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Unreal Engine 5.4, Marvel 1943: Rise of Hydra, and mobile EGS. What Epic Games showed at GDC

Unreal Engine 5.4, Marvel 1943: Rise of Hydra, and mobile EGS. What Epic Games showed at GDC
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In the evening of March 20, Epic Games held its annual State of Unreal during the GDC 2024 developers conference — during the one-hour presentation, they showed the trailer for Marvel 1943: Rise of Hydra on UE5 and announced the launch of a mobile digital store on iOS and Android in 2024. We have gathered the most interesting announcements and news.

Unreal Engine 5.4. What's new

Unreal Engine 5.4 Preview 1 is already available in the Epic Games launcher, on the GitHub repository, and for Linux. The full release will take place at the end of April. The UE 5.4 update comes with a number of rendering performance improvements, including major updates to the Nanite technology, such as Nanite Tessellation for greater visual accuracy without increasing mesh on disk.

Animation in UE 5.4 has also reached a fundamentally new level — support for Motion Matching character animation technology has been introduced, which uses machine learning to create smooth transitions between movements and requires tens of times less memory than regular Motion Matching. This technology has been used in Fortnite on all platforms since the launch of Chapter 5, and later this year, Epic will release a free (educational) set of over 500 AAA animations created based on high-quality motion capture data.

Multi-Process Cook has received a number of optimizations, making it three times faster, compiling significantly fewer shaders in the editor. Developers have not forgotten sound designers — the new Audio Insights profiling tool will offer more opportunities for creating and fine-tuning audio.

The Procedural Content Generation Framework (PCG) in Unreal Engine has also received a number of enhancements. In addition, Epic decided to release the PCG Biome plugin for procedurally-generated water, rivers, lakes, and swamps.

Captain America vs Black Panther. First trailer for 1943: Rise of Hydra on UE 5.4

The presentation started with a quite unexpected announcement — the first look at 1943: Rise of Hydra, a new Marvel game on UE5 (specifically, Unreal Engine version 5.4) about Black Panther and Captain America in the setting of World War II. This is an action game with a focus on storytelling, being developed by Amy Hennig (the writer and creative director of the first three parts of Uncharted) and her studio Skydance New Media. The studio is also working on a new game in the Star Wars franchise. Both are part of Disney's growing portfolio of high-budget games, which has previously attracted such renowned developers as Insomniac, Quantic Dream, Ubisoft, Bethesda, Respawn, Arkane, and others, to revive the gaming direction.

As the story unfolds, players will switch between four central characters: young Steve Rogers (aka Captain America), Azuri the Wise (T'Challa's grandfather and Black Panther of World War II), Gabriel Jones (an American soldier and member of the Howling Commandos special unit), and Nanali (a spy from Wakanda sent to occupied Paris).

The debut trailer reveals some storyline details and contains gameplay footage recorded on the engine — it looks quite impressive, like a true next-gen game. Marvel 1943: Rise of Hydra will be released in 2025, but the exact list of platforms is not yet available.

Mobile digital store Epic

Epic once again confirmed its plans to launch the Epic Games Store on iOS and Android by the end of 2024. A full announcement of the mobile EGS with all the details will come later, and the concept art already showcases the familiar Epic Games Store interface. Only for mobile. Developers will receive 88% of sales in it, just like in the PC version, while Epic's commission will be 12%.

In Epic Games, it is emphasized that their Epic Games Store will become the world's first multi-platform gaming store, operating on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. Let's remember the numbers from a recent report: in 2023, the number of EGS users on PC exceeded 270 million (+40 million), and considering cross-platform Epic accounts — 804 million.

MetaHumans + Unreal Editor for Fortnite

Last year's Epic Games presentation at GDC, among other things, was remembered for the announcement of the powerful Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN). Now, a number of new features have been announced for it. Firstly, MetaHumans — a popular tool that allows the creation of realistic human models using an iPhone — is now available in UEFN. Users can import any characters created using MetaHuman Creator and MetaHuman Animator into UEFN, and then turn them into NPCs in their own games.

Among other enhancements planned to be implemented by the end of 2024 are elements for creating Fall Guys-style levels (May), the ability to create a first-person perspective, which is sorely lacking, as well as a "physical gameplay sandbox" that includes "the ability to use physically modeled characters in UEFN and Creative and simulate any static meshes."

All of this is part of Epic's ambitious plan to turn Fortnite into a game platform akin to Roblox, where a significant portion of the content will be user-created games. According to Epic, since 2023, over 80,000 islands created with UEFN have been published, joining major official releases such as Lego Fortnite and Fortnite Festival.

Fortnite + LEGO-style mini-games

And to continue on the topic of new Fortnite editor features, Epic continues to expand its collaboration with LEGO. The new level includes the ability for Fortnite users to create LEGO-style mini-games — templates and all necessary tools are already available in both Fortnite Creative and UEFN.

Like all other user-created games in Fortnite, LEGO games include licensing fees in addition to other terms, and the restrictions here are slightly tougher compared to typical Fortnite Creative islands. For the USA, there should be compliance with the ESRB E10+ rating, while for Europe, it should follow the PEGI 7 rating.

The LEGO game library in Fortnite has recently been enriched with several notable releases: in December, the "survival" game Lego Fortnite in the style of Minecraft was released, followed by two more games in February — the multiplayer Lego Raft Survival and the obstacle course Lego Obby Fun. The latest addition includes three more Lego games that will appear in Fortnite: Prop Hunt, Battle Arena, and Cat Island Adventure.

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