Epic Debuts Unreal 5.2 and Expands ‘Fortnite’ Profit-Sharing

Epic Games introduced Unreal Engine 5.2 at GDC 2023, demonstrating new levels of photorealism and physics designed to facilitate the creation of real-time interactive worlds for the metaverse. Procedural content generation tools and a material framework called Substrate for intricate surfaces with detailed refraction and reflection are new to the 5.2 preview build, available now at the Unreal Engine Marketplace and on GitHub. The economy around Unreal Editor for “Fortnite” has expanded to include a new revenue-sharing plan that lets creators keep 40 percent of funds generated from “islands” they create for the popular game.

Islands are places within the free-to-download world where creators can insert their own in-game experiences, maintaining custom rulesets and designs.

Money earned from islands “includes money that Epic earns from the purchase of V-Bucks (in-game currency), real money spent in ‘Fortnite’ on items like starter packs, quest packs and cosmetics, and Fortnite Crew subscriptions,” reports TechCrunch. Payouts are determined by how much time users spend on the island over multiple visits.

Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney said the Epic Games Store now has more than 230 million players worldwide on PC and paid out more than $1 billion to developers. This month, the company launched self-publishing, providing a toolkit for small developers to create and release games to the PC market — which sales outperform console games globally, according to Statista —  making it easy “to earn 88 percent of all revenue,” Sweeney said.

As part of its plan to jump-start the metaverse, Epic is uniting its individual asset marketplaces under one brand, Fab. The new Fab open marketplace will include assets from the Unreal Engine market, ArtStation, Sketchfab and Quixel Bridge, per The Verge. Creators will receive 88 percent of earnings from the Fab store, just like they do from the Epic Games Store.

As for the Unreal 5.2 updates, they are particularly relevant for “extremely detailed use cases, like cinematics and film.” The updates, which can be seen to great effect on replay, were run in real time on a developer machine with an Intel 13900k CPU and Nvidia RTX 4090 GPU.

Nanite geometry and MetaSounds systems that shipped with Unreal Engine 5, as well as MetaHuman Creator, will be available to virtually any developer. In fact, The Verge notes that at GDC Epic showed off new MetaHuman tools “that make it possible to create realistic facial animations using only video captured from an iPhone.”

While procedural environments tap artificial intelligence to scale-up in size and detail, Epic Games VP engineering Nick Penwarden said the company envisions there will “always be a place for hand-built environments, so we built these procedural systems to be tools for artists.”

The company also expounded at length on its new Verse programming language, designed to facilitate the “Fornite” metaverse.

Sweeney explains why existing languages are insufficient. “[The metaverse] is happening for real,” GamesIndustry.biz reports Sweeney saying, also sharing the CEO’s take on Google and Apple — with which Epic is embroiled in a legal offensive that the exec referred to as “Project Liberty.”

Epic has posted a roundup of its GDC news. Those who prefer the full 7-hour Epic video from GDC will find a helpful index pinned atop the comments.

Epic Made a Rivian R1T Demo to Show Off Its Latest Unreal Engine 5 Tools, Engadget, 3/25/23

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