Starting at 22:20 tonight, The Coalition, a team levelling the Gears of War series, will be unveiling a brand new Unreal Engine 5 tech demo at GDC 2021. The show, named Alpha Point, hasn’t revealed much so far. It’s just that it’s designed for Xbox Series X and S consoles, as well as new graphics engine features such as Nanite for photo-realistic images and Lumen technology for perfectly lifelike lighting. The presentation will be presented by Kate Rayner, technical director and art director of the studio. Here is a screenshot for a taste.
Based on this, we are looking forward to an awe-inspiring demonstration. If we look back at the past, we can realize that it is not surprising: Unreal Engine is one of the most recognized and widely used graphics engines globally, and tech demos have been provided for previous versions. Some players forgot to close their mouths. So we thought, speaking of today’s presentation, it would be interesting to look back at previous presentations and recall the engine’s past. Let’s tap into virtual horses!
The “tech demo” of the first version of the Unreal Engine was essentially the 1998 Unreal video game that first used the graphics engine. The game itself didn’t become as big a legend as the program that provided the basics, but the engine caught the attention of gaming players early on. Although invented for a first-person shooter, Tim Sweeney (who is still the head of Epic to this day), who makes up the vast majority of the engine, said that year. To a sheet that a deliberately “clean” source code was added to it. The technology was designed to be widely used and then developed over generations. At the time, there were no widespread graphics engines loaded with as many features as UE, which gave developers the UnrealScript programming language and the UnrealEd orbit editor, among many others.
Then, in the 1999 Unreal Tournament, the engine was further developed: it became less hardware-intensive, its network code improved, and the artificial intelligence that could be used in it also improved. This period was marked by competition between Epic and id Software (which was a popular debate as to which of UT and Quake III: Arena was the better game). Still, even John Carmack acknowledged that with Unreal Engine, things he had in his head too. In the year following the release of the base Unreal, the engine began to be used for more than a dozen games, including the first Deus Ex. Still, it was also taken out early for the infamous long-hammered Duke Nukem Forever (which was eventually completed on UE3 anyway).
A tech demo for Unreal Engine was made in 2000 and presented behind closed doors at the 2000 European Computer Trade Show (ECTS). It presented a prototype that can be placed between UE1 and UE2 and boasts features such as support for large outdoor spaces and face play. It’s funny how the latter doesn’t seem like a serious achievement to today’s eyes, even though it was a step forward in the age of the wood-faced Lara Croft:
The Unreal Engine 2 was the first time in 2002 using America’s Army, supported by the US military, free multiplayer shooter, which tried to convince young people to stand in the army. The code for the new engine was thoroughly rewritten, as was UnrealEdet, and the physical engine Karma was added, which was first used in Unreal Tournament 2003. The following demo was presented at the 2002 Game Developers Conference (GDC), where it can be seen that the character models, for example, have become much more detailed. Unreal Engine 2 has been used for games like the first two parts of BioShock and almost all Splinter Cells (though some of these games have already taken advantage of the much-developed version 2.5).
The Unreal Engine 3 in 2004 was unveiled, and the first Gears of War (Xbox 360) and RoboBblitz (PC) was used in 2006. This version has supported PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 from the beginning and 2010 on iOS and Android devices. This engine already calculated the effect of lights and shadows on a pixel-by-pixel basis. One of the most striking innovations was the lifelike lighting provided in the games. Epic patched the engine for quite some time, at first even supporting DirectX 9, but later both DX10 and DX11 were to his liking, and over time, it allowed the destruction of the environment, among other things. It has been used in games like BioShock Infinite, the entire Arkham series, or the top three Mass Effect. The Samaritan demo shown below was presented at the 2011 GDC.
To Unreal Engine 4they, They were already caught up in 2003, but it was said that until 2008 only Sweeney worked on it. The engine was only unveiled in 2012 with the Elemental demo shown below and was first used by a 2014 survivor of horror called Daylight (which had no good reception). In this version, they replaced UnrealScript with Blueprints Visual Scripting, but they also packed many new features. But more interesting than that is what business models have been invented alongside it. Epic initially made UE4 available in exchange for $ 19 a month, but in 2015 it was made free in exchange for 5 per cent of total engine-generated game revenue. This will be paid out after the first quarter in which the game has raised $ 3,000, but if it appears on the Epic Games Store, they will also give up.
Finally, here’s the future of Unreal Engine, UE5! Designed for next-generation consoles, the graphics engine promises to be special because of two technical innovations. One is Nanite, which allows you to import near-photorealistic images so you can create amazingly detailed surfaces with it. The other is Lumen, which provides fully dynamic global illumination, i.e. lighting that can react in real-time to changes in lighting conditions. Unreal Engine 5 will be completed sometime in 2021, so games using it will have to wait a while longer. But if we start with the tech demos of Epic Games that can be viewed below, it’s worth being patient.
Which tech demo for you was the most memorable you encountered? Write in the comment!