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Unreal Engine: Yep, Still Unreal posted 4/1 at 9:41:57 PM PST by Mason McCuskey

During the GDC, Dave and I took a few moments to meet with Epic MegaGames and get a sneak peek of the new Unreal Engine technology in development. Since, through the wonder of the world wide web, you can keep up with the Unreal engine technology as it's being developed,, I'm going to leave the technical stuff to Epic and give you an overview of my experience.

Let's start with the booth. The Epic suite was one of the few at the GDC that actually had groupies hanging around outside of it. Presumably these folks were waiting to catch a glimpse of some cool Unreal guy entering or exiting home base. All I can say is, your company must be doing something right if you have groupies outside your meeting room at the GDC.

Dave and I, two guys with press badges and a scheduled appointment, proudly walked into the booth (I'd like to say the sea of groupies parted for us, but in reality there weren't enough groupies to constitute a "sea," and they weren't really too keen on getting out of our way. It Remember that scene from The Princess Bride where Andre the Giant yells "Everybody MOVE!!"

Once inside, we were greeted by more people. Epics poor little space was overrun with humans - They had set up a nice little waiting area as you walked in, complete with some tables and chairs.

We got there just in time for our appointment, so we didn't have to wait around. Instead, an Epic employee escorted us into a smaller, darkened room and sat us down. This room was as dark as you could make it given that you basically in a big box inside a convention center. They had an LCD projector set up and pointing at a far wall.

The briefing started with a small demo of the new engine technologies - we watched a spaceship fly through a very detailed canyon landscape. In a word, it looked... sweet. It had lots of nifty camera angles, plus all the eye candy you've come to expect from the Unreal team. The water and lighting effects looked great, and there was no noticeable lag as the ship moved through a fairly big section of worldspace.

After that, we got to see a few of the new UnrealEd features in action. One of the first things that struck me about UnrealEd was how polished everything looked - granted, UnrealEd has always looked slick, but I couldn't help but notice all of the subtle GUI enhancements. Now, if only DevStudio looked like that...

One of the most nifty new features of UnrealEd is the ability to paint terrain. Essentially, UnrealEd has a set of terrain brushes; select a brush, and a click within the scene will basically pile dirt at that point, giving you subtle control over the landscape. Additional landscape tools, such as the flatten and smooth tools, round out the toolset and give you everything you need to create beautiful outdoor environments quickly.

Next up was a character demo. In the demo, we saw a solider standing in a room. The dynamic lighting in this demo was astounding: the solider's skin, clothes, and weapons were all accented by advanced lighting effects. The metal of the solider's gun actually looked like metal!

The solider's face was also exceptionally detailed. Epic has developed exporters for Maya and 3D Studio that allow developers to export fully textured and fully animated geometry straight from their favorite tool into the Unreal format.

That's essentially all there was. It was a very short meeting, but what it lacked in length it made up for in drool factor. I left the demo room in awe, and glad that companies like Epic still exist: companies that start out great and only get better.

Mason McCuskey