2017 has been a historic year for Unreal Engine technology and the worldwide UE4 development community as innovative, award-winning content from teams of all shapes and sizes has impacted industries ranging from games and film to architectural visualization, manufacturing and more.
Epic Games Founder and CEO Tim Sweeney recently joined Epic’s head of licensing for the Americas, Joe Kreiner, and Unreal Engine Community Manager Amanda Bott to recap the past 12 months in our final livestream of 2017, which you can view below.
As the year comes to a close, we’d also like to take this opportunity to recognize just a few of the ways in which Unreal Engine developers are defining the future of real-time entertainment for consumers as well as real-time production in the workplace.
Revolutionizing AR and VR
2017 was an enormous year for breakthroughs in the realms of augmented reality and virtual reality. At the center of it all were the world’s most innovative artists who tapped into the power of Unreal Engine to bring their projects to life in new and exciting ways.
Powered by Unreal, developers furthered their vision for VR in 2017 with projects like Impulse Gear’s Farpoint, Survios’ Raw Data and Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham VR winning awards and selling millions of units.
Meanwhile, Apple revealed VR on Mac with a Star Wars demo using Unreal Editor's VR Mode during WWDC while projects like Zayden’s Wish won ‘Most Innovative Wish of the Year’ Award from the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Since we at Epic are developers ourselves, we also delivered the critically-acclaimed Robo Recall for free (complete with mod support) and debued Michelangelo’s David in VR - quite possibly the most photorealistic VR experience created to date - at SIGGRAPH while giving showgoers the opportunity to expose their inner artist with Ghost Paint.
This was also a big year for AR as Unreal helped usher in the high-end AR experiences that will define the medium moving forward. The Machines by Directive Games debuted at Apple’s WWDC before going on to be one of Apple’s “Best of 2017” while potential-packed projects like Planetrism highlight how small teams are taking advantage of UE4 to create amazing content.
Beyond Gaming, Datasmith, and the Future of Film and TV Production
While Unreal Engine’s roots run deep in games, its use as a real-time production powerhouse for film, television and architecture reached new heights in 2017.
From groundbreaking and award-winning demonstrations like The Human Race to outputting final pixels onscreen in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and powering ‘hyper reality’ experiences like The Void’s Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, there’s no doubting the impact Unreal Engine is having on the future of entertainment.
A deeper dive on how Unreal is changing the face of real-time production is summarized in a recently-released white paper on the subject.
Currently in beta, the Unreal Datasmith plugin is a workflow toolbox designed to simplify the process of moving data into Unreal Engine for architectural design and visualization. As many of the companies in the beta have already proclaimed, Datasmith’s streamlining of the real-time design process yields profound results, and it is also driving a revolution in production pipelines.
It’s been a landmark year for indie developers who chose Unreal Engine to power the projects that have been recognized as some of the most innovative and interesting in the industry.
A few of the Unreal-powered titles from independent teams that have captured our hearts and minds include: White Paper Games’ The Occupation, Beethoven & Dinosaur’s The Artful Escape, Adrien Lazar’s Planet Alpha, Cornfox & Bros. Oceanhorn 2, Dynamic Pixels’ Hello Neighbor, Cardboard Sword’s The Siege and the Sandfox, Hazelight’s A Way Out, Aurora 44’s Ashen, Ghost Ship Game’s Deep Rock Galactic, Scavengers Studio’s The Darwin Project, Tequila Works’ RiME, High Horse Entertainment’s Disc Jam, Turtle Neck Studios’ Rite of Ilk, Nodding Heads Games’ Raji: An Ancient Epic, Drifter Entertainment’s Gunheart, The Imaginati Studios’ Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier, REIKON GAMES’ Ruiner, Fool’s Theory’s Seven: The Days Long Gone, Bloober Team’s >observer, Daedalic Entertainment’s The Long Journey Home, 34BigThing’s Redout, Mothership Entertainment’s Aven Colony, Sumo Digital’s Snake Pass, inbetween Games’ All Walls Must Fall, The Deep End Games’ Perception, Dontnod Entertainment’s Vampyr, and Playwood Project’s Wartile.
These are just a few of the outstanding UE4 projects we’ve been following, and even more are mentioned below. We’re so proud of all of the independent games made with Unreal, and can’t wait to see what everyone has in store for 2018.
Blockbuster Releases and Highly-Anticipated Games
Taking a look back at the top-selling games of 2017, it’s evident that Unreal Engine developers have delivered several of the most successful games of the year including PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, Farpoint, Epic’s own Fortnite, Rocket League, ARK: Survival Evolved, XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, Batman: Arkham VR, TEKKEN 7, Street Fighter V, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite and Raw Data. We couldn’t be more proud of their success!
Looking forward, there are plenty of highly-anticipated Unreal Engine titles by top tier developers that will bring both long-awaited sequels and all-new experiences to gamers around the globe. These titles include Dragon Ball Fighterz, Days Gone, Sea of Thieves, SOULCALIBUR VI, Kingdom Hearts III, Crackdown 3 and the new Yoshi title on Nintendo Switch.
Obviously, there’s a lot to look forward to in 2018 and beyond!
Unreal GDC 2017
In keeping with tradition, Epic’s Tim Sweeney took to the stage for the “State of Unreal” opening session that kicked off the 2017 Game Developers Conference with an outpouring of news and announcements.
