Unreal Engine 5.2 expands toolset for creating next-gen 3D graphics and content
An overwhelming list of improvements for the most popular 3D engine out thereBy Alfonso Maruccia
In context: Unreal Engine is the standard for making AAA games, new indie sensations, or any other kind of interactive experience for a plethora of platforms. The latest version further pushes the boundaries of what creators can do with the engine.
After showing what the new engine can do during the Game Developers Conference (GDC), Epic Games has now released the latest edition of its 3D graphics creation platform. Unreal Engine 5.2 is a rather substantial update, Epic says, introducing innovative features for making content creation and world building jobs easier and more complete than ever.
Epic highlighted the most significant improvements, starting with the new Procedural Content Generation (PCG) framework. This is an experimental tool designed to work directly inside the Unreal Engine with no need to rely on external packages. PCG can be used to define rules and parameters to "populate large scenes" with the assets provided by creators, making the process of building large game worlds "fast and efficient."
The PCG feature includes both in-editor tools and a runtime component, which means the system can run inside a game or other real-time applications with gameplay or scene geometry changing accordingly. The PCG is also useful for "linear content" (large architectural projects, film scenes) where a substantial number of assets is required, Epic explains.
Another outstanding feature is Substrate, which Epic describes as a new way of authoring materials that gives creators more control over the "look and feel" of objects or real-time 3D scenes. When enabled, Substrate replaces the fixed suite of shading models with a "more expressive and modular multi-lobe framework," providing a greater range of surface appearances. With Substrate, 3D designers can easily describe "layered" looks such as "liquid on metal," or "dust on clean coat."
Unreal Engine 5.2 further improves its virtual production or In-Camera Visual Effects (ICVFX) toolset, a kind of production technology based on LED panels used as backdrops for real-time 3D graphics display. ICVFX was extensively used in The Mandalorian TV series, and UE 5.2 improves the virtual production workflow with a new iOS app providing intuitive, touch-based controls for stage operations and modifications such as color grading, light card placement, and more.
Unreal Engine 5.2 also provides native support for the Apple Silicon platform, with a better user experience, and improved performance and stability thanks to a Universal Binary that can run on Apple Silicon and Intel CPUs.
Last but not least, UE 5.2 includes a new ML Deformer sample designed to show how the engine's machine learning technology (because of course, ML algorithms must be everywhere now) can shape a realistic 3D character for high-end gaming scenarios (PC and consoles). For game professionals and 3D designers, Epic further provides a gargantuan list of all the innovations, improvements and changes brought to the world of gaming with Unreal Engine 5.2.