Epic has shipped Unreal Engine 4.5, the fifth and most radical point release since the introduction of the UE4 subscription and community source code initiative.
Major upgrades include new rendering features, animation retargeting and automatic C++ hot reload for Visual Studio and Xcode. In addition, the new Unreal Motion Graphics user interface editing system is out of preview state.
Two significant rendering methods are now available: ray-traced distance field soft shadows and screen-space subsurface scattering.
Through the former, shadows can display well-defined edges up close which soften with increasing distance. This dynamic shadowing process works by tracing a ray through mesh distance fields to light, allowing for soft area shadows with sharp contacts.
With UE4’s new Subsurface Profile shading model, screen-space subsurface scattering makes creating realistic skin materials and other awesome effects even more satisfying, carrying out skin calculations at the screen resolution level.
With 4.5 comes the release of animation retargeting which enables animations to be reused amongst characters of vastly different proportions. Through retargeting, animated skeletons retain their proportions when using animations from differently shaped characters.The benefit of using animation retargeting is increasing the number of unique characters without having to create an entirely new set of matching animations, which can seriously cut down on animation memory budget.
Automatic C++ hot reload in 4.5 significantly improves iteration time. This feature empowers users to make changes to gameplay code, recompile, and update the game during play. The reload process takes only a few seconds after compiling in Visual Studio or Xcode, and the results can be seen immediately after.
Adding new classes and properties, extending Blueprints using code, and hybrid prototyping between C++ and Blueprints are even more enjoyable actions now.
EASY UI EDITING
The new Unreal Motion Graphics UI system is enabled by default and ready for wide use. Getting started with UMG is as simple as creating a new Widget Blueprint and building out UI in the editor from there.
Included in the 4.5 release are many other notable features, such as auto lightmap UV generation and a new Media Framework system that supports streaming video on UI widgets and textured objects in levels.
Finally, 4.5 contains a number of usability and learning enhancements, a new tutorial system and new game templates for advanced vehicle and twin stick shooter games.