Joining Sweeney and co-host Epic CTO Kim Libreri were leaders in games, film and the automotive industry. The common thread? Unreal Engine is powering digital content creation in a way that achieves final pixels onscreen, in real time, to bring the dreams of the most distinguishing creators around the world to life.
Epic shared its vision for the future, announcing a series of high-profile projects that help redefine the possibilities of games, VR/AR, animation, real-time rendering and visualization. Watch the full presentation and check out a summary of what Epic shared during this year’s Game Developer Conference right here.
Unreal Devs at E3
With nearly 90 Unreal Engine-powered projects at the 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo, Unreal developers delivered some of the most highly-anticipated, engaging and downright beautiful games on the world’s biggest stage.
From giant displays like Rare’s Sea of Thieves inside the Xbox booth to hidden gems like Polyarc’s Moss for PSVR inside the PlayStation booth and Sloclap’s Absolver on the Devolver Digital lot, it was difficult to find an area of the convention that didn’t host a buzz-worthy Unreal Engine game.
We couldn’t be happier with the presence Unreal devs had at this year’s show. The full recap, video interviews and Unreal E3 Awards highlights are in our comprehensive overview here.
Unreal Engine at The Game Awards
Earlier this month the games industry gathered in Los Angeles at The Game Awards to celebrate the most outstanding creative and technical achievements of 2017 while looking forward to what’s to come in 2018 and beyond.
Unreal Engine developers from around the world were featured throughout the evening as projects like Ninja Theory’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice took home well-earned awards and others, such as Bandai Namco’s SOULCALIBUR VI, surprised everyone with delightful debuts.
We recapped the engine’s presence during the event right here on the Unreal Engine blog.
Unreal Was Everywhere in 2017
Beyond having a big presence at E3, GDC and The Game Awards, Unreal Engine-powered projects inhabited the halls of major events around the globe in 2017 such as Gamescom, PSX, the Indie MEGABOOTH at PAX West, and EGX Rezzed (which we’ve partnered up with again for 2018!).
Of course, we expect to discover even more incredible Unreal Engine-powered titles in the year ahead!
At some point, you may have read or heard us say “We succeed when you succeed.” At Epic, we take this philosophy to heart and continue to evolve a variety of programs that help Unreal developers find success.
We recently announced that Unreal Engine now has over 4 million developers, so it’s more important than ever that we help reward those who are doing great work with the engine.
In 2017, our Unreal Dev Grant program has seen projects like Planet Alpha, Maelstrom and Tiny Metal receive no-strings-attached funding while the newer NVIDIA Edge Program is rewarding teams and individuals with high-end GPUs to recognize their visually stunning projects.
Epic Games and Wellcome launched the $500,000, year-long competition for European developers, Developing Beyond, which is driving the creation of new IP for established independent teams.
On top of that, our biggest Epic MegaJam ever saw over 270 submissions showcasing the imagination of more than 700 Unreal developers participating in the event.
This year we also partnered with Intel and Green Man Gaming to produce an Unreal Engine hub that highlights a variety of titles and the teams behind them.
Recent showcase articles provide inside looks at compelling projects such as Peter Monga’s Morgan Lives in a Rocket House, Phoenix Lab’s Dauntless, Sloclap’s Absolver, and Ninja Theory’s Hellblade, just to name a few (see many more here).
Meanwhile, our ‘For Indies’ series of blog posts by European Community Manager Jess Hider provides valuable guidance across relevant topics such as marketing, public speaking, expos and best practices for publishing your game to platforms like Xbox.
In 2018, we will be improving and expanding upon these programs to take our commitment to developer success even further. As always, we encourage everyone to share their work with us the Unreal community on Twitter by using the hashtag #UE4.
Powerful Point Releases
This year Epic released four major point releases for Unreal Engine as we leapt from 4.15 to 4.18, which brought more than 1,000 improvements and functional fixes to developers worldwide.
Unreal Engine 4.15, which launched in February, came loaded with updates designed to enhance any project’s development, from Nintendo Switch support to improved texture streaming, cooking Blueprints to C++ and faster C++ compile times.
Unreal Engine 4.16 came in May and included all of the exciting new rendering and animation features shown at GDC plus significant performance improvements for mobile and console platforms, and tons of quality of life enhancements across all major platforms.
Unreal Engine 4.17 arrived in August and brought with it loads updates, including major enhancements to the Sequencer cinematic storytelling tool, the new Composure compositing system, Xbox One X support and much more.
Finally, Unreal Engine 4.18 shipped in October with significant upgrades to rendering, physics editing, media framework, augmented reality and a wide range of platform-level support. We also leaned heavily on Epic’s development of Fortnite: Battle Royale to bring many performance, memory and workflow optimizations directly to our developer community in 4.18.
Of course, we’re already hard at work on UE 4.19 and can’t wait to share all of the exciting enhancements that our latest and greatest point release will bring. Expect even better AR support, more improvements to the physics and animation workflow and mobile enhancements.
While it has truly been a spectacular year for Unreal Engine and UE4 developers everywhere, we can’t help but be even more excited for the technological advancements and incredible content that will come in the year ahead.
Until next year!