All the big news from the State of Unreal at GDC '24

March 20, 2024
We just wrapped the State of Unreal at GDC ’24, which featured a brand new look at Skydance New Media’s new ensemble adventure Marvel 1943: Rise of Hydra, the release of Unreal Engine 5.4 Preview 1, MetaHumans coming to UEFN as non-playable characters (NPCs), new ways to build Fortnite experiences using Epic and LEGO® assets, and more.

Catch up on all the big news from the show here.

Unreal Engine 5.4 Preview 1 is here

Today we launched Unreal Engine 5.4 Preview 1 with the full release coming in late April. UE 5.4 introduces a number of rendering performance improvements, including major updates to Nanite, such as Nanite Tessellation that enables you to achieve far higher visual fidelity without making meshes larger on disk.

Animation takes big strides forward with 5.4. It includes Motion Matching, a simple and efficient way to animate characters in game that has been used in Fortnite on all platforms since the Chapter 5 launch. Later this year we will also release a free sample learning project that includes over 500 AAA animations created from high-end motion capture data with the locomotion and traversal dataset used in the keynote demo. In addition, thanks to extensive battletesting in LEGO Fortnite development, you can now fully animate your game using Control Rig and Sequencer with no round tripping between applications.
Multi-Process Cooking can now be up to three times faster, compiling far fewer shaders in the editor during cooks. There’s also good news for sound designers, who can use our new Audio Insights profiling tool to create, understand, and debug powerful next-gen audio.

The fully in-engine Procedural Content Generation Framework has significant improvements, too. We’re releasing a PCG Biome creation plugin as a concrete example of a flexible, data-driven tool built with a systemic approach featuring the latest updates.

Skydance New Media demonstrates UE 5.4 features

Award-winning writer and director Amy Hennig and her team from Skydance New Media gave an exclusive look at their new ensemble adventure Marvel 1943: Rise of Hydra at the State of Unreal. Skydance wowed the audience with a real-time cinematic and tools demonstration to showcase 5.4 features, including new Nanite and volumetric rendering.

The team showed how they used Nanite Tessellation to achieve incredible visual fidelity and rich detail in scenes, with Sparse Volume Textures supporting animation and real-time streaming for minimum memory footprint. Heterogeneous Volumes render volumetric assets with cinematic quality and self-shadowing, with volumes casting shadows onto hard surfaces and composited with other translucent effects such as fog and particles.

Using the latest MetaHuman asset standards and MetaHuman Animator, Skydance turned powerful actor performances into compelling animated characters, the central piece of the narrative. 3Lateral’s services team supported the character production by using high-resolution 4D scans to further upgrade the MetaHuman assets’ fidelity and calibrate the MetaHuman likeness to convey the looks of the scanned talents. The project was led by the veteran team at Skydance and delivered entirely in Unreal Engine.

MetaHuman comes to UEFN

It’s been a year since we launched Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) and Creator Economy 2.0 at GDC 2023. Since then, creators have published more than 80,000 UEFN islands, and Epic has paid more than $320 million to creators in the first year of engagement payouts.

Today, we introduced and previewed several new features on our 2024 roadmap. Hold onto your hats—there’s a lot to cover.

First up, we’re bringing MetaHuman to UEFN. Starting today, you’ll be able to easily create and animate high-fidelity NPCs for your Fortnite islands using MetaHuman Creator and MetaHuman Animator. MetaHuman Creator is a free online application that enables you to produce realistic digital humans that are fully rigged and ready to use in UEFN or Unreal Engine, in minutes. MetaHuman Animator turns footage captured from an iPhone or stereo head-mounted camera into high-quality facial animation for your MetaHuman. Facial animation created using MetaHuman Animator can be applied to any MetaHuman or any Fortnite character available in UEFN.

Want to see how MetaHumans and a high-fidelity environment can totally change the look and feel of your Fortnite islands? Check out The Talisman demo, showcasing how creators can use MetaHuman to bring believable human characters into realistic environments in UEFN.

The MetaHuman in the Talisman Demo is clothed with custom dynamic clothing powered by a new Marvelous Designer and CLO integration. This integration debuts at the end of April and UEFN creators will be eligible for a free one-year license of Marvelous Designer. This license will enable them to create dynamic clothing using the new UE 5.4 workflow, which can then be imported into UEFN projects.

