Unreal Engine

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Unreal Engine
Unreal Engine 3 logo and wordmark.png
Developer(s) Epic Games
Initial release 1998; 16 years ago (1998)
Stable release 4.5.1 / 14 October 2014
Operating system Cross-platform
Available in English, Korean, Chinese, Japanese[1]
Type Game engine
License Proprietary; UDK free for noncommercial use[2][3]
Website www.unrealengine.com

The Unreal Engine is a game engine developed by Epic Games, first showcased in the 1998 first-person shooter game Unreal. Although primarily developed for first-person shooters, it has been successfully used in a variety of other genres, including stealth, MMORPGs, and other RPGs. With its code written in C++, the Unreal Engine features a high degree of portability and is a tool used by many game developers today.[4]

The current release is Unreal Engine 4, designed for Microsoft's DirectX 10-12[5] (for Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Windows RT); OpenGL (for OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, iOS, Android, and Windows XP[6]); and JavaScript/WebGL (for HTML5 Web browsers).[7][8][9]

Versions[edit]

Unreal Engine 1[edit]

Available for licensees: sometime 1996

Unreal was the first game using the Unreal Engine
Unreal Engine 1
Initial release Unreal v100 / May 1998
Stable release Unreal Tournament v436 / November 2000
Written in C++ , UnrealScript, Assembly[10]
Platform Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS and Mac OS X, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2
License Proprietary

Making its debut in 1998 with Unreal, the first generation Unreal Engine integrated rendering, collision detection, AI, visibility, networking, scripting, and file system management into one complete engine. Unreal Engine 1 provided an advanced software rasterizer[11] and a hardware-accelerated rendering path using the Glide API, specifically developed for 3dfx GPUs,[12] and was updated for OpenGL and Direct3D. Large parts of the game were implemented in a custom scripting language called UnrealScript. The initial network performance was also very poor when compared to its biggest competitor, Quake II. Epic used this engine for both Unreal and Unreal Tournament. The release of Unreal Tournament marked great strides in both network performance and Direct3D and OpenGL support.[13]

The engine became very popular due to the modular engine architecture and the inclusion of a scripting language, which made it easy to mod, including total conversions like Tactical Ops.[14][15]

Unreal Engine 2[edit]

Available for licensees: Unreal Warfare build 633 / January 2001

Killing Floor was built in Unreal Engine 2.
Unreal Engine 2
Initial release Unreal Tournament 2003 v927 / April 2002
Stable release Unreal Tournament 2004 v3369 / November 2005
Written in C++ , UnrealScript
Platform Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube
License Proprietary

The second version made its debut in 2002 with America's Army. This generation saw the core code and rendering engine completely re-written. In addition, it featured UnrealEd 2, which debuted with the previous generation of the engine and was shortly followed later by UnrealEd 3, along with the Karma physics SDK. This physics engine powered the ragdoll physics in Unreal Tournament 2003 and Unreal Championship. Other engine elements were also updated, with improved assets as well as adding support for the GameCube and the Xbox. Support for the PlayStation 2 console was previously added in UE1. Taking Xbox aside, both GameCube and PS2 were never supported directly by Epic, support being instead farmed out to Secret Level said builds were stale and left behind, the last "official" build PS2 and GC saw was build 927 dated April 2002; last official UE2.5 build was build 3369. As such, third parties looking to use further Unreal Engine revisions had to do their own builds throughout the generation, as they had to in more recent years with the Wii, X360, PS3, PSP, and 3DS.[citation needed]

UE2.5, an update to the original version of UE2, improved rendering performance and added vehicles physics, a particle system editor for UnrealEd, and 64-bit support in Unreal Tournament 2004. A specialized version of UE2.5 called UE2X was used for Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict on the original Xbox platform. It featured optimizations specific to that console. EAX 3.0 is also supported for sound. Unreal Engine 2.X was build 2227, dated March 2004.

On March 24, 2011, Ubisoft Montreal revealed that UE2.5 was successfully running on the Nintendo 3DS.[16]

Unreal Engine 3[edit]

Available for licensees: March 2004

The Ball was built in Unreal Engine 3.
Unreal Engine 3
Initial release Roboblitz (UE3 v2306) / Nov 2006
Stable release Unreal Development Kit 2014-05 beta (UE3 v12466.2243543) / August 2014
Written in C++, C#,[17] UnrealScript, GLSL,[18] Cg,[19] HLSL[20]
Platform Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Android,[21] iOS,[22] Windows RT,[23] PlayStation Vita, Adobe Flash Player,[24] HTML5[25]
License Proprietary
A comparison of Unreal Engine 1, 2, and 3's rendering capabilities using the Malcolm model from Unreal Tournament, Unreal Tournament 2004, and Unreal Tournament 3 side-by-side.

