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Epic Drops Unreal Engine Update Packed With Cinematic, ‘Fortnite’ Development Improvements

Unreal Engine 4.20 launched Wednesday, delivering on the promise of the Epic Games’ stunning Game Developers Conference keynote earlier this year and packed with tools and optimization yanked from their ever-evolving game “Fortnite.”

The update to the game-creation engine includes hundreds of optimizations, especially for iOS, Android, and Nintendo Switch, which were originally built for “Fortnite.”

“The big thing is you can make one game and can ship it across all platforms,” Kim Libreri, chief technology officer of Epic Games, told Variety. “It’s the core of what’s going into 20. ‘Fortnite’ is the same game across all platforms.”

While a number of games have versions on different platforms, often they have to be rebuilt or ported over to work, Libreri said that having two code bases for the same game is “going to die. That’s expensive.”

“If you think about it, in a modern game like ‘Fortnite.’ you don’t want things to get out of sync with each other.”

One of the driving forces behind Unreal Engine’s long-running success is that Epic Games uses the engine to create major games and in so doing, pushes its own technology forward, which it then shares with everyone who has access to the engine.

In this case, that means a lot of major additions are hitting thanks to the surging success of “Fortnite.”

Among some of the bigger new features is the ability to have scalable level of detail in games. In essence, reducing the use of graphics processing to show off distant objects by making them less complex. Unreal’s proxy LOD system is meant to handle that automatically.

The update also delivers more than 100 optimizations created to help bring “Fortnite” to iOS and soon Android. Specifically, the company calls out a number of Android improvements. Switch development also received a lot of improvements, again, thanks to “Fortnite.”

The last major improvement powered by “Fortnite” is the inclusion of the game’s replay system which allows developers to build in a tool for players to capture replays of a game and post them as videos.

While a major portion of the upgrade deals specifically with game development, Epic also pushed the tech used for movie making on its engine.

Libreri noted that the update brings with it early access to the developer’s impressive particle simulation tools, better cinematic depth of field and the digital humans improvements shown off with Andy Serkis and in the Siren demo at GDC.

“I’m very confident,” Libreri said, “that in the next five years every major blockbuster will have a game engine running visuals.”


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