Unreal Engine 5 is about to change the faces and fates of MMORPGs forever.
Why Unreal Engine 5 is Such a Big Deal for Games like Ashes of Creation
It’s been a full decade since Unreal Engine 4 was released in 2012. And still to this day, UE4 produces some of the most beautiful games on the market. A couple of weeks ago, Unreal Engine 5 officially launched to near universal fanfare.
Here’s why it’s so exciting in the words of the team themselves, “With this release, we aim to empower both large and small teams to really push the boundaries of what’s possible, visually and interactively. UE5 will enable you to realize next-generation real-time 3D content and experiences with greater freedom, fidelity, and flexibility than ever before.” But we don’t expect you to just take their word on it.
Those in the know have been fanboying hard about UE5 for years, but it really captured the internet-at-large’s attention following the release of this Matrix game demo, The Matrix Awakens: An Unreal Engine 5 Experience, released in conjunction with the latest Matrix movie. The graphics were so lifelike, so photorealistic, and so staggering, the world was left asking, “How can that be CGI?” Meanwhile, it led everyone here at MMO Games to ask, “Is it time for a reboot of the Matrix MMO?”.
Unreal Engine 5 is not just for game makers. It has extensive potential for any developers using CGI and is already being used to make staggeringly beautiful blockbuster movies, as well as for architecture, broadcasting, television, simulation, and more. Here at MMO Games, you know we only have one use on our minds though, and we were delighted to see that highly anticipated upcoming MMORPGs like Ashes of Creation have already signed up to UE5.
But just why is Unreal Engine 5 so exciting?
Now indie developers also have the opportunity to create the most breath-taking games you’ve ever seen.
Megascans: Unreal Engine 5’s Extensive Asset Library
Megascans is a library of almost 20,000 detailed assets ready to be inserted into a game. These include textures, 3D objects, modular objects, and customisable objects.
What makes this library so incredible is that they are photorealistic – they have been created by scanning an extensive array of real-life objects. The team at UE5 have travelled the world, scanning surfaces from Japan to Iceland and converting them onto 3D objects for use in movies and games.
We’re all used to amazing graphics in blockbuster MMOs. Games like New World blew us away with the beauty of their games, but they had the budget of Bezos behind them. Yet it’s thanks to libraries like these that independent MMOs like Mortal Online 2 can achieve remarkably beautiful games with much smaller budgets. With the Megascans asset library available, small independent developers now have access to photorealistic graphics at little more than the click of a button. We love indie MMOs here at MMO Games, and now indie developers also have the opportunity to create the most breath-taking games you’ve ever seen.
Nanite: Unreal Engine 5’s Polygon Remastery
Break down any surface in any CGI based videogame, and at its core it’s made up of polygons. In all games, especially games with huge explorable maps like MMORPGs, items that are further away from the player are assigned a lower Level-of-Detail (LOD), i.e. they use fewer polygons until those polygons are needed up close, then a new higher LOD surface loads.
This has been a great solution for the consumer, but for the developers it’s a different issue. They not only need to design every item and texture, but they must do so for every LOD that a player might encounter.
Were this not the case, the game would have to render all items in the game at their highest LOD simultaneously, ergo crashing every computer except perhaps the Fugaku supercomputer. Attractive MMORPGs like Black Desert which have no loading screens or boundaries in their massive seamless worlds simply wouldn’t stand a chance. Until now.
Enter Nanite, Unreal Engine 5’s ultimate solution. Nanite does away with LOD by dynamically deforming the polygons in real time. This allows for simultaneous pixel scale detail amidst hundreds of thousands of different objects. It gets highly technical here, but if you’d like to learn more, check out the official Unreal Engine 5 Nanite documentation on their virtualized geometry.
Lumen: Unreal Engine 5’s Real-time Lighting System
Since the dawn of computer graphics, coders have been trying to master Global Illumination, that is the effect given by the combination of both primary direct light sources combined with rays of light that reflect off other surfaces. Now we’re not just talking about bouncing off obviously reflective surfaces, but also the subtle reflections from non-traditionally reflective surfaces (walls, floors, furniture, etc). These are the reflections that create soft light.
As anyone who has ever played a game like Red Dead Redemption 2 knows, other engines can do a great job at this via pathfinding and light baking. However, between the unwieldy light rendering times of traditional pathfinding and the lack of dynamism in light baking, both have had serious flaws. As far as we’re aware, Lumen is the only engine to successfully simulate Global Illumination in real time.
We’re not just talking about single rooms here either. Imagine the sun setting across snowy mountains and reflecting at different times off every peak and you’ll start to get an idea. A lot is said of living breathing worlds and Lumen just took us a lightyear closer to them.
Will Games Using Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) Upgrade to Unreal Engine 5 (UE5)?
The short answer, yes. All the content made for UE4 can be used for UE5. It has been designed to be near-seamlessly upgraded. Similarly, most of the tutorials and custom content for UE4 are still relevant.
What does this mean for massively multiplayer online games? Well, some of your favourites such as Blue Protocol and Bless Unleashed could well be heading towards a remarkable upgrade.
Are you as excited as we are to see photorealistic MMORPGs? Which MMO are you most excited about seeing getting the UE5 treatment?
We’d like to give thanks to Unreal Sensei whose content has been invaluable in the creation of this piece. We highly recommend checking out his Unreal Engine 5 videos for a visual representation of what we’ve described.