Procedural generation tools, Substrate shading system, and other new features in Unreal Engine 5.2

Epic Games has released a preview of Unreal Engine 5.2 and detailed its key features at the GDC 2023. Here are the main new tools and improvements that could change the way developers and artists create worlds and materials.

Unreal Engine 5.2 new features, including Substrate and Procedural Generation tools

As Epic Games mentioned in a blog post, 77% of users have already switched to Unreal Engine 5 since the company launched it in April 2022. Version 5.2 is currently available for preview, so let’s dive into the new features.

Procedural Content Generation tools

  • Unreal Engine 5.2 will have the new in-editor Procedural Content Generation (PCG) framework that will run in real time.
  • This tool will make it easier for developers to create huge open worlds by defining certain parameters and populating in-engine scenes with Unreal assets.
  • In a tech demo, Epic Games showed how a large, detailed 4km by 4km environment was procedurally generated on top of a small, hand-built area of roughly 200m by 200m.

  • “We believe that there will always be the need for hand-building environments, so we designed these proceduarl systems to be tools for artis that work in concert with hand-built content,” the company said.
  • Epic Gaemes tools programmer Adrien Logut shared more details about the PGC plugin in a YouTube video. He showed how this framework works in practice using a simple scene as an example.

Substrate shading system

  • Substrate is a new material framework that should replace shading models such as Default Lit and Clearcoat. First introduced for early testing in Unreal Engine 5.1, this system will be an experimental feature in version 5.2.
  • With Substrate, artists will be able to compose and layer different shading models to get more control over the look of objects. This allows them to create more complex and detailed materials for video games, cinematics, and films.
  • In the demo, Epic Games showed how the Substrate system works in real time by swapping the car’s paint for a reflective opal material.

Other improvements

  • Epic Games made multiple improvements to virtual production (VP) workflows in Unreal Engine 5.2 by adding new shot creation and scene control tools.
  • This summer, the company will launch MetaHuman Animator, a new feature set for its MetaHuman framework. It will allow creators to “reproduce any facial performance as high-fidelity animation” using an iPhone or stereo helmet-mounted camera. Here is how Ninja Theory utilizes the technology for Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II.

  • Unreal Engine 5.2 now natively supports Apple Silicon and Intel CPUs.
  • The company also published a new roadmap for the engine that includes some experimental features like Render Resource Viewer, Scriptable Tools, and Chaos Flesh Simulation.

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