Mark Rein, the charismatic Vice President of graphical gods Epic
, has revealed that the company has been working on Unreal Engine 4 for two years already, despite the fact that the first games featuring Unreal Engine 3 won't ship until 2006.
For those who don't closely follow the graphics technology circus, Unreal Engine 3 can render pretty much the most amazing scenes you can ever imagine a PC or console producing. The visuals are achingly beautiful, achieving a level of detail that borders on the ridiculous.
Unreal Engine 3 dominates the next-gen market for 3D game engine licensing: Sony have signed it for for inclusion in the PlayStation 3 SDK; Microsoft have also licensed it to produce games for Xbox 360. There are also several PC titles planning on using is, including Epic's own Unreal Tournament 2007
Once you see the detailed screenshots
and video footage of Unreal Engine 3 running on either next-generation console in all its glory, it is hard not to be in total awe of what Epic have achieved. It already supports HDR, dynamic soft self-shadowing, volumetric environmental effects and all manner of cutting-edge graphical trickery. Consider then that Unreal Engine 4 will follow it and you might be forgiven if you struggle to find any areas of version 3 that require improvement.
"Unreal Engine 4 will be totally groundbreaking and [will change] the way games will be done in the future," Rein recently told CVG
. "I don't expect it to be staffed up as a full team for several years. But when people come to work at Epic, they can come here with the knowledge that we're always keeping one eye on the future and they're going to be helping to shape the future of the videogame business" continued Rein.
Until then, gamers wanting to play games with the latest graphics will need to make sure their PC is kept well up to date. Who knows what silicon grunt will be required for Unreal Engine 4 games, but we do have some clues for Unreal Engine 3 games like Gears of War
. Epic are aiming at the kind of PC they think will be mainstream in 2006. In an interview
given last year, Tim Sweeney suggested that a 3.2Ghz processor would a low-end system, and that gamers wanting to play at high detail would need a graphics card with 1GB of memory.
"The technology is very scalable and will run a factor of twenty more detail on the highest end PCs currently available," he told fansite Beyond Unreal. Of running Unreal Engine 4 on today's fastest systems, he said "it will be like running Unreal Tournament 2004 on a 1 GHz PC. It runs okay, but not nearly as good as a 3.2."
If the idea of that sends your Celeron 1.8Ghz / GeForce MX machine running out of the room screaming, just consider how far technology has come in the past decade. If you were to travel back in time to 1997 and told gamers that their "cutting edge" Pentium 133 machines with 32MB of RAM and a 4MB 3DFX card would be replaced by a dual-core 4GHz-equivalant 64-bit processor with 2GB of RAM running a 1066FSB, and sporting GeForce 7800 GTX SLI with 512MB of video memory in the space of 8 years, they just plain wouldn't believe you. They might at least give your claim some credence when you whip out your mobile phone and play Quake on it.
Makes you wonder what gaming will be like in the year 2013, doesn't it? Discuss the future of gaming and graphics in our Forum
. Until then, here are a couple of teasers from Unreal Engine 3:
Images Copyright Epic Games.