fidelity visuals.
All the Unreal Engine 5 features created a ripple effect among indie game developers and game development studios worldwide. Better features mean better games and a better workflow for the game developers.
Unreal Engine 5 is the latest update of the decisive game development engine by Epic Games. The engine is known for its high-resolution visuals, massive open-world partition system, and developer-friendly features.
It also boasts advanced physics, animation, audio, and special effects, supporting multiple platforms, including PCs, consoles, and mobile devices.
So, without further ado, we reveal the top five features that have the most potential to be game-changers within the industry:
For decades, game developers have wanted to import film-quality assets into games to make their game world more vibrant and realistic. But the medium’s unique requirements have always hampered this wish.
Particularly real-time rendering. In games, all the visuals are rendered in real time, meaning each frame is rendered and calculated by the CPU based on the input data from the player. This is not the case in movies where all the visuals are pre-rendered into a video format that does not change based on any input.
Real-time rendering is intensive on the hardware—the more detailed the models used in the game, the more the need for performance. For instance, movie assets have a high polygon count and are super realistic.
In games, however, developers have had to resort to two methods to overcome this issue: authoring LODs and normal mapping.
LOD (Level Of Detail) authoring creates two versions of the same asset – one with lower quality and one with higher quality. The scene switches between both versions based on the requirement. For instance, the system renders the low LOD version if the player is far from the object. The system generates the higher LOD version when the player approaches the object.
Likewise, normal mapping is another technique used to save performance, but with textures. This method maps a high-quality texture over a low-quality 3D model. So, the 3D model looks like it has a high level of detail when it doesn’t.
Nanite will remove all of this. It will support 3D models with a high polygon count without negatively impacting performance. In addition, the developers won’t have to author LODs or do normal mapping.
Real-time lighting has been an elusive phenomenon for game developers because of its performance overhead. For example, the system has to calculate light data in every frame for the scene to be realistic and respond to the player’s inputs.
As a result, developers have been using a technique called light baking. Light baking is the process of pre-rendering lighting data into a texture and then using it on 3D models. It comes close to the lighting effect.
But it does not simulate natural light, especially bounce light. Bounce light is the effect light produces when it bounces off surfaces. It even has effects on other objects around it.
Lumen is Unreal Engine 5’s new dynamic lighting system that calculates bounce lighting in real-time. It creates realistic lighting effects without needing the developers to bake the lighting. It also creates realistic shadows and reacts to movement.
Lumen seamlessly works together with Nanite to create immersive game scenes.
A lot of the games that are being released now are open-world games. Leaps in hardware and software technologies have finally allowed us to have games with massive open worlds filled with numerous characters and locations set in the backdrop of sprawling storylines.
However, the creation of open worlds remains a problem. The bigger the world, the harder it becomes for the developers to create and implement it. The more intensive it is on the hardware as well.
Unreal Engine 5’s World Partition System is going to change that. It intelligently loads the game world to minimize the load on the system resources. It separates the game world into multiple sections. Each section is loaded only when required.
Even in terms of workflow, it is going to bring a revolution. Because till now, only one developer could work on the game world at a time, which has hindered a lot of progress. The World Partition System will allow simultaneous editing of the world by multiple agents. So, developers can create game worlds much faster than ever.
One aspect that takes the most time in game development services is the creation of 3D models. The artists have to spend a lot of time creating the model with the optimal level of detail according to the specifications.
Human characters also take more time because they require the artists to portray even more details accurately.
The UE5 MetaHuman feature fastens up this process. It is a human character-creator tool that lets even those with no experience in modelling create characters. It works similarly to character customization screens in many games, allowing the players to choose from multiple body types, hair colors, etc.
In addition, the characters come with a complete rig, and developers can animate them without much effort. The engine also allows easy import of the characters once created.
Shadow maps are essential features that map the areas that are blocked from the light source. As they imitate the natural phenomenon of light interaction with the environment, it helps to show depth, realism, and dynamic lighting (change of light due to change in actions).
