Unreal Engine 3 Samaritan

This March Epic Games Inc. unveiled the updated Unreal Engine 3 in all it’s glory with an incredible demo, dubbed “Samaritan”, at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco (see video). Later that month they released released the March 2011 UDK Beta,  the most recent version of their Unreal Development Kit.

Unreal Engine 3 “Samaritan” Demo

The video demonstrates not only the seamless & incredibly beautiful real-time rendering we’ve grown to expect of modern engines, but also a number of major improvements over other peer engines.

High-end rendering features include:

  • Image-based reflections that allow surfaces of any shape to reflect an approximate version of scenes, with varying glossiness across surfaces, anisotropic HDR highlights and anti-aliasing;
  • Subsurface scattering (SSS) that simulates the light that scatters inside semi-translucent materials, making character skin come alive;
  • Anti-aliased masked materials that super sample the edges of masked and alpha-tested materials, making character hair more look realistic than ever before;
  • Deferred rendering with MSAA support;
  • Bokeh depth of field providing close to film-quality DOF, with artist-controllable Bokeh; and
  • High-quality dynamic shadows from many lights on the environment, such as shadows for point lights and other light sources.

Important DirectX features now shipping with UDK include:

  • Tessellation and displacement;
  • Geometry shaders;
  • Multisampled textures; and
  • Shader Model 5

Bokeh..? Tessellation..? Subsurface Scattering..? Say What?

So if you’re anything like me you’re not incredibly immersed in the tech side of graphics rendering engines, so I needed a little more explanation on some of this. I found this great clip where IGN editors breakdown the “Samaritan” demo which really helps to explain many of the new or improved features – in context. (check out the IGN Unreal Engine 3 “Samaritan” Demo write-up for even more clarification)

Unreal Engine 3 Has Incredible Scalability

Among the other more technical improvements one of the most important feature in my opinion is the scalability and cross platform viability of the new engine. Epic’s Mark Rein says, is that it “scales all the way from an iPhone 3GS up to next-generation hardware… you could theoretically make a game that’d run on every single one of these devices. Mobile phones to tablets to set top boxes.”

For me this is one of the biggest differentiators, giving Unreal Engine 3 an incredible advantage in developer adoption.

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