State of Unreal 2023 | What to Expect from the Future of Game Development
Let's explore the highlights of Epic Game's State of Unreal (2023) presentation at the Game Developers Conference (GDC).
In this year's keynote, Epic Games presented their long-term vision for the future of content creation, distribution, and monetization, aiming to establish a connection, open ecosystem, and economy that will benefit all creators and developers in the metaverse. From the latest enhancements coming to Unreal Engine 5.2 to the new MetaHuman technology and Fortnite’s Unreal Editor tools, Epic Games made some exciting announcements that could have an impact on the gaming industry. We'll be taking a closer look at what these updates mean and what their potential implications could be.
Unreal Engine 5.2
A preview of Unreal Engine 5.2 is now available, bringing improvements in stability and new functionality to the virtual production and virtual world creation process. With the new update, game developers can enjoy more possibilities, making the creation process more streamlined. The update offers further refinement and optimizations alongside several new features that allow artists to define rules and parameters to quickly fill expansive, highly detailed spaces using procedural and runtime content generation tools.
One of the biggest additions in Unreal Engine 5.2 is the new procedural generation tools, which Epic showcased in a gorgeous “Electric Dreams” demo that took place in a dense, foliage-filled forest partially created with those tools. The demo features a photorealistic electric pickup truck, the Rivian R1T, which travels through a dense and realistic environment with lush vegetation built using Quixel Megascans and imposing rock structures using Quixel Mega Assemblies.
The R1T's exterior is even more impressive thanks to the new Substrate shading system, which allows artists to compose and layer different shading models, achieving new levels of fidelity and quality previously not possible in real-time. The shading system gives artists the freedom to achieve levels of fidelity and quality that were not possible before in real time. The Substrate is shipping in 5.2 as Experimental.
Moreover, the R1T truck features advanced technology that makes tire deformation more precise while jumping over rocks and roots. Air suspension smooths out as it splashes through mud and puddles with realistic fluid simulation and water rendering. In short, the new update of Unreal Engine 5.2 provides game developers with more creative power, enabling them to create virtual worlds with even greater realism.
During a live demo at the State of Unreal, the team showcased the graphics engine's capabilities by demonstrating the Rivian R1T truck crawling off-road through a lifelike environment densely populated with trees and lush vegetation built with Quixel Megascans, and towering craggy rock structures using Quixel MegaAssemblies. The update of Unreal Engine 5.2 also ships with new in-editor and runtime Procedural Content Generation (PCG) tools that enable artists to quickly populate expansive, highly detailed spaces that are art-directable in the manner and work seamlessly with hand-placed content.
Epic Games has unveiled a new set of tools that allow users to create photorealistic digital humans with high-fidelity animation. One of the most notable features is MetaHuman Animator, which can quickly transform an actor's facial capture, even from an iPhone video, into a realistic game model using Unreal Engine technology. This resource is accessible to independent studios and even amateurs, expanding the possibility of creating innovative and high-quality content for the general public.
The MetaHuman Animator offers a faster and simpler workflow that anyone can use, regardless of animation experience, to produce the quality of facial animation required by AAA game developers and filmmakers. With this tool, you can capture the individuality, realism, and fidelity of an actor's performance and transfer every detail and nuance onto any MetaHuman to bring them to life in Unreal Engine.
The high-fidelity performance capture provided by MetaHuman Animator is essential to giving photorealistic digital humans truly believable performances. Epic showcased a jaw-dropping demo of the MetaHuman animation captured with just an iPhone under just 5 minutes and 10 minutes, which is set to launch this summer. This tool opens up new opportunities for independent studios and hobbyists to create high-quality content.
The new set of tools presented by Epic Games offers a simpler and faster workflow for producing high-fidelity facial animation for MetaHuman characters. This resource is accessible to independent studios, hobbyists, and even amateurs, expanding the possibilities of creating innovative and high-quality content for the general public. With the MetaHuman Animator, users can capture an actor's performance using an iPhone or stereo helmet-mounted camera and transfer every detail and nuance onto any MetaHuman, bringing them to life in Unreal Engine.
Unreal Editor For Fortnite
Unreal Engine 5 is making headlines in the gaming industry with its latest offerings. One such announcement is the launch of Unreal Editor for Fortnite, which allows anyone to create and publish custom games and experiences inside of Fortnite.
Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) is a version of the Unreal Editor that can create and publish experiences directly to Fortnite. With many of Unreal Engine 5’s powerful features at your fingertips, creators, and developers have a whole world of new creative options for producing games and experiences that can be enjoyed by millions of Fortnite players.
UEFN offers a whole new world of options for producing and publishing games and experiences for Fortnite that can be enjoyed by millions of players. The Public Beta of Unreal Editor for Fortnite is now available for download, offering a new way to design, develop, and publish content into Fortnite that takes advantage of the Unreal Editor’s development workflows and proven PC-based toolset.