Follow @FNCreate to receive updates on when license sign-ups open. Licenses can be claimed within the two-month period following the opening of sign-ups.

Bringing Rocket Racing, Fall Guys, and LEGO Elements to Fortnite Creators

Creators can also now use new creative devices and race track templates to build Rocket Racing islands in Fortnite. There’s also a Rocket Racing Vehicle Spawner device for spawning vehicles and two brand-new templates for making your own tracks—the Competitive Race Track and Speed Run Track. Additionally, in May we’ll be adding Fall Guys assets, animations, and Fall Guys beans to UEFN so creators can build their own frantic obstacle courses, all inside Fortnite.
We want to find more opportunities for creators to not only use Epic’s IP but also a range of licensed IP. We’re excited that the LEGO Group is the first partner to bring its brand assets to Fortnite creators.

LEGO Elements and other assets are now available in Fortnite Creative and UEFN. All creators who are members of the Island Creator Program and sign the additional terms and conditions can build their own LEGO Islands using LEGO brand templates, props, consumables, items, and more. Additionally, players in your LEGO Island will be in the Minifigure LEGO Style of Fortnite Outfits.

What’s next for UEFN

We’ve continued to invest in new creator tools and have received great feedback from the creator community that has helped us iterate and improve upon the UEFN roadmap. Here’s a peek at what’s coming in 2024: 
  • More camera and control systems, including the highly requested first-person camera
  • A new itemization system that simplifies in-game item building and enables you to scratch-build fully custom weapons
  • A new Scene Graph system designed and optimized for Verse that will enable you to dynamically manipulate almost every object in your game, alongside a new prefab system
  • Physics sandbox gameplay, including the option to use physically-simulated characters in UEFN and Creative and simulate any static mesh 
  • More personalized rows in Discover to increase the amount of recommended content surfaced to players
  • Updates to creator pages, including the option to follow a creator and link out to social media platforms

We’ve always used our own first-party games to push Unreal Engine development forward and ensure it’s battle-tested for creators. It’s time for Fortnite development to move to UEFN and Verse. By the end of 2025, we will ship our first season of Battle Royale developed entirely in UEFN.

Epic Games Store

Finally, we shared more about our plans to bring the Epic Games Store (EGS) to mobile later this year. EGS will become the first ever game-focused, multi-platform store, and will work across Android, iOS, PC, and macOS. Mobile developers will benefit from the same fair terms on EGS for PC: 88/12 revenue share and the same programs you can leverage to keep 100% of revenue using your own payments for in-app purchases, Epic First Run, and Now On Epic. More on this soon!

More Unreal Engine developer news

The State of Unreal also featured presentations from Funcom, Zynga’s Natural Motion Games, and Chrono Studio.

Funcom delved into the mechanics of their open-world survival game Dune: Awakening, inspired by Denis Villeneuve's record-breaking and critically acclaimed Dune films, which are based on Frank Herbert's novels. Funcom also shared how two time Academy Award-winning cinematographer Greig Fraser used Unreal Engine for planning and pre-production on Dune: Part Two, illustrating how storytelling processes behind making films and games continue to merge. Check out the behind-the-scenes video, Dune: Awakening - Creating Worlds, From Book to Film to Game.

Natural Motion provided an all-new look at Star Wars: Hunters, their arena-based online multiplayer game coming to Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android. Zynga showed how they are using Unreal Engine to craft a high quality mobile experience both in gameplay and visual fidelity, and to deliver a game that is an authentic addition of the Star Wars universe.

Chrono Studio revealed a new trailer from Chrono Odyssey, their MMORPG set in the vast open world of Setera, where players will fight various opponents and have a distinct sense of control over battles and progression through a unique time travel mechanic. Chrono Odyssey, published globally by Kakao Games, will be released for PC and consoles, and the team announced that it is coming to the Epic Games Store.

A vibrant ecosystem of AAA games, indie games, and creator-made experiences is critical to the success of the open metaverse. Everything we shared on stage today—from UE 5.4 and our new Fortnite creator tools to the mind-blowing demos from our partners—is in service of this goal. We are so grateful for this community of developers and creators who are on this journey with us.

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