Epic releases Unreal Engine 5

Almost two years after the first announcement, Epic Games has officially released the Unreal Engine 5 gaming engine, now available for developers to download.

The updated engine includes a number of improvements, including increased performance and an updated user interface, but the most significant changes come from several technologies designed for a more photorealistic image.

These include Lumen, “a fully dynamic global illumination solution” for more true-to-life lighting, and Nanite, which Epic says “gives you the ability to create games and experiences with massive amounts of geometric detail.”

There are also more practical tools, like the ability to partition off sections of an open world to make it easier for teams to work on areas independently. Altogether, these tools are expected to make it easier to make large-scale games at a high fidelity; CD Projekt Red has already confirmed it’s using the tool to build the next Witcher .

While this is the first time the engine is available widely for game developers, a few major UE5 projects have already been released to the public through Epic itself. Last December, Fortnite moved over to Unreal 5, and at the same time, Epic released The Matrix Awakens, an impressive tech demo that merged the likenesses of Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss with a large open-world populated by the developer’s Metahuman characters.

“It’s very good that we can experiment with the user experience flows way before anybody else does,” said CTO Epic Kim Libreri to The Verge . “So actually, it’s very valuable to our customers because it means they don’t have to go through that. We don’t end up putting super unthought-out workflows in front of all users. It’s great from that perspective, especially with something as big as the Matrix demo and as big as Fortnite.”

As part of today’s launch of UE5, Epic is also making a sample of The Matrix Awakens’ city — sans the Hollywood stars — available for game developers to build off of. “I think we’re going to see some pretty awesome stuff,” Libreri says. Epic is also releasing a sample multiplayer shooter called Lyra, built in UE5, which looks a lot like Unreal Tournament and is something the developer says can be a “hands-on learning resource” for game creators.

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