|Stable release||4.7 / 24 February 2015|
|Preview release||Unreal Engine 4.8 / 6 May 2015|
|Available in||English, Korean, Chinese, Japanese|
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.
Unreal Engine 1
|Initial release||Unreal build 100 / May 1998|
|Stable release||Unreal Tournament build 436 / November 2000|
|Written in||C++ , UnrealScript, Assembly|
|Platform||Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS and OS X, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2|
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 and a hardware-accelerated rendering path using the Glide API, specifically developed for 3dfx GPUs, 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 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.
Unreal Engine 2
|Initial release||Unreal Warfare build 633 / January 2001|
|Stable release||Unreal Engine 2.5 build 3369 / November 2005|
|Written in||C++ , UnrealScript|
|Platform||Microsoft Windows, Linux, OS X, Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube|
The second version made its debut in 2002 with America's Army, a free multiplayer shooter created and funded by the US 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.
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.
Unreal Engine 3
|Initial release||Unreal Engine 3 build 100 / March 2004|
|Stable release||Unreal Engine 3 build 12791.2424394 / February 2015|
|Written in||C++, C#, UnrealScript, GLSL, Cg, HLSL|
|Platform||Microsoft Windows, Linux, OS X, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Android, iOS, Windows RT, PlayStation Vita, Adobe Flash Player, HTML5|
The first screenshots of Unreal Engine 3 were presented in 2004, at which point the engine was in development for 18 months already. 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)
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.
- In March 2012, the FBI licensed Epic's Unreal Engine 3 to use in a simulator for training.
- The animation software "Muvizu Play", which was released in April 2013, uses UE3.
- Unreal Development Kit
|Initial release||v5860 / November 2009|
|Stable release||v12791.2424394 / February 2015|
|Written in||C++, C#, UnrealScript, GLSL, Cg, HLSL|
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows|
|Platform||Microsoft Windows, OS X, iOS|
|Type||Level editor / Software development kit|
|License||Free for noncommercial use|
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. 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.
- The full source and content for Epic Citadel, plus an additional castle demo map.
- Support for major Unreal Engine 3 desktop features, including the Unreal Editor and its fully integrated suite of tools including Unreal Kismet, Unreal Cascade and Unreal Matinee.
- Superior rendering systems, including Unreal Lightmass global illumination supported by Unreal Swarm distributed computing.
- Content streaming functionality.
- Advanced lighting and shadowing such as per-pixel lighting and real-time shadows.
- Console-quality capabilities.
- Full Unreal Kismet visual scripting functionality, which allows the developers to create games without having to modify program code.
- Convenient mobile previewer makes it possible to emulate games at native resolution for quick iteration.
- UDK Remote enables iOS devices to serve as wireless controllers with full touch and tilt functionality for testing games on the computer.
As of the September 2011 release, iOS, OS X and Windows platforms all support UDK-created games.
Throughout the lifetime of 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. The Samaritan demo was unveiled during GDC 2011 as a proof of concept and target for the "3.5" version of Epic's Unreal Engine 3, ostensibly aimed at next-generation platforms. It was built by Epic Games in a close partnership with NVIDIA, with engineers working around the country to push real-time graphics to a new high point.
- 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.
Unreal Engine 4
|Initial release||Unreal Engine 4 build 8967 / May 2012|
|Stable release||Unreal Engine 4.7 / February 24, 2015|
|Preview release||Unreal Engine 4.8 / May 6, 2015|
|Written in||C++, C#, GLSL, Cg, HLSL; UnrealScript removed|
|Platform||Microsoft Windows, Linux, OS X, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, HTML5, iOS, Android, Oculus Rift, Ouya, HTC Vive|
|License||Free to use, with access to source code; 5% royalty after first $3000USD per quarter|
On August 17, 2005, Mark Rein, the vice-president of Epic Games, revealed that Unreal Engine 4 had been in development since 2003. Until mid-2008, development was exclusively done by Tim Sweeney, founder and technical director of Epic Games. The engine targets the eighth generation of consoles, PCs and Tegra K1-based 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". Unreal Engine 4 was unveiled to limited attendees at the 2012 Game Developers Conference, and video of the engine being demonstrated by technical artist Alan "Talisman" Willard was released to the public on June 7, 2012 via GameTrailers TV. 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.