UEFN will evolve to feature most of the same tools available in Unreal Engine 5 (and beyond) that enable the publication and distribution of experiences on a massive scale. With UEFN, developers and the Fortnite Creative community can now leverage a powerful collection of Unreal Engine features to build Fortnite islands. The Unreal Editor and the core Fortnite Creative toolset have been combined to help teams of Unreal Engine developers and skilled Fortnite creators build and publish entirely new experiences.
The UEFN demo showcased a variety of key features including Niagara, Verse (a new programming language), Sequencer, Control Rig, custom assets, existing Creative devices, and custom audio. In the UEFN Beta, users will be able to rig and animate using Control Rig and Sequencer, block out geometry directly using Unreal Engine’s modeling tools, and add visual effects using the Niagara VFX system and Post Process Volumes. Users will also have access to Unreal Engine tools for sculpting and painting expansive terrain, as well as the Unreal Engine Material Editor for creating materials with a unique visual style.
Unreal Editor for Fortnite is an exciting opportunity for developers, Fortnite creators, and players alike, as it allows for the creation of custom games and experiences on a massive scale, which millions of Fortnite players will enjoy. The possibilities are endless with Unreal Engine 5’s powerful features and the Fortnite Creative toolset, making UEFN an essential tool for any developer or creator looking to explore new creative options.
Epic Games has introduced a new programming language called "Verse" that is aimed at making it easier for developers and creators to script alongside existing Fortnite Creative tools and teams. The language offers powerful customization capabilities such as manipulating or chaining together devices, and the ability to easily create new game logic.
The goal of Verse is to allow creators to have the ability to produce scripts with the existing tools of Fortnite Creative. The language will become a fully supported programming language in Unreal Engine and will be open source, with open API specifications for anyone to use for their own needs or to easily interface with Epic’s ecosystem.
With several customization options available, the addition of Verse is expected to expand the possibilities for Fortnite Creative developers and creators, providing them with the ability to customize their experiences using powerful scripting capabilities easily
Creator Economy 2.0
Fortnite's Creator Economy 2.0 offers a new way for island creators and developers to monetize their content. The pay-for-engagement model allows creators to earn money based on the engagement their published content generates. The more interactions and views the content receives, the higher the creator's compensation.
To support this new model, Epic announced that 40% of the game's net revenues will be put back into a pool for creators. This includes a new way for eligible island creators to receive money based on engagement with their published island content.
The engagement payouts proportionally distribute 40% of the net revenue from Fortnite's Item Shop and most real-money Fortnite purchases to the creators of eligible islands and experiences, including independent creators and Epic's own such as Battle Royale.
This new model offers eligible creators a chance to earn a portion of Fortnite's Item Shop purchases based on engagement with their published content. With Creator Economy 2.0, Epic is providing a new way for creators to monetize their content, allowing them to earn more based on the success of their creations.
Epic Games is bringing all of their asset marketplaces under one roof in a unified 3D marketplace called Fab. This will include Unreal Engine Marketplace, Quixel Bridge, Artstation, and Sketchfab, and will be accessible inside of Unreal Engine. The marketplace is set to launch later this year, but an alpha plugin for the Unreal Editor is available now for Fortnite.
Fab will host all types of digital content, including 3D models, materials, sound, VFX, and digital humans, and will support all engines, all metaverse-inspired games which support imported content, and the most popular digital content creation packages. Creators can find, publish, and share digital assets for use in creating digital experiences.
The most significant incentive for creators to use Fab is the 88% revenue share that they will receive for their creations, which is a significantly higher percentage than other markets in the same segment. Epic Games hopes that this platform will be accessible to all types of world builders as more and more people come online and learn how to become 3D creators.
Fab is set to be a massive community of creators, and Epic Games is committed to providing a space where creators can monetize their content and find inspiration for their projects. With Fab, the creators of digital content have a one-stop shop where they can access a vast library of assets and earn a larger share of the revenue from their creations.
In conclusion, Epic Games' State of Unreal presentation at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2023 offered a glimpse into the future of game development. From using MetaHumans to creating stunning worlds with Unreal Engine 5, the talks provided inspiration, insights, and practical knowledge for developers to apply to their projects.
Epic Games also announced its support for developers who choose to transition their work to UEFN by adding UEFN projects to the Epic MegaGrants program. This program will help future-oriented teams to learn and launch new experiences using UEFN and Verse.
With powerful tools, access to a vast marketplace for digital content, a global audience, and a new equitable economy, the opportunities for creators are limitless. It is an exciting time to be a game developer, and Epic Games is paving the way for the future of game development with innovative technologies and initiatives.