Next generation talk has been at an all time high lately, and for good reason. Sony has been very upfront about working on "what's next," and Xbox's Phil Spencer oh so casually dropped next gen news during their E3 2018 press conference. With a timeline estimated for 2020, the hooplah surrounding this topic has many gamers wondering what the next generation will bring. Better graphics is a given, as is with every generation in the past, but how much things like facial animations are meant to be improved is what has us reeling with surprise.
The Unreal engine has evolved much throughout its creation, and Epic Games has recently just launched their Unreal Engine 4.20. This particular engine is meant to make stunningly realistic characters, and blur the lines between fiction and reality. Pair that with its ability to make incredibly immersive environments, and the Unreal engine just can't be stopped.
Epic Games' Kim Libreri recently sat down with VentureBeat to discuss what this means for the next generation of gaming, and it's got us salivating more than a little bit. From photorealistic real-time visualization, to incredibly in-depth attention to detail, the next generation is going to bring a whole new meaning to the world of gaming.
When speaking about a recent demo shown at GDC (seen in the video at the top of the article), Libreri mentioned "From a code perspective, we have better skin shaders that now allow double specular hits for skin. Also, light can transmit through the backs of ears and the sides of the nose. You get better subsurface scattering realism. We also have this screen space indirect illumination for skin, which allows light to bounce off cheekbones and into eye sockets. It matches what happens in reality."
Libreri added, "We showed a bunch of virtual production capabilities in the engine as well, cinematography inside a realtime world. The tool we showed, which was used to demonstrate a bunch of our GDC demos, is shipping with 4.20 as well as example content. You can drive an iPad with a virtual camera.
We've added new cinematic depth of field. It was built for the Reflections Star Wars demo. At this point we have the best depth of field in the industry. Not only is it accurate to what real cameras can do, it also deals gracefully with out-of-focus objects that are over a shot or in the background, which traditionally was a difficult thing in realtime engines. It's also faster than the old circle depth of field we had before. It's going to make games and cinematic content look way more realistic."
As far as other features of the newest update to the Unreal engine, Libreri mentioend "Many developers on games that have yet to release take the latest version into critical content. We're seeing lots of awesome usage of the cinematic tools, not just for cutscenes, but for a lot of adventure-type games. We've seen games that were running at 30 being able to go to 60 because of the optimizations in the engine. It's a pretty open community. Unless you have a game you've been shipping for quite a while, people are pretty keen to take the latest update."
They also talked about this generation versus next generation, stating "Obviously [next generation] would be better. Right now, when we do the demos, to get them to run at 60 frames per second or at VR frame rates, we end up needing a pretty beefy graphics card to render all the hair. But if you have a character that doesn't need actual individual splines of hair, you can run that on a modern PlayStation or Xbox. When we start to see a next generation or whatever that is, the uncanny valley is going to be crossed in video games.
It's going to end up being not about your technical expertise to make these things. That technique will become ubiquitous over time. It's got to be about telling an awesome story where people will want to watch that face get involved and do interesting things."
Libreri mentioned that this new engine is designed for the future and that it will make everything, everything smoother and more accessible for developers. This means cross-play would be even easier to achieve, with more incentive to work alongside competitors instead of against them.
To read the entire interview, check out our friends over at VentureBeat right here. It's worth the read!