One of the major features planned for UE4 was real-time global illumination using voxel cone tracing, eliminating pre-computed lighting. 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. 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") allows for rapid development of game logic without using C++, and includes live debugging. The result is reduced iteration time, and less of a divide between technical artists, designers, and programmers.
|“||[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.||”|
On March 19, 2014, at the Game Developers Conference, Epic Games released Unreal Engine 4, and all of its tools, features and complete C++ source code, to the development community through a new subscription model. Anyone can sign up for UE4 for Windows, OS X, iOS and Android by paying $19 per month, plus 5% of gross revenue resulting from any commercial products built using UE4. 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." "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?'". 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.
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. 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.
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. "Nothing is stopping students from honing the skills needed to enter the range of fields using Unreal Engine technology, from entertainment software and film to visualization, healthcare simulation and military training," Unreal Engine general manager Ray Davis said in a statement. "Students who know Unreal Engine technology have a huge advantage when it comes to job placement." Schools can integrate the same fully featured version of Unreal Engine 4 previously available only to developers, along with all future updates. In addition, students retain indefinite access to any versions of the engine used during their coursework which gives them the option to turn their class projects into shipping projects at any time.
On February 19, 2015, Epic launched Unreal Dev Grants, a $5,000,000 development fund designed to provide financial grants to innovative projects being built with Unreal Engine 4. Awards range from $5,000 to $50,000, with no strings attached: developers and artists own their IP and are free to publish however they wish, with no restrictions or obligations on the way the funds are used.
As of March 2, 2015, Unreal Engine 4 is available to everyone for free, and all future updates will be free. Epic will be issuing a pro-rated refund to people who have paid for Unreal Engine 4 since January 31, 2015. In addition, anyone who has ever paid for an UE4 subscription will receive a $30 credit for the Unreal Engine Marketplace. If projects are released commercially, developers must pay a 5% royalty on gross revenue following the first $3,000 per product, per quarter.
On March 24, 2015, Epic Games and the Wellcome Trust launched the Big Data VR Challenge, a virtual reality initiative that invites participants to create an immersive VR experience to give UK biomedical and humanities researchers an alternative way to explore and present their research. The Challenge will explore how skills used in video game design can be applied to benefit the scientific community. Six teams will be chosen from among the applicants and invited to a workshop at the Wellcome Trust's London headquarters on April 9, 2015, where three research topics will be unveiled. Each team will receive $5,000 to cover expenses, and grand prize of $20,000 will be awarded to the winning team when the Challenge culminates at the Develop Conference to be held July 14-16, in Brighton, England.
Games using the Unreal Engine
Unreal Engine 2
- Licenses for education
- Licenses for education for Construction Simulations and Interior Designs
- Bentheim Interior Design
- Custom Licenses
- Unreal Engine 2 Runtime Custom License is used in many non-gaming projects including
- construction simulations and designs
- training and driving simulations
- virtual reality shopping malls
- movie storyboards
- pre-visuals, etc.
- Until October 2007, more than 500 companies had Unreal Engine 2 Runtime Licenses.
Unreal Engine 3
- Licenses for education
- PEPFAR/Warner Brothers
- Norwich University of the Arts
- The Jim Henson Company
- University of Advancing Technology
- Louisiana State University in Shreveport
- Centennial College
- Ex'pression College for Digital Arts
- Digital Media Arts College
- The Art Institute of California
- University of Bournemouth
- Stanly Community College
- University of Teesside
- San Jacinto College South
- University of Wisconsin Stout
- Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
- University of Derby
- Singapore Polytechnic
- Licenses for Training Simulation
- U.S. Army
- U.S. Air Force
- ROK Navy
- Chinese Army
- U.S. Government
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT)
- U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS) / George Washington University
- Virtual Heroes, a division of Applied Research Associates, Inc.
- IPKeys Technologies/Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Gaming and Modeling Environment (I-GAME)
- Licenses for Construction Simulation
- Licenses for VR Techniques
- Yost Engineering, Inc/YEI Technology
- Licenses for CG animation
Unreal Engine 4
- Licenses for education
- Andrews University
- Atlantic University College
- Coleman University
- Columbia College Chicago
- Doña Ana Community College
- Florida Southern College
- Foothill College
- George Mason University
- Oklahoma Christian University
- Penn State Behrend
- Richland College
- San Jose State University
- Staffordshire University
- St. Edward's University
- The Art Institute of Seattle
- Tyler Junior College
- University of Central Florida
- University of Houston
- Whitworth University
- Licenses for VR Techniques
- Licenses for VFX
- Unreal, the original game featuring the engine
- Unreal series of games
- UnrealScript, the scripting language used in Unreal Engine
- UnrealEd, the Unreal level editor
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