Unreal 4 Video Contains Zero Explosions

The world's best rendered tricycles.
Our previous look at the Unreal Engine 4 in action was the hyper-dramatic Infiltrator demo. It was sci-fi, it was 50 bajillion shades of grey, it was quite a spectacular piece of machinima that I totally want to play. This time around, there’s almost no action or budget: just a couple of members of the development team talking about the engine’s material layering capabilities. Where before the soundtrack was dramatic and swelling, here it’s a dude saying things like: “I can see that adds a lot of flexibility to the art pipeline.” Games!

It’s always interesting to see how the sausages are made, and given that Epic’s engine tools is gaming’s industrial sausage grinder, this is relevant to everyone’s interests. Plot twist: the developers presented in this video were rendered in Unreal Engine 5.

Oh god, I am lost. As far as I can tell, one material can contain multiple material layers, giving the artist a simple container for shaders, etc. So I guess the end result of the rocket that he shows off has just one layer that has all the information that places both the materials it’s made out of, as well as the logo? Despite straining my brain, I still love watching this stuff. It is nearly educational and strangely soothing.

Totes from Polygon, yo.


  1. golem09 says:

    So it really IS rocket science.

  2. Nesetalis says:

    I always feel a little cheated when it comes to UI and program specific things.
    I love brand new algorithms that can be applied in other places… or learning how to make something basic that can then be translated to the rest.

    When I learn how to use some one’s user interface, all I’m learning is how to use that interface… give it another year or two and that interface will be old and stale, useless.

    • JavJav says:

      Actually there’s more than a few similarities between this and the material UI from 3dsmax. I’d say it is probably designed to feel comfortably similar in order to improve workflow.

      • HexagonalBolts says:

        I can see that adds a lot of flexibility to the art pipeline.

  3. staberas says:

    So thats what it means “tightening up the graphics”

  4. Liudeius says:

    “Layered materials” are something special?
    I was under the impression that the main way of doing things was “layered materials,” putting the entire texture on one image then use a normal map to show how light interacts with it (creating faux 3d surfaces and altering finish so it looks metallic or wooden).

    At least looking at Bethesda mods, that’s how the Gamebyro engine does it, and that thing is a clunky, decade old piece of trash. (edit: Actually, looking at the varied list of major games made on it, Bully, Epic Mickey, El Shaddai, Catherine, Civ, maybe it’s more Bethesda’s fault than the engine’s.)

    • The Dark One says:

      It seemed to include a normal generated from a higher-poly version of the model, but then but then each material could have their own normal maps. The idea is that with a simple application of a mask, you could etch out areas on the model and expose different materials.

    • tigg99 says:

      It’s essentially a simplified version of what’s already available in UE, as far as materials go.
      Basically, instead of splitting between three diffuse, three specular, three normal textures, etc. based on a mask, you can instead make three (or more) separate materials (e.g chrome, rust, paint) and split between those materials based on a mask. This means you can reuse basic materials much more easily and simplify your node setups.

      • bj says:

        Hopefully it’s not just about simplifying the node editor clusterfarts, otherwise this seems no different from the material function stuff they added a year or two ago. It’s a weird thing to make a video about either way.

        • jpvg says:

          Heh, you can consider this a clusterfuck but the alternative for now have been HLSL, imagine your 3d artist doing that. This he can handle despite the mess.

          • SlappyBag says:

            It seems like its a multi-material which you can do in UE anyway? Having more than one texture on an object using masks. Its literally the same thing but they have improved the UI slightly… not really worth a video though =/

          • bj says:

            It kind of already is HLSL though. It’s just presented differently. If an artist understands node graphs like that one then learning the syntax and writing the shader manually is well within their ability, and the increase in both speed and freedom that comes with that is huge.

    • jpvg says:

      Yep, you’re talking about “layered materials” as they were just “materials”, what you’re describing is a “material”, layered means you can have multiple materials going on at the same time, most obvious benefit would be for masks as described by Tigg99 but there will probably also be other slightly more hidden advantages e.g. the control scheme for masks, it’s a small step for mankind but it all helps! ;)

  5. The Random One says:

    This adds a lot of flexibility to the art pipeline, if you catch my drift, wink wink nudge nudge.

  6. killmachine says:

    the real question is, how does it affect gameplay….

    • Liudeius says:

      More artistic freedom means less time spent trying to make the texture appear as you want it and more detailed textures. The result being more quality costing less time and money, allowing for more time and money spent on polish?

    • SirKicksalot says:

      “Lastly, the mask that defines each material layer’s placement can itself be modified and animated during gameplay. The potential applications that take advantage of this perk are limitless: Consider torn fabric exposing the skin beneath, or streaming liquid across a character’s flesh. Artists can even simulate character morphing by switching to a completely new type of material, such as shifting skin to steel or chrome – all changing at runtime, and all while maintaining fast and efficient editability for artists.”

      link to unrealengine.com

      Stuff like Singularity’s aging and time manipulation mechanics, real time rust and decay, spells that change an object’s look and properties – it’s all a lot easier to implement with this technology.

  7. Faxmachinen says:

    I hope this is not supposed to be the most exciting new feature, because it really is neither exciting nor much of a feature.

    • neolith says:

      That might be because you are not familiar with art pipelines. I consider this a massive step forward in terms of usability.

    • jpvg says:

      Yep, this is the sort of thing that drives the quality of the production up because you get more time to do other things. Not very fancy no, very useful however.

  8. Rollin says:

    Misread title.
    Saw rockets.
    Watched entire video waiting for rockets to explode. Now disappointed.

  9. crinkles esq. says:

    Pearson!! This is almost as bad as The Grayson Incident. I was bowled over by the thoughts of a new Unreal game…

  10. darkhog says:

    Call Blender Foundation! They stole Node Editor code WITHOUT RELEASING SOURCE CODE! GPL breaking, darn it!

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      particlese says:

      Calm yourself! Everything plugs in backwards, so no one will be able to figure out how to use it.

  11. Docm30 says:

    Hate to rain on their parade, but you can already do this in UE3 with masks. Unless there is something special they didn’t show, this is nothing new.

  12. hjd_uk says:

    Marketing fluff, this really isn’t that special :/

    • mechchimp says:

      Being Unreal Engine a product, I guess any news about it could be classified as marketing.
      And that material editor is definitely going to to make lives of guys in graphic design job much much easier. But that’s still marketing, since we’re not buying either their lives or their graphics.

      • bj says:

        Easier than what? It’s the same material editor UnrealEd has had for the last seven years.

  13. jezcentral says:

    But, but, but does this all mean that characters will be able to bend their arms at the elbow without looking like Octodad?

    Except Octodad, obviously, although he doesn’t have elbows anyway.

  14. bj says:

    For anyone who wants a slightly more technical look at some of the new engine stuff, the slides and notes from Brian Karis’s Siggraph talk a couple of weeks ago are here, along with lots of other good stuff.

  15. Matt-R says:

    Uh.. this looks like using Lerp nodes in UE3/UDK? Just with speeded up copy pasting ability when creating master materials or something. It’s still not even as flexible as just going for vertex blending which again is already available. Nonplussed is me.