Unreal Engine 5’s Headlining Options Aren’t Prepared for VR



This week Epic Video games launched the newest model of its next-gen sport engine, Unreal Engine 5. Although the brand new model brings enhancements in lots of areas, its most notable options are Lumen (world illumination) and Nanite (micro-polygon geometry), which might be game-changers for VR immersion. Sadly the corporate says neither characteristic is prepared for VR builders.

Out there as of this week for all builders, Unreal Engine 5 guarantees to usher in a brand new period of sport improvement which makes it simpler for builders to create video games with extraordinarily top quality belongings and reasonable lighting. That’s because of the engine’s two new key options, Nanite and Lumen.


Nanite is what Epic calls a “virtualized geometry” system which radically improves the geometric element in sport scenes.

A rea-time scene rendered utilizing Nanite | Picture courtesy Epic Video games

Beforehand builders would create top quality 3D fashions as a kind of ‘grasp’ reference which might ultimately have their geometry significantly simplified (resulting in a discount element and complexity) earlier than being pulled into the sport engine. The identical mannequin typically will get a number of variations with more and more lowered element which ‘pop’ between one another relying upon how far the sport digicam is away from the mannequin (often called ‘degree of element’ or ‘LOD’). This enables the sport to point out greater high quality up shut whereas utilizing the lowered high quality fashions when they’re additional away to avoid wasting efficiency.

Nanite primarily features like a steady LOD system that pulls element from the unique ‘grasp’ mannequin, as an alternative of counting on pre-built fashions with lowered element. In every body the system references the grasp mannequin and pulls out the utmost degree of element wanted for the given digicam distance. Not solely does this eradicate the necessity to create discrete LOD fashions, it additionally signifies that the vary of element for a mannequin might be a lot higher, permitting gamers to see extremely wonderful element—proper all the way down to the unique polygons of the ‘grasp’ mannequin—in the event that they get shut sufficient.


In the meantime, Unreal Engine 5’s new lighting system, Lumen, significantly simplifies sport lighting because of world illumination.

Actual-time lighting rendered with Lumen and Nanite | Picture courtesy Epic Video games

Real looking lighting might be very computationally costly; with out Lumen, many video games use a mix of lighting methods to attain the look they need whereas sustaining sport efficiency. A given scene would possibly use pre-calculated ‘baked’ lighting (which isn’t interactive with the remainder of the scene) together with a small variety of real-time light-sources that solid shadows on sure objects within the scene, and varied ‘screen-space’ results to emulate reasonable lighting.

Lumen unifies lighting right into a single method referred to as world illumination, which goals to make each mild within the scene—even the Solar—right into a real-time mild that’s interactive with different lights and the remainder of the scene. This contains reasonable bounced mild which spreads shade all through the scene based mostly on the colour of the objects that the sunshine hits. As an example, white daylight shining right into a white room with a crimson ground will solid some crimson mild onto the partitions because it bounces from the crimson ground. Such bounced lighting is a vital part of photo-real lighting.

Each Nanite and Lumen might massively enhance immersion in VR because of their capacity to massively enhance geometric element in close by objects (which is particularly noticeable with the stereoscopic functionality of VR headsets) and to create extra reasonable and interactive real-time lighting.

“No Timeframe” for Nanite or Lumen in VR

Sadly Epic says that neither Nanite nor Lumen in UE5 are prepared for VR but.

“Whereas we now have no timeframe to share when it comes to Lumen and Nanite help for VR experiences, we’re exploring find out how to convey these UE5 options to further platforms,” the corporate tells Highway to VR.

However, Epic says, that doesn’t imply VR builders shouldn’t use UE5.

“VR builders can leverage most of Unreal Engine 5’s production-ready instruments and options, resembling the brand new UI, the brand new suite of modeling instruments, creator instruments resembling Management Rig, MetaSounds, and World Partition for giant open environments.”

What’s the Holdup?

Although each Nanite and Lumen are able to creating unimaginable trying scenes, they aren’t ‘free’ from a efficiency standpoint.

“Though the benefits [of Nanite] might be game-changing, there are sensible limits that also stay. For instance, occasion counts, triangles per mesh, materials complexity, output decision, and efficiency needs to be fastidiously measured for any mixture of content material and {hardware},” the corporate warns builders. “Nanite will proceed to broaden its capabilities and enhance efficiency in future releases of Unreal Engine.”

Lumen, in the meantime, is simply designed to focus on 60 FPS for giant out of doors scenes and 30 FPS for indoor scenes on the very newest console {hardware}. That’s a far cry from the 90 FPS minimal for many PC VR headsets. And with Quest 2 being considerably much less highly effective than the newest consoles, there’s simply no manner it’ll be capable of deal with these sorts of calls for. Which can imply that the final word limitation in bringing these options to VR is solely efficiency (or lack thereof).

The identical scene rendered for a flat display in comparison with being rendered for VR is usually much less performant in VR as a result of want for stereoscopic rendering (and normally greater resolutions). Methods like single-pass stereo and foveated rendering assist scale back this overhead, however could not but work together with the likes of Nanite and Lumen.

So it could be matter of optimization and extra highly effective {hardware} earlier than it’s sensible to convey these options to VR experiences. From Epic’s perspective, Unreal Engine has only a small fraction of VR builders in comparison with the likes of the Unity engine, on which the overwhelming majority of VR video games immediately are constructed. Particularly with the trajectory of Meta’s Quest 2 as the most well-liked goal platform for builders (and its lack of energy in comparison with consoles and PCs), it appears probably that optimizing Nanite and Lumen for VR may be very low on Epic’s precedence checklist.

Hopefully we’ll see these next-gen engine options in VR ultimately, however it won’t occur for a while but.