Unreal Engine 5 is now available in Early Access!

May 26, 2021
Today, we’re excited to announce that Early Access to Unreal Engine 5 is now available. While our ultimate goal is for UE5 to empower creators across all industries to deliver stunning real-time content and experiences, this Early Access build is intended for game developers who like to live on the bleeding edge to start testing features and prototyping their next games.
 
This Early Access build of Unreal Engine 5 is not production-ready, but this is where, for the first time, you can get your hands on some of the technology that caused so much excitement when it was showcased in last year’s announcement—not to mention some you’ve never seen before. Here’s a roundup of the key new features that are ready for testing today.

Nanite

Nanite is a virtualized micropolygon geometry system that enables you to create games with massive amounts of geometric detail, eliminating time-consuming and tedious work such as baking details to normal maps or manually authoring LODs. 

Imagine directly importing film-quality source art comprised of millions of polygons—anything from ZBrush sculpts to photogrammetry scans—and placing them millions of times, all while maintaining a real-time frame rate, and without any noticeable loss of fidelity. Impossible? Not any more!

Lumen

Next up is Lumen, a fully dynamic global illumination solution. With Lumen, you can create dynamic, believable scenes where indirect lighting adapts on the fly to changes to direct lighting or geometry—for example, changing the sun’s angle with the time of day, turning on a flashlight, or opening an exterior door.

With Lumen, you no longer have to author lightmap UVs, wait for lightmaps to bake, or place reflection captures; you can simply create and edit lights inside the Unreal Editor and see the same final lighting as when the game is run on console.

Open worlds

We’re on an ongoing mission to make the creation of open worlds faster, easier, and more collaborative for teams of all sizes. Today, you can try out some of the steps that will take us there.

First up, there’s a new World Partition system that automatically divides the world into a grid and streams the necessary cells when required. Then, there’s a new One File Per Actor system that makes collaboration easier—you and your team members can now work simultaneously on the same region of the same World without treading on each other’s toes.

Finally, Data Layers let you create different variations of the same World—such as daytime and nighttime versions, or specific datasets that are enabled through gameplay—as layers that exist in the same space.

Animation

Constantly stepping outside of Unreal Engine to create or edit animation is time-consuming and painful, and a barrier to iteration. That’s why in Unreal Engine 5, we’re expanding and enhancing our animation toolset to let you author incredibly detailed characters right in context.

Artist-friendly tools like Control Rig enable you to quickly create rigs and share them across multiple characters; pose them in Sequencer, and use the new Pose Browser to save and apply the poses as assets; and use the new Full-Body IK solver to easily create natural movement. Meanwhile, Motion Warping enables you to dynamically adjust a character’s root motion to align to different targets—for example, vaulting over walls of different heights—with a single animation.

MetaSounds

Ever wish you had the same amount of control and flexibility when authoring your audio experiences as you have with your look development? With UE5, we’re introducing a fundamentally new way of making audio. MetaSounds is a high-performance system that offers complete control over audio DSP graph generation of sound sources, letting you manage all aspects of audio rendering to drive next-generation procedural audio experiences.

MetaSounds is analogous to a fully programmable material and rendering pipeline, bringing all the benefits of procedural content creation to audio that the Material Editor brings to shaders: dynamic data-driven assets, the ability to map game parameters to sound playback, huge workflow improvements, and much more.

Enhanced Editor UI & workflow

It’s time for a makeover! In UE5, the Unreal Editor gets a fresh new look, streamlined workflows, and optimized use of screen real estate, making it easier, faster, and more pleasing to use.

New features in this Early Access build include the ability to easily summon and stow the Content Browser and to dock any editor tab to the collapsible sidebar, freeing up more space for viewport interactions; a new favoriting system for quick access to frequently used properties in the Details panel; a new Create button on the main toolbar that makes it easy to place Actors into your world; and a streamlined, easier workflow for creating new projects.

Get started with Unreal Engine 5 Early Access today!

You can download Unreal Engine 5 Early Access and the Valley of the Ancient sample project used in the video above from your Epic Games launcher, and visit the UE5 page on our website for more information, answers to frequently asked questions, and links to tutorials and documentation. For details of all the new features, see the Release Notes.

There’s still a lot more to come for Unreal Engine 5; we are hoping to ship the full release in early 2022 with many memory, performance, and quality improvements, as well as additional new features that will benefit creators in all industries. As always, we use Unreal Engine in production before we expect you to, and we will ship Fortnite, on all its supported platforms, on Unreal Engine 5.

    Get Unreal Engine 5 Early Access

    If you’re an existing Unreal Engine user, you can get UE5 Early Access and the Valley of the Ancient sample project from the Epic Games Launcher. If you’re new to Unreal Engine, we suggest getting to know UE 4.26 as a first step.
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    Creators across all industries have something to celebrate with this release: In‑camera VFX goes next-level with a slew of efficiency, quality, and ease-of-use improvements, while other highlights include path tracing for stunning final images, out-of-the-box access to Oodle and Bink, production-ready Pixel Streaming, and much more.
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