The first screenshots of Unreal Engine 3 were presented in 2004,[26] at which point the engine was in development for 18 months already.[27] Unlike Unreal Engine 2, which still supported fixed-function pipeline, Unreal Engine 3 was designed to take advantage of fully programmable shader hardware (in DirectX 9 terms, it required shader model 3.0). 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)

The third generation of the Unreal Engine is designed for DirectX (versions 9-11 for Windows, Windows RT and Xbox 360), as well as systems using OpenGL, including the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, OS X, iOS, Android, Stage 3D for Adobe Flash Player 11, JavaScript/WebGL for HTML5 Web Browsers,[28] PlayStation Vita, and Wii U.[29] 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.[30] Its renderer supports many advanced techniques including HDRR, per-pixel lighting, and dynamic shadows. It also builds on the tools available in previous versions. In October 2011, the engine was ported to support Adobe Flash Player 11 through the Stage 3D hardware-accelerated APIs. Epic has used this version of the engine for their in-house games. Aggressive licensing of this iteration has garnered a great deal of support from many prominent licensees. Epic has announced that Unreal Engine 3 runs on both Windows 8 and Windows RT.[31] The first released console game using Unreal Engine 3 was Gears of War and the first released PC game was RoboBlitz.

Throughout the lifetime of the UE3, significant updates have been incorporated:

In addition to the game industry, UE3 has also seen adoption by many non-gaming projects, for instance:

  • The popular children's TV show LazyTown used UE3 during filming to generate virtual sets for real-time integration with footage of actors and puppets performing in front of green screens.[48]
  • In March 2012, the FBI licensed Epic's Unreal Development Kit to use in a simulator for training.[49]
  • The animation software "Muvizu Play", which was released in April 2013, uses UE3.[50]

Unreal Development Kit[edit]

Unmechanical was built in the UDK.
Unreal Development Kit
Initial release version 5860, November 2009
Stable release version 12466, changelist 2243543 / August 2014
Written in C++, C#, UnrealScript, GLSL,[18] Cg,[19] HLSL[20]
Operating system Microsoft Windows
Platform Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, iOS
Type Level editor / Software development kit
License Free for noncommercial use
Website UDK website
UDN for UDK

While Unreal Engine 3 has been quite open for modders to work with, the ability to publish and sell games made using UE3 was restricted to licensees of the engine. However, in November 2009, Epic released a free version of UE3's SDK, called the Unreal Development Kit (UDK), that is available to the general public.[51] According to the current EULA, game developers can sell their games by paying Epic the cost of $99 USD, and 25% royalty on UDK related revenue above US$50,000 from all UDK-based games or commercial applications.[52] The December 2010 UDK release added support for creating iOS games an apps.[53] As of the September 2011 release, iOS, OS X, and Windows platforms all support UDK-created games. The February 2014 UDK release contained enhancements specific to mobile development, including iOS 7 and Xcode 5 support, shader upgrades and the addition of distortion.[54][55]

Since the release of Unreal Engine 4 the development of UDK is almost discontinued and no information is available as to when the existing bugs will be fixed.[56]

Unreal Engine 4[edit]

Available for licensees: May 2012

Unreal Engine 4
Initial release Unreal Engine 4.0.1.2027741 / March 19, 2014
Stable release Unreal Engine 4.5.0 / October 14, 2014[57]
Written in C++, GLSL, Cg, HLSL,
abandon UnrealScript[58][59]
Platform Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, HTML5,[60][61] iOS, Android[62][63][64][65]
License Proprietary

On August 17, 2005, Mark Rein, the vice-president of Epic Games, revealed that Unreal Engine 4 had been in development since 2003.[66] Until mid-2008, development was exclusively done by Tim Sweeney, founder and technical director of Epic Games.[67] The engine targets the eighth generation of consoles, PCs and Tegra K1-based[68] devices running Android announced in January 2014 at CES.

