Screenshot from Unreal 5's Nanite feature showing statues in a desert

Unreal Engine 5's Epic Features

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CrossComm recently explored the new features of the game engine, Unreal Engine 5 from Epic Games, to see the exciting new changes.

Unreal Engine is one of the most popular game engines in use today. With the latest release, even more features have been added to further give Epic Games and users of the engine a greater competitive advantage. Myself and my colleague Curtis Cummings created several different environments to showcase the Top 5 features that Unreal Engine 5 has to offer that make it a game-changer for the Computer Graphics industry.

A Brief History of Unreal Engine

Feature 1 - Lumen

Bounce lighting is one of many layers that are needed to create visually interesting and realistic lighting in computer graphics. Up until now, pressing a button and waiting for a render was the only way to get realistic bounce lighting or global illumination (GI). Unreal 5 allows for real-time GI through the use of the new lighting system, Lumen.

The Lumen feature offers real-time global illumination

Feature 2 - Nanite

Managing polygon limits have always been a consideration that every 3D artist has to be vigilant of when it comes to real-time applications. Unreal 5 brings a new virtualized geometry system that helps bring more fidelity to the details that can be viewed by the user. In other words, the closer the object is to the camera, the more detail it should have, and the further away it is, the less detail it should have as it won't be as noticeable. This allows for large complex scenes to be constructed without an impact on performance.

The Nanite tool allows 3D artist more depth and control over polygon management

Feature 3 - Megascans

There are multiple techniques to create 3D models. Photogrammetry is one such way that allows for capturing the detail of such objects with relatively short time investment. While it's useful for non-organic and organic objects alike, it's particularly useful for virtual environments since capturing the detail of real-world environments can be a time-consuming process. Megascans is a massive, expanding library that consists of such objects. Having this repository of assets that can be dropped directly into Unreal 5 is a powerful way to create environments quickly.

The Megascans feature provides a massive library of 3D art for designers to use

Feature 4 - MetaHumans

Digital human creation is arguably the single most difficult task for computer graphics. Because we spend our whole lives looking at human features, we're sensitive to even slight discrepancies in digitally created humans. If not done with care, the features or movements can come across odd, unsettling, or even just WRONG. MetaHumans is aimed at avoiding these pitfalls and streamlining the process of digital human creation. Recently, an update has given us the ability to create MetaHumans from real-life scans or sculptures giving even greater flexibility.

The MetaHumans tool let's artists more easily create realistic human models

Feature 5 - MetaSounds

Built-in sound engines are generally "serviceable" but often lack many complex features that make most experiences great. This often requires designers to rely on third-party solutions instead. MetaSounds is a brand new, completely redesigned audio engine that aims to give the artist the ability to create complex variations to audio. Third-party systems are still supported, but this redesign is a welcomed addition. On top of this, they also integrate with player interaction which can trigger certain unique experiences based on crafted gameplay events.

The MetaSounds makes it easier than ever to create complex audio variations