Epic Games Announces Unreal Engine 4.24
Unreal Studio Features and Quixel Megascans Are Now Included
Back in March 2018, Epic Games first announced Unreal Studio, a suite of tools and services designed to augment Unreal Engine for use in industries like architecture, manufacturing, and product design, but with applicability across broader markets. The program was launched as a free beta, and included features such as Datasmith, providing seamless data conversion from 3ds Max, SketchUp Pro, Cinema 4D, and a host of CAD and BIM products, including Rhino3D and Revit.
Unreal Studio features rolled into Unreal Engine
In November, the company announced that with the release of Unreal Engine 4.24 in December, the Unreal Studio beta program would be retired and that all its features would be rolled into Unreal Engine, remaining free to use for all users. In addition to Datasmith, those features include mesh editing tools, optimization tools like defeaturing and jacketing, basic UV projections, and a Variant Manager.
The move simplifies the Unreal Engine product offering—the same product now applies whether you’re working in game development, architecture, film, television, automotive, training and simulation, or any other industry. There’s simply a choice of license agreements, including custom options, depending on whether you’re publishing a game or other off-the-shelf interactive product for consumers, or creating internal or free projects, custom applications, or linear content. You can find more details in the Unreal Engine FAQ.
Entire Megascans library now free for all use with Unreal Engine
Simultaneously, Epic announced that Quixel, creator of the world’s largest photogrammetry 2D and 3D asset library, was joining the Epic Games family. In news that received broad approval across the industry, the company revealed that with the 4.24 release, the entire Megascans library of more than 10,000 high-quality, production-ready assets would become free for all use with Unreal Engine.
New tools for creating more believable worlds and characters
Quite apart from these two announcements, the release offers some attractive new features of its own. A key highlight is a first look at a new strand-based hair and fur system that enables users to simulate and render hundreds of thousands of photoreal hairs at up to real time speeds, from grooms authored in DCC applications.
For those looking to create exterior worlds and terrains, there are new tools for nondestructively creating and editing open-world landscapes that adapt to other scene elements, together with a new physically based atmospheric sky component that makes for more believable terrestrial and other-worldly environments.
Enhanced productivity and pipeline tools
Another new feature, Visual Dataprep, enables non-programmers to easily automate data preparation workflows by creating a “recipe” of filters and operators that they can save and reuse on other scenes or projects. Examples of tasks that can be automated in this way include making LODs, setting up Lightmap UVs, substituting materials, and deleting or merging objects based on factors such as class, name, metadata tags, or size.
Further pipeline and productivity improvements include first-class support for reading USD files and writing back changes, facilitating parallel workflows; enhancements to multi-display rendering that make it much easier to use out of the box, even on existing projects; and a new task-based wizard to provide a better starting point when creating new projects.
Continued ray tracing enhancements
Unreal Engine’s ray tracing implementation continues to receive attention. Among the enhancements are new Screen Space Global Illumination that scales across console and desktop platforms, first-class support for instancing, and support for additional geometry types including World Position Offset for Static Meshes and Ribbon emitters for Niagara VFX.
The full list of new features and enhancements can be seen in the product’s release notes.
Unreal Engine 4.24 is available now. Existing Unreal Engine or Unreal Studio users can download it from the Epic Games launcher, while new users can get started for free from the Unreal Engine home page.
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