Epic Sees a Whole New Metaverse with Unreal Engine 5

Epic Games officially made Unreal Engine 5 (UE5) available to developers this week after progressively rolling it out over the past year. The latest iteration of the popular engine offers several improvements to streamline game development and potentially tap into a metaverse.

The Highlights

  • Lumen: An UE5 alternative to hardware-based ray tracing that could make implementing the feature easier for small studios
  • Nanite: Geometry tool that allows very high-fidelity assets to be rendered in real time, making massive open worlds easier to design
  • Reality Scan App: Allows developers to scan in real-world assets on their smartphones, supplementing Epic’s free and paid asset library

The Big Picture
“Where you go today is a stepping stone to bigger things in the future, so come join us in the journey, and we’ll build this future together.”

-Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games

Epic Games isn’t just talking about game development when it speaks of “bigger things.” Like other game engines, Unreal Engine 5 offers Epic a chance to break into adjacent creative spaces, such as film production. In the long term, Epic is making a play to be the de facto standard of the metaverse. Should a metaverse, or a few, come to fruition, there will need to be some agreement on standards and technologies – a potential goldmine for the winners of that “format war.” On both counts ,it also doesn’t hurt that downloading the UE5 editor is free.

Days after the Unreal Engine 5 release, Epic announced a partnership with LEGO to create a metaverse for children. While its goal to “empower children and adults with tools that give them control over their digital experience” is boilerplate Unreal Engine 5 talk, the unsubtle promises to protect children’s safety and privacy are a clear shot at proto-metaverse platform/game Roblox.

No Rush to 4K
Despite the stunning tech demos of UE5, don’t expect a sudden surge of gamers upgrading their hardware. On the consumer side, there is the obvious impediment of price. More importantly, there are roadblocks on the game development side. Higher quality textures can massively inflate game downloads, and leveraging these tools still requires huge amounts of man hours, which will turn off many AAA studios. Conversely, the increasingly widespread integration of software-based raytracing in game engines could remove some of the luster of hardware ray tracing, devaluing branding such as Nvidia RTX.

Featured image courtesy of Unreal Engine