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Epic Show "Mind-Blowing" Unreal Tech Demo

Epic has revealed the next generation of its Unreal technology in a behind-closed-doors showing at GDC, VG247 report. What was being demoed was not, in fact, Unreal Engine 4, but rather "Unreal 3.975," in the jocular words of Epic vice president Mark Rein. Words and pictures follow, but not footage. I imagine that'll be doing the rounds next week, or thereabouts.

VG24/7's giddy summary of the showing, and the content of the demo can be summarised thusly:

(1) DirectX 11 features added to Unreal Engine 3

(2) Several new features, including sub-surface scattering, shadowed point light reflections and bokeh depth of field, which have already been made available to Unreal engine licensees. Here's the extent of VG24/7 gallery.

But until the footage itself is made available, the most interesting thing about all of this is Mark Rein's comments as to what this technology represents. Since it's beyond the scope of current videogame consoles, Rein said that "the whole idea behind this is to tell the hardware manufacturers that this is what you should be doing down the road," adding that "If the next game consoles can't do this, well, Apple increased [the graphics processing power of] their iPad by nine times today."

One of the "awesome" things about the engine, Rein says, is that it "scales all the way from an iPhone 3GS up to next-generation hardware... you could theoretically make a game that'd run on every single one of these devices. Mobile phones to tablets to set top boxes."

Quite how this tech would be scalable right down to the iPhone's processing power but wouldn't run on next-gen consoles is a little beyond me, and Alec's out to lunch. I'll pick his augmented brain about it when he gets back.

The purportedly "mind-blowing" tech demo that "looked like CG" was running on three Nvidia GTX 580s, which is, of course, a set-up designed to maximise the potential of the engine. I don't expect Epic want everybody to buy another two video cards. OR WILL THEY? No, probably not.

EDIT: I've had a word with Alec! Rein is talking about whether the next generation of consoles can run this tech with all the visual bells and whistles. While the engine can reduce resolution, detail, lighting, shader effects and so forth to hypothetically work on an iPhone, Rein is suggesting to videogame hardware maufacturers that this is what they "should" be aiming to be able to do.

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Quintin Smith

Former Staff Writer

Quinns was one of the first writers to join Rock Paper Shotgun after its founding in 2007, and he stayed with the site until 2011 (though he carried on writing freelance articles well beyond that). These days, you can find him talking about tabletop board games over on Shut Up And Sit Down, or doing proper grown-up journalism with the folks at People Make Games.