Good news, game devs! Unreal Engine 4.5 has been released and it comes bundled with more than 40 new features and improvements over the previous versions of the UE. Much awaited features such as animation retargeting, automatic C++ hot reload, light map UV generation and streaming video textures are included in this release along with a new video tutorial system, a new project creation window with target hardware selection, and a new dynamic shadowing method which the Unreal Team is calling ‘Ray Traced Distance Field Soft Shadows’. The inbuilt GUI Designer of Unreal Engine, UMG, is ready to be used and is available by default.
The announcement was made earlier today over here at Unreal Engine’s blog. The 4.5 release contains hundreds of targeted improvements that allow complex online games to pass console certification tests, according to the announcement.
Rendering has been enhanced by introducing a new dynamic shadowing method which works by tracing a ray through mesh distance fields to the light. This allows for soft area shadows with sharp contacts. These Ray traced shadows are said to work 20-30% faster on the GPU than cascaded shadow maps.
UE 4.5 lets you compile any type of game C++ code without even restarting the editor, and your changes will be applied live. You just have to compile your gameplay code normally from Visual Studio or Xcode, and the UE 4.5 will apply your C++ changes instantly.
Apart from the improvements in rendering and programming, the WYSIWYG UI editor of Unreal Engine has been introduced in this release.
It lets you translate, rotate, scale, and shear your widgets and lets you style them completely inline, allowing users a much greater control over how widgets look without needing to clutter up their project with several dozen style variations. Styles can now be changed in game too, hence providing dynamic material instances to be used on any UI.
The tutorial system has been revamped and popup windows have been eliminated as well. The editor will alert you about tutorials you haven’t tried, but it never forces you to view anything. The company has introduced a new Tutorials Browser that provides easy access to all of the tutorials. The tutorials have been grouped under Animation, Basics, Blueprints, Editors, Foliage, Installation, and Landscape in the Browser.
Unreal Engine primarily competes with Unity and the excellent noob-tool GameMaker: Studio. No doubt UE is extremely powerful, and is one of the top choices of development studios who don’t have an internal game engine in place, still there is a steep learning curve in comparison to the GameMaker, which certainly is the number one choice for beginners and indie devs.