Earlier, game developers used shadow maps with low and fixed resolution (2048 x 2048), which lacked details and smooth edges. While using high-resolution shadows ended up consuming more storage and resulted in high rendering costs.
The latest Unreal engine 5.3 came with a new update to resolve this issue: Virtual Shadow Maps. This feature came with a high resolution of 16k x 16k. It is designed to support high-fidelity tools like Nanite, World Partition Tool, Lumen, and Metahuman Creator closely.
Virtual shadow maps are incredibly detailed, and they consume less memory when compared to regular shadow maps.
Moreover, VSM splits the game world into sections and only renders particular sections currently visible on the screen in real time. It helps to save substantial rendering costs for Unreal developers.
Unreal Engine 5.3 rolled out with improved performance for the existing Unreal Engine 5 features such as Nanite, Lumen, Metahumans, etc.
In addition, they have also released many experimental features that are still under development and refinement.
Here, let us see some of those new experimental tools of Unreal Engine 5.3:
Path Tracer is a powerful real-time rendering tool that captures real-world light behaviour. It results in offering realistic visual effects.
Skeletal Editor helps to simplify the character rigging workflow. Using this tool can improve the efficiency and accessibility of character rigging.
Orthographic Rendering in gaming is used to visualize 3D structures in 2D. It is applied in level design visualization, UI designs, and technical development for distortion-free and precise models.
The experimental Niagara Fluid Simulations allow developers to create fluid simulations such as water, fire, and smoke with enhanced realism and LOD.
Apart from these, features such as Metasound, cloth simulator, collision, and many others are available in the latest Unreal Engine 5.3, offering an enhanced visual quality.
Fortnite (2017), one of the most popular AAA video games, announced its transition to Unreal Engine 5.
Following that, many anticipated releases for 2024, like Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Atlas Fallen, and Stalker 2: Heart of Chornobyl, are being developed using the latest Unreal Engine 5 features.
The reason large AAA games, as well as indie games, are choosing UE5 is due to their developer-friendly and brand-new features.
Moreover, they release frequent updates comprising improvements in existing tools and additional outstanding features. The latest update of Unreal Engine 5.3 came with multiple features, which we saw in the previous sections.
Apart from this, there are many solid reasons for choosing Unreal Engine 5. It includes
Unreal Engine 5 features are truly game changers in the video game development industry. Their unique features are developed to offer players a high-quality, realistic, and immersive gaming experience.
Apart from the gaming industry, Unreal 5 features are used in architecture, interior designing, healthcare, tourism, film, and various other industries.
Yes. Then, you are at the right place.
We are one of the best game development companies with clients around the globe. Juego Studios offers Unreal Engine 5 game development services for various types of games, including Battle Royale, MMORPG, strategy, action, adventure, horror, puzzle, and many more.
In case you need exclusive services like cross-platform integration, game porting, or talent outsourcing — we offer it all.
If you are planning to make games, reach out to Juego Studios. You can get an estimated cost breakdown within a day or two. Our expert team is happy to help with any of your doubts on game development.
Yes. Unreal is free for non-commercial uses and for creating custom and internal projects. Also, you can start developing games for free. You are only required to pay a 5% royalty if it earns over $1 million.
Below, we have shown how to upgrade your Unreal Engine 4 to 5 in 5 steps.
Step 1: Open your project in the latest version of UE4.
Step 2: Right-click on your project’s .uproject file and choose “Switch Engine Version.”
Step 3: Choose the UE5 version you want to upgrade to and click “OK.”
Step 4: UE5 will automatically convert your project and assets. This might take some time, depending on the complexity of your project.
Step 5: Once the conversion is complete, review the project for any issues or errors. You should manually adjust some assets or settings depending on changes in UE5.
As per the official sources, Fortnite, Stalker 2, Layers of Fear, Remnant 2, Immortal of Avenum, and Slender: The Arrival are popular games using UE5 for game development.
The lumen lighting system, Nanite geometry, virtual shadow maps, world partition system, and metahumans are the five best features of Unreal Engine 5.