Unreal Engine 3 turns 10!
This weekend, Unreal Engine 3 turned ten years old!
Technically, this marks the tenth anniversary of the First Look of the engine, which had been started in 2002. The first game on the Unreal Engine 3 (UE3), Gears of War, was not released until 2006.
Still, this is a good time to take a look back at the engine, and its amazing progress over its lifetime. Just take a look at this excerpt from Wikipedia:
Unreal Engine 3 was designed to take advantage of fully programmable shader hardware. All lighting calculations were done per-pixel, instead of per-vertex. On the rendering side, Unreal Engine 3 also provided support for a gamma-correct high-dynamic range renderer. UE3 expected that content was authored in both high- and low-resolution version and baked normal maps for run-time; a major difference to previous generations where the game content was modeled directly (since normal mapping is a per-pixel operation and almost all the dynamic lighting in UE1 and 2 was calculated per-vertex using a Gouraud Shading technique).
Initially, Unreal Engine 3 only supported Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 platforms, while Android and iOS were added later in 2010 (with Infinity Blade being the first iOS title and Dungeon Defenders the first Android title). OS X support was added in 2011.
Throughout the lifetime of the UE3, significant updates have been incorporated:
- Epic Games announced at Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2009 some improvements made to Unreal Engine 3. These included:
- Unreal Lightmass: a global illumination solver. Provides high-quality static lighting with next-generation effects, such as soft shadows with accurate penumbrae, diffuse, specular inter-reflection, and color bleeding.
- The ability to add fracture effects to static meshes to simulate destructible environments.
- Soft body dynamics (physics).
- Large crowd simulation.
- In December 2009, Epic demoed UE3 running on Apple’s 3rd generation iPod Touch. They said that this will also support iPhone 3GS, and also an unknown mobile platform which has been revealed to be webOS at CES 2010. It has been revealed so far to be something on Nvidia’s Tegra platform, and also Palm’s webOS running PowerVR’s SGX chip.
- In March 2010, Steamworks was integrated into the software, and is offered to licensees.
- In June 2010, Epic Games revealed Epic Citadel, a tech demo to showcase Unreal Engine 3 on iOS devices (iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad devices).
- In June 2010 during the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2010, Mark Rein (vice president of Epic Games) showcased a tech demo of Gears of War 2 in stereoscopic 3D running on an Xbox 360 thanks to the TriOviz for Games Technology. “This technology’s great because it works on normal HD TVs, as well as the very high end 3DTVs,” Rein commented to Computer and Video Games. “We’re not planning to re-release this in 3D – unless Microsoft want us to – but I’m sure it’s technology may be keen to put in the games developed by our partners.”
- In October 2010, TriOviz for Games Technology has been officially integrated in Unreal Engine 3, allowing to easily convert in stereoscopic 3D, numerous past and upcoming games developed on Xbox 360 and PS3 with this engine.
- As of March 2011, the Unreal 3 Engine supports DirectX 11. Epic Games showcased it with a real-time demonstration video, entitled “Samaritan”. Additions include tessellation and displacement mapping, advanced hair rendering with MSAA, deferred shading with MSAA, screen space subsurface scattering, image-based lighting, billboard reflections, glossy reflections, reflection shadows, point light reflections, and bokeh depth of field.
- In July 2011, Geomerics announced that their real-time global illumination solution Enlighten is now integrated with Unreal Engine 3 and available to licensees.
- In October 2011, Epic Games announced that a version of the engine would be compatible with Adobe Flash Player.
- In May 2012, UE3 added support for the RealD 3D stereoscopic technology.
Some of the best games on the market were produced with UE3. Take a look at this list, courtesy of MaximumPC.
— Brian Ernst (@leetNightshade) March 15, 2014
Don’t forget that the Unreal Development Kit (UDK) is also based on UE3, allowing fan and indie developers to use the same fully-featured system to easily create high caliber games!
Although many games being released now are still based on UE3, the next generation of the Unreal Engine was unveiled at the 2012 Games Developer Conference (GDC). Unreal Engine 4 is aimed at desktop computers and next-gen consoles, such as the Playstation 4 and Xbox One.
One of the major features of UE4 is real-time global illumination using voxel cone tracing, eliminating pre-computed lighting. UE4 also features new developer features to reduce iteration time and allow direct updating of C++ code. New features of the debugger for “Kismet” (a visual scripting engine that debuted in UE3) allow developers to directly visualize code while testing. The developer can then jump to the source code and edit it. Elements in the game can be clicked on directly to more easily change the game world. This also ultimately results in less of a divide between technical artist, a designer, and a programmer. The result is a reduced time to compile code and allows game creators to tweak settings in real time.
You can find out more about the Unreal Engine in all its versions at www.unrealengine.com.