Epic Games released Unreal Engine 4.16, and the feature list includes new tools for 3D artists and performance enhancements for mobile and console developers. UE 4.16 also introduces full-featured support for the Nintendo Switch.
The latest version of Unreal Engine (UE4) includes a handful of newly introduced rendering features. Environment artists now have access to Volumetric Fog to enhance the ambiance of their creations with fog cover, billows of smoke, and even dust particles in the air. Epic Games said that the tool allows you to simulate how “any number of lights” reacts to the Volumetric Fog effects.
The company said that Distance Field Ambient Occlusion and Ray Traced Distance Field Shadows render “30% to 50% faster” on console hardware and modest PC systems. Epic Games also said that it improved Distance Field Generation performance. The latest version benefits from acceleration from Intel’s Embree ray tracing library, and the update also managed to reduce memory usage in Eight Bit Mech Distance Fields and Compress Mesh Distance Fields, according to Epic Games.
Unreal Engine 4.16 includes a new tool called Lightweight Rigid Body Simulation that lets you spawn “hoards of physically-rendered characters” inside your Animation Blueprint. Lightweight Rigid Body Simulation includes “immediate mode,” which leverages Nvidia’s PhysX to render your scene in real-time.
Epic Games also introduced Low-Level Clothing Simulation based on Nvidia’s NvCloth PhysX Clothing solver. The developer said the NvCloth solver is a direct replacement for the APEX clothing solver found in previous versions of UE4. Nvidia’s approach is similar to the APEX solver, but it offers access to more simulation data and additional inertia settings.
Nintendo Gets Some Epic Love
If you’re a Nintendo fan, Unreal Engine 4.16 should be exciting for you because it introduces full support for Nintendo Switch. Unreal Engine is now certification compliant for Nintendo Switch, which means that developers can create production-ready games for Nintendo’s latest platform. Unreal Engine for Switch offers multiple rendering pipelines—deferred, mobile forward, and clustered forward—and it allows developers to offer networked multiplayer in their Switch games.
Nintendo’s Switch isn’t the only console getting love from the Unreal Engine 4.16 update, though. Epic Games changed the default renderer for Xbox One games to DX12. UE4 still offers DX11 support for Xbox One, and you can switch it back if you’d like, but DX12 extracts improved performance from the CPU and GPU.
New VR Mode
Unreal Engine’s VR Mode got a fresh look in Unreal Engine 4.16. The new UI is built with an asymmetrical controller setup. In one hand, you’ll get a Radial Menu; in your other hand, you’ll get a laser pointer to interact with the menu. You can access all VR mode actions and features from the Radial Menu system. The developer said the new interface is more intuitive to work with than the old system.
Unreal Engine 4.16 also introduces an expansion of VR Mode’s capabilities. Epic Games first launched VR Mode as a virtual reality world editor tool, but now you can use it for editing cinematics, too. Unreal Engine 4.16 includes VR Mode for Sequencer, Epic Games’ digital cinematics editor.
But wait, there's more! Even with all the above, there's an extensive list of changes and improvements that you can find on the Unreal Engine blog page.