Nearly every gamer on the planet has experienced some type of game that was created using Epic's Unreal Engine. Looking to continue their industry popularity with game developers Epic unleashed a slew of new features to their Unreal Engine 3. To illustrate the engine's details in slick Epic Game fashion is a new trailer highlighting all the powerful new tools in action.
From the dynamic global illumnation tool Lightmass, to PS3 downloadable content support be sure to check the official features listing after the break.
Unreal ENGINE 3 GDC 2009 Features Trailer
Unreal Engine Technology Features (2009)
Technical and Programming
Unreal Lightmass, a new global illumination solver, produces high-quality static lighting with next-generation effects, including soft shadows with accurate penumbrae; diffuse and specular interreflection and color bleeding. The result is higher quality lighting, while retaining full compatibility with UE3's existing lighting and shadowing features.
Unreal Swarm is a massively scalable job distribution system optimized for high-speed networks of multi-core PCs. Designed in tandem with Unreal Lightmass to accelerate lighting computations, Swarm can manage clusters of computers of mixed brands, configurations, and performance levels, automatically distributing tasks on-demand and employing a transparent distributed cache system that allows for dramatically increased performance. Swarm is configured and managed entirely through a visual interface that provides detailed information about jobs in progress, including both local and remote agents participating in the job, and color-coded activity per worker thread on all agents. Swarm is an extremely flexible job distribution system that can be used for accelerating virtually any broadly parallelizable job, and it is currently used to accelerate Unreal Engine 3’s new global illumination system, Unreal Lightmass, with outstanding results.
Unreal Master Control Program is a high-reliability online service architecture, providing back-end services suitable for use with all Unreal Engine 3 games. Its current set of services, which debuted in Gears of War 2, includes the following:
- Party system, enabling players to form groups in a networked lobby, and transition from match to match together. A robust party system is now a must-have feature for today's triple-A multiplayer games, and the solution now bundled into UE3 represents man-years of development effort – and has received millions of player-hours of validation.
- Message of the day, for broadcasting community news and information to players.
- Live update of game features, without requiring a full title update.
- Collection of gameplay statistics, coupled with web-based usage and analysis.
- Collection of game-flow statistics, enabling design teams to analyze player behavior, including positional data. Using Unreal MCP's data visualization tool, you can view game stats as “heat maps” overlaid on a 2D view of a level, seeing where players were most frequently active, etc. Such visual tools are essential both in spotting flow problems and tweaking games during development, and in enhancing the multiplayer experience post-release.
Client-side support for Unreal MCP is built into UE3 through a collection of interfaces to allow flexible data exchange using standard HTTP protocol or custom protocols using TCP sockets. Unreal MCP supports secure communication between PC and Xbox 360 using Microsoft's LIVE Server Platform (LSP); direct communication to central servers on the network; and communication with PlayStation 3 and PC games.
Unreal Build Tool
Unreal Build Tool optimizes the development and iteration cycle for code in Unreal Engine 3. By parallelizing and distributing the compilation of C++ and UnrealScript code, developers can spend more time developing and less time recompiling. Unreal Build Tool is integrated with Visual Studio project files, and supports distributed compilation through integration with Xoreax Grid Engine (XGE), a grid computing engine for Windows. To minimize build time, it supports local parallel compilation (making maximum use of today's multi-core CPUs), and automatic use of precompiled headers.
Artificial Intelligence: Navigation Meshes
Unreal Engine 3's artificial intelligence system now supports the automatic creation and use of navigation meshes, giving AI-controlled characters increased spatial awareness of the world around them and enabling them to make smarter movement decisions. Navigation meshes further optimize the performance and memory usage of AI relative to traditional node-based navigation systems, thanks to a more efficient representation and less reliance on collision-detection for movement.
Added PlayStation 3 features
Unreal Engine 3 now has support for downloadable games on the PlayStation 3. By taking advantage of the console’s new Game Content Utility, PS3 games are now able to run as retail disc games, downloaded from the PlayStation Store, or even a patch, all without even recompiling the code.
The new Unreal Content Browser is a revolutionary tool for searching and organizing game content. Powered by a back-end database, the Content Browser gives you instant access to all assets – meshes, materials, sounds, animations, and more – without the need to manually navigate directories or load content files.
A Flickr-inspired content tagging system enables designers to categorize game assets for instant retrieval. Search for “pillar”, for example, and all pillars will be rapidly retrieved and displayed, in thumbnail format, from among up to terabytes of game content.
New support for creating and sharing collections of assets enables artists to manage groups of game assets independent of file location.
In all, the new Unreal Content Browser brings a welcome “Web 2.0” feel to the process of browsing, searching, and creating game assets, greatly enhancing artist and designer workflow.