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Why is UE5 a game changer for indie devs

You have probably seen the new unreal engine 5 beautiful tech demo.

Now realistically this is a demo and seeing as this version is not due to be released until 2021 and it will take time for dev to get used to how that works, then on top of that we can expect 2-3 years game development time. We won't be seeing games take real advantage of this for a while.

That doesn’t mean this isn’t a good reason to get excited. Especially if you are a games developer.

Personally what is most exciting is what it does to the production pipeline and even more so for the smaller development companies. Here are the two major exciting updates:


Nanite virtualized micropolygon geometry frees artists to create as much geometric detail as the eye can see. Nanite virtualized geometry means that film-quality source art comprising hundreds of millions or billions of polygons can be imported directly into Unreal Engine—anything from ZBrush sculpts to photogrammetry scans to CAD data—and it just works. Nanite geometry is streamed and scaled in real time so there are no more polygon count budgets, polygon memory budgets, or draw count budgets; there is no need to bake details to normal maps or manually author LODs; and there is no loss in quality.

So to put it simple any game developer is not going to have to worry about the amount of polygons that are used! Might not sound exciting but it really is, having to make sure that all your models are low poly in order to run smoothly on a computer can take up a lot of development time. Often multiple LODs models would need to be made for each game asset, these would effectively load different models of different complexity depending on the distance from the game camera.

Combine that with the increased computer speed in this generation so much optimisation work that would need to be done is just gone.


Lumen is a fully dynamic global illumination solution that immediately reacts to scene and light changes. The system renders diffuse inter reflection with infinite bounces and indirect specular reflections in huge, detailed environments, at scales ranging from kilometers to millimeters. Artists and designers can create more dynamic scenes using Lumen, for example, changing the sun angle for time of day, turning on a flashlight, or blowing a hole in the ceiling, and indirect lighting will adapt accordingly. Lumen erases the need to wait for lightmap bakes to finish and to author light map UVs—a huge time savings when an artist can move a light inside the Unreal Editor and lighting looks the same as when the game is run on console.

Again put simply, lighting your game will get a lot cheaper. Unreal usually has multiple lighting settings of different cost to the engine, therefore in order to make the game run smoothly you would need to make different trade off and cleverly use specific light into specific areas.

You also needed to bake a lot of the static light, this is where the computer would go away and do all the light calculation for the meshes and then paint them on to the meshes.

Great for indies

These are really good for indies. A lot of this optimisation would be only available to large companies requiring a load of manpower. But this not only improves the efficiency of the games but it cuts out massive chunks of the development work load.

On top of that Unreal has just waived royalties on the first $1 million you earn.

About the author:

Edward is an indie game developer, tutor and consultant specialising in Unreal Engine. Ed works for Jammy Games.