In February 2012, Mark Rein said "people are going to be shocked later this year when they see Unreal Engine 4".[69] Unreal Engine 4 was unveiled to limited attendees at the 2012 Game Developers Conference,[70] and video of the engine being demonstrated by developer Alan "Talisman" Willard was released to the public on June 7, 2012 via GameTrailers TV.[71][72] This demo was created on a PC with triple GeForce GTX 580 (tri SLI) and can be run on a PC with a GeForce GTX 680.[73]

One of the major features planned for UE4 was real-time global illumination using voxel cone tracing, eliminating pre-computed lighting.[74] However, this feature has been replaced with a similar but less computationally-expensive algorithm prior to release for all platforms including the PC because of performance concerns on next-generation consoles.[75] UE4 also includes new developer features to reduce iteration time, and allows updating of C++ code while the engine is running. The new "Blueprint" visual scripting system (a successor to UE3's "Kismet"[76]) allows for rapid development of game logic without using C++, and includes live debugging.[77][78] The result is reduced iteration time, and less of a divide between technical artists, designers, and programmers.[79]

[In older engines], if you wanted to change the relationship between your weapon damage and how long it'll take to kill a creature, you may spend a couple of days iterating, but if you have to spend a lot of time waiting for a build every time, you're talking one change, waiting 15 minutes for the compile to complete, and then play the game, get to the point where you can test it, test it, exit the game, change, compile... now, since all of that can be done very quickly within the tools, it's 'Make the change, play, when it compiles, finish, shoot the guy, and then escape, make the change, play'. The iteration time is down to 30 seconds instead of 15 minutes. Our ability to kind of roll through and see how the game is playing out is much faster.

—Alan Willard, writing for Kotaku[79]



On March 19, 2014, at the 2014 Game Developers Conference, Epic Games opened Unreal Engine 4 to the world, releasing all of its leading-edge tools, features and complete C++ source code to the development community through a new subscription model. Anyone can sign up for UE4 for PC, Mac, iOS and Android by paying $19 per month, plus 5% of gross revenue resulting from any commercial products built using UE4.[80][81] CEO and founder of Epic Games, Tim Sweeney, said that the new business model is a reflection of changes in the industry. Epic Games has traditionally made its Unreal Engine available to large AAA game development teams at a cost of millions of dollars. But as the industry has evolved, Epic has had to "really rethink our whole business as to how we make the engine available to teams."[82] "Looking at the new shape of the industry now, we realize that's an outdated tool," Sweeney said. "Looking at the possibilities for the engine, we started from scratch and thought 'How can we make the engine available to more people?'".[83] According to the Unreal Engine website, subscribers to the engine will be able to cancel their subscription, or renew it at any time. They will be able to retain access to UE4 tools, but will not receive access to future releases of Unreal Engine 4.[84]

On September 3, 2014, Epic Games launched the Unreal Engine Marketplace, allowing UE4 subscribers to buy and sell community-created content of all shapes and sizes.[85] In addition to all of the previously released free content, the new marketplace was launched with a variety of asset packs including full-scale environments, props, characters, sounds, materials, animated meshes, prefab C++ code and a number of other asset types as well as free demos and tutorials.[86][87] On September 4, 2014, Epic released Unreal Engine 4 to schools and universities for free, including personal copies for students enrolled in accredited video game development, computer science, art, architecture, simulation, and visualization programs.[88][89][90][91]

Games using the Unreal Engine[edit]

Other licensees[edit]

Unreal Engine 2[edit]

Licenses for education
Licenses for education for Construction Simulations and Interior Designs
  • Bentheim Interior Design

Unreal Engine 2 Runtime Custom License is used in many non-gaming projects including construction simulations and designs, training simulations, driving simulations, educations, virtual reality shopping malls, movie storyboards, continuities, pre-visuals, etc.

Until October 2007, more than 500 companies had Unreal Engine 2 Runtime Licenses.[citation needed]

Unreal Engine 3[edit]

Licenses for education
  • Norwich University of the Arts
  • The Jim Henson Company
  • University of Advancing Technology
  • Louisiana State University in Shreveport
  • Centennial College
  • Expression College for Digital Arts
  • Digital Media Arts College
  • The Art Institute of California
  • Stanly Community College
  • University of Teesside
  • San Jacinto College South
  • University of Wisconsin Stout
  • IUPUI
  • University of Derby
  • Singapore Polytechnic
Licenses for Training Simulation
  • U.S. Army[93]
  • U.S. Air Force[94][95]
  • ROK Navy[96]
  • Chinese Army
  • NASA[97]
  • U.S. Government[49]
  • FBI[49]
  • PB Project Visualization, (U.S. Department of Transportation)[98]
  • Department of Homeland Security(DHS)/George Washington University[99]
  • Virtual Heroes, a division of Applied Research Associates, Inc.[100]
  • IPKeys Technologies/Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Gaming and Modeling Environment (I-GAME)[101]
  • Opaque Multimedia[102]
Licenses for Construction Simulation
Licenses for VR Techniques
  • Yost Engineering, Inc/YEI Technology[104]
Licenses for CG animation

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]