The PS5 Unreal Engine 5 tech demo is impressive for reasons beyond its graphics, as game developer Mike Bithell laid out in a recent podcast.
Bithell, whose studio Bithell Games has created titles such as John Wick Hex and Subsurface Circular, discussed his team's reaction to the demo in the latest episode of the Play, Watch, Listen podcast. Bithell said the strongest reaction he had to the pitch for Unreal Engine 5 came from the way Epic says it will massively streamline the process of making in-game visuals.
Epic says the engine's new Nanite technology will allow the engine to automatically scale models as needed for visual fidelity and game performance. This would eliminate the need for manually creating different "level of detail" or "LOD" models from one original, super high-fidelity source model, which can be quite time consuming.
"The team call today at Bithell Games was all the artists going, 'This is amazing! We should play with this, this sounds really cool!' And all the tech guys going, 'I don't know if that's true, that sounds ridiculous,'" Bithell said. "What I said on the call, and I think it's true, is that everything's ridiculous and impossible right up until the moment where it becomes completely standard [...] In theory this is, 'make the asset and you're done'. If that's true, that's incredible. That saves so much technical artistry in the middle."
Bithell also pointed out that Unreal Engine 5's approach to lighting - called Lumen - could save developers a lot of work as well. If Lumen and other ray-tracing lighting methods become the standard, rather than the high-end exception, game makers won't need to spend time pre-creating or "baking" the perfect light conditions for each environment.
While the demonstration specifically showed off the possibilities of Unreal Engine 5 running on PS5, Epic has since confirmed that the engine will run on both PS5 and Xbox Series X - as well as PC.
While the engine demonstration was exciting, GR's Ben Tyrer thinks it's time for PS5 and Xbox Series X to start showing off some actual first-party games.