Epic Games held a presentation of State of Unreal at the GDC 2024 developer Conference. During it, the company demonstrated the capabilities of the next version of the Unreal Engine and shared a number of news on the development of Fortnite and its business in general. We have collected the most important announcements.

Unreal Engine 5.4

  • During the presentation, Epic Games announced the release of an early build of the preview version of Unreal Engine 5.4. It is already available for review.
  • According to the company, the engine will now be much faster. As an example, she cited the results of tests conducted on the City Sample project — a city from the technodemo The Matrix Awakens: An Unreal Engine 5 Experience. The rendering time was reduced by 50%, and the time required for the GPU to complete tasks was reduced by 25%.

  • Some of the most notable innovations in Unreal Engine 5.4 are related to animation. In particular, Epic Games has updated the Motion Matching tool, moving it to the production readiness stage. Recall that this is a framework for creating character animations that takes poses from datasets and creates smooth and realistic transitions between movements.
  • Epic Games has been using Motion Matching in Fortnite for all characters and on all platforms since the release of the fifth chapter in December 2023. During 2024, the company promises to release a free set of more than 500 AAA animations created using motion capture technology.

  • Epic Games has significantly improved the Control Rig system. The company boasted that thanks to it, "for the first time, a full—fledged game — LEGO Fortnite - was rigged and animated entirely on the engine" without using any third-party tools.
  • The Modular Control Rig feature has been added to Unreal Engine 5.4. It allows you to create rigs that can be immediately animated on any skeleton.

  • The Nanite system has been updated, which virtualizes any geometry without restrictions on detail. Now it includes the experimental Tessellation function, which allows you to add cracks and other irregularities to the model and edit them in real time.
  • Another experimental feature is Heterogenic Volumes. It is designed for rendering three-dimensional textures like smoke, fire and liquids. The resulting objects can cast shadows on hard surfaces and interact with translucent effects such as fog and particles.

  • The engine will get a feature called Programmatic PSO Precaching, which should solve the problems associated with compiling shaders. Now the process will be automated and will allow you to collect all possible combinations of PSO for a specific game.
  • Epic Games has also introduced several new tools for the Procedural Content Generation (PCG) framework. One of them is Biome Core for creating biomes based on data. The other is Runtime Hierarchical Generation for procedural generation of locations in real time.

  • Epic Games plans to release a stable build of the preview version of Unreal Engine 5.4 in April 2024. It is noteworthy that in just a few weeks, in May 2024, the competing Unity intends to release Unity 6.
  • During the presentation, Skydance New Media studio presented the game Marvel 1943: Rise of Hydra about Captain America and Black Panther. The development of the project is led by Amy Hennig, the screenwriter and creative director of the first three Uncharted. Using the example of a technodemo game, you can see a number of technical innovations of Unreal Engine 5.4, including the work of the updated MetaHuman technology.

Development of Unreal Editor for Fortnite

  • Since the launch of the public Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) in March 2023, gamers have created more than 80 thousand islands for the game. In total, Epic Games has paid them more than $320 million during this time.
  • Now the MetaHuman technology will appear in UEFN. In particular, Fortnite users will have access to the MetaHuman Creator and MetaHuman Animator tools. Thanks to this, they will be able to create and animate high-quality NPCs. Epic Games has optimized the technology, so each character created with MetaHuman will weigh about 60 MB instead of almost 1 GB.
  • Thanks to the addition of MetaHuman, gamers will be able to develop much more realistic projects that differ from the usual Fortnite style.

  • Also, LEGO branded assets will appear in Fortnite creative mode, so now gamers will be able to build their own LEGO islands.
  • By the end of the year, Epic Games will add a first-person mode to the UEFN toolkit. Whether it will be available outside of UEFN is unclear.

  • In addition, gamers will be given the opportunity to create their own weapons from scratch, work with the character physics system and manipulate almost all in-game objects. Other future innovations can be viewed below on the roadmap for 2024.

  • Last but not least, Epic Games will start making content for Fortnite itself using UEFN. The company plans to release the first season, entirely created in the editor, during 2025.

Epic Games Store and Mobile Ambitions

  • The company has confirmed plans to release the Epic Games Store app store on iOS and Android by the end of 2024. The conditions for developers will remain the same: Epic Games will take a commission of 12%, developers will receive the remaining 88% of revenue.
  • There are few details about the launch, but Epic Games has shown how the store will look on mobile devices.

  • During his speech, the head of the Epic Games Store, Steve Allison, said that the company would cooperate with some "third-party partners." Perhaps this means that some games will become exclusives of the mobile version of the Epic Games Store. However, this is only a guess.