The wait is over! Unreal Engine 5 is now available in early access. Epic Games recently announced that the next generation of its game engine can be downloaded by all developers for testing purposes.
The early access build of Unreal Engine 5 is appended by most of its signature features, including the virtualised micro-polygon system Nanite, the global lighting module Lumen, and the World Partition system that will enable game developers to create more photorealistic, large and more interconnected open worlds.
Unreal Engine statement reads: “While our ultimate goal is for UE5 to empower creators across all industries to deliver stunning real-time content and experiences, this Early Access build is intended for game developers who like to live on the bleeding edge to start testing features and prototyping their next games.”
It further says: “This Early Access build of Unreal Engine 5 is not production-ready, but this is where, for the first time, you can get your hands on some of the technology that caused so much excitement when it was showcased in last year’s announcement—not to mention some you’ve never seen before.”
Unreal Engine 5 supports PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Nintendo Switch, Mac, iOS, and Android.
Here are the key features in Unreal Engine 5 early access:
Nanite virtualised micropolygon system lets users create games with massive, unprecedented amounts of geometric detail. Directly import film-quality source assets comprised of millions of polygons and place them millions of times, all while maintaining a real-time frame rate, and without any noticeable loss of fidelity. Nanite intelligently streams and processes only the detail you can perceive, largely removing poly count and draw call constraints, and eliminating time-consuming tasks such as baking details to normal maps and manually authoring LODs — freeing you up to concentrate on creativity.
Lumen is a fully dynamic global illumination solution that lets users create dynamic, believable scenes. With Lumen, indirect lighting adapts on the fly to changes to direct lighting or geometry, such as changing the sun’s angle with the time of day, turning on a flashlight, or opening an exterior door. This means you no longer have to author lightmap UVs, wait for lightmaps to bake, or place reflection captures — you can simply create and edit lights inside the Unreal Editor and see the same final lighting as when the game is run on console.
Unreal Engine has aimed to make the creation of open worlds faster, easier, and more collaborative for teams of all sizes. The new World Partition system in Unreal Engine 5 changes how levels are managed and streamed, automatically dividing the world into a grid and streaming the necessary cells. Team members can also simultaneously work on the same region of the same World without stepping on each other’s toes via the new One File Per Actor system. Data Layers allow you to create different variations of the same World — such as daytime and night-time versions — as layers that exist in the same space.
One can now author incredibly detailed characters in dynamic, real-time environments with Unreal Engine 5’s powerful animation toolset. Working in context, users/artists can iterate faster and more accurately, without the need for time-consuming round-tripping. Artist-friendly tools like Control Rig let you quickly create rigs and share them across multiple characters; pose them in Sequencer and save and apply the poses with the new Pose Browser; and easily create natural movement with the new Full-Body IK solver. And with Motion Warping, you can dynamically adjust a character’s root motion to align to different targets with a single animation.
Unreal Engine 5 introduces a fundamentally new way of making audio, with MetaSounds, a high-performance system that offers complete control over audio DSP graph generation of sound sources, letting users manage all aspects of audio rendering to drive next-generation procedural audio experiences. MetaSounds is analogous to a fully programmable material and rendering pipeline, bringing all the benefits of procedural content creation to audio that the Material Editor brings to shaders: dynamic data-driven assets, the ability to map game parameters to sound playback, huge workflow improvements, and much more.
Enhanced Editor UI & workflow
In UE5, the Unreal Editor gets a fresh new look, streamlined workflows, and optimized use of screen real estate, making it easier, faster, and more pleasing to use.
New features in this Early Access build include the ability to easily summon and stow the Content Browser and to dock any editor tab to the collapsible sidebar, freeing up more space for viewport interactions; a new favouriting system for quick access to frequently used properties in the Details panel; a new Create button on the main toolbar that makes it easy to place Actors into your world; and a streamlined, easier workflow for creating new projects.
The full Unreal Engine 5 version might be released in early 2022 with many memory, performance, and quality improvements, as well as additional new features that will benefit creators in all industries.