With the Comic-Con in full swing in downtown San Diego, the time has come for Epic Games to unveil the first title based on the fourth generation of its ultra-successful Unreal Engine. To us, the announced title looks like something produced by Tim Burton. Fortnite only goes to show just how flexible UE4 is.
E3 came and went, but besides the long awaited public announcement of Unreal Engine 4 – we did not see much from Epic Games. In the week marked by Comic-Con Conference 2012 which is taking place in San Diego, CA, Epic Games hosted a panel with Tanya Jessen and Cliff Bleszinski discussing the first UE4 game. Titled Fortnite, it looks like it came straight from Tim Burton's animated movies.
First and foremost, the title is PC-exclusive, since no console is capable of handling the graphics demands of the brand new UE4 engine. This title is no kiddy game, though. According to Tanya (producer), Fortnite is a "co-op sandbox survival game".
Coming in 2013, this game utilizes DirectX 11 engine to its full extent, so don't expect to see the game running on DirectX 9 or DX10 capable hardware. This is as next-gen as it can get, so better get those DirectX 11 APUs and GPUs ready for an adult bonanza in a world which can only be described as a combination of "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" and "Corpse Bride".
When it comes to the features of Unreal Engine 4, it features a completely new digital pipeline which enables artists to go from demos such as Samaritan to cartoony style animation, all using one workflow. Naturally, all the workflow in the world won't help you if the engine itself would not be a work of art. One good example just how advanced UE4 is a quote from Tim Sweeney, co-founder of Epic Games and lead developer of Unreal Engine 4:
"Global Illumination refers to the calculation of light bouncing around a scene. GI is responsible for many of the subtle shading effects and ambience we see in real-world environments, as well as glossy and metallic reflections. Introducing real-time Global Illumination into Unreal Engine 4 is the biggest breakthrough in lighting since Unreal Engine 1 introduced real-time Direct Illumination in 1995."
In order to enable Global Illumination (you can see GI at work in the second screenshot), the company developed new technique called SVOGI, which stands for Sparse Voxel Octree Global Illumination. UE4 is able to maintain the real-time octree data structure encoding all visible direct light emitters in the scene in multiple resolutions. This way the authors created a scalable effect which can go from high-end graphics processors to a more mainstream environment. Best part of SVOGI is that Epic did not went to request a feature-set in new graphics processors, rather utilized shadow buffers to capture the first ray bouncing off in the scene.
Knowing Epic, this game will be quite an amazing gameplay experience. As far as engine goes, we might want to add – it's looking to be an epic one (pun intended).