Is Unreal Engine 5 Really the Best Choice for the Next The Witcher?

Is Unreal Engine 5 Really the Best Choice for the Next The Witcher?

CD Projekt RED has officially confirmed the existence of a new title based on The Witcher. In an ad that doesn't reveal any concrete information about the game itself, the focus is heavily on the technology. The company's REDengine has been sidelined in favor of Epic Games' Unreal Engine 5. CDPR speaks of a "multi-year strategic partnership not only for licenses but also for the technical development of Unreal Engine 5, as well as for potential future versions of the Unreal Engine, if relevant". In essence, CDPR has chosen to leave the past behind and embrace a future with Epic Games, even if the core technologies of Unreal Engine 5 are still in an initial state. We are however in an embryonic stage, as there are no shared development times or release dates at this time.

This is a seismic change for the Polish developer, who has created all of his titles, from The Witcher 2 onwards, on his own engine (although, to be clear, despite the REDengine's days being numbered , remains the central base of Cyberpunk 2077, so the next expansion for V's adventures will still be based on the same technology). Beyond that, however, it looks like Unreal Engine 5 is the future.

From the perspective of Digital Foundry staff members, this isn't the best of news - although it's clear there are several reasons why CDPR has moved on, to witness the demise of such an impressive independent engine it really is a blow. After all, REDengine in its various guises has produced some visually unique presentations that have undoubtedly helped form some brilliant games. Going all the way back to The Witcher 2, CDPR has created a game unlike any other that has truly surpassed any pre-established limitations. The details of the environment, lighting, character rendering and post-processing were ahead of their time. The Witcher 2 was launched during the PS3 / Xbox 360 era but technologically it was a class of its own, a generation beyond.

Cyberpunk 2077 is apparently the latest game to be built on proprietary technology by CD Projekt RED: a real shame when you consider how beautiful and forward-looking it was, beyond its technical problems.

Watch on YouTube. Although it is clear that Cyberpunk 2077 has suffered from a number of technical problems, from our point of view the PC version has always been performing and scalable and has always provided the absolute state of the art in graphics from day one. Bugs have undoubtedly been an issue across the board but most of the glitches have centered on the latest generation console releases. Graphics are inherently scalable - whether it's features, overall graphics quality, or native rendering resolution.

However, the latest generation consoles simply lacked the CPU and storage capabilities needed to deliver an equally strong experience. Meanwhile, on PC, a modern CPU combined with an RTX GPU manages to deliver an impressive visual experience at minimum 30fps with RT features, in addition to what appeared in the game's actual next-gen patch for PS5 and</a> Xbox Series X. A high-end PC kit increases the resolution and range of RT features that can run at a playable frame-rate and there's a sense that Cyberpunk 2077 will continue to scale into the future (just like The Witcher 2 did in past).

The need to service gaming machines of the past won't be a factor for the next Witcher title which, in all likelihood, is still a long way off, so there are two key questions to consider in CDPR's decision to move away from independent engine development. First of all, why not keep evolving the REDengine? And what are the advantages of switching to Unreal Engine 5?

First of all, the perception that Cyberpunk 2077's REDengine is an evolution of the same REDengine found in The Witcher 3 is not entirely true. On Twitter, former CDPR developer Bart Wronski makes this clear. 'For each new game they ditched the whole engine, rewrote it from scratch hoping this time it was better and it worked but then due to the crunch they compromised it badly without it being maintainable or usable at all.'

The Matrix Awakens demo shows the kind of cutting-edge rendering technology UE5 can offer: even if the open world offered here is quite different than the kind of environments required for a title of The Witcher series.

Watch on YouTube. Wronksi says that, aside from a few rendering systems, REDengine has actually been rewritten from scratch between titles and goes on to suggest that the engine development process should be reset again by switching from Cyberpunk 2077 to The new title. Witcher. With that in mind, he believes upgrading to Unreal Engine 5 is a good choice and there are many good reasons development should change. It is built for flexibility, for scalability across multiple platforms, and also grants CDPR access to an enviable pool of technical talent. It's no secret that even the most successful developers have had trouble recruiting in a world where many of the most talented engineers increasingly gravitate towards companies like Epic, Unity, and Nvidia.

In terms of the benefits of moving to UE5, this should be clear enough beyond the obvious streamlining of the workflow and, at the same time, CDPR will have access to several interesting technologies such as Lumen, Nanite and Metahumans. Lumen is UE5's amazing real-time global lighting system that accurately simulates the bounce properties of light within any scene. Nanite is the new geometry system developed by Epic that aims to effortlessly transmit extreme quality resources at unrivaled density levels and without any "pop-in" effect. Finally, Metahuman technology is Epic's attempt to provide a photorealistic rendering of the characters. The best and newest showcase for all of this technology is The Matrix Awakens demo which looks almost like an interactive Blu-ray movie, at least in its chase sequence.

The Matrix demo also serves to highlight another key challenge that UE5 developers face that could affect the new The Witcher title. The technological leap provided by Lumen and Nanite is immense but it comes at a cost: performance. We must remember that the Matrix demo is still a simple demo but, in all likelihood, titles using both of these key technologies can aim for the 30fps rather than the 60fps that have come to dominate the landscape of current generation games. While the updated version of Cyberpunk 2077 for Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 wasn't able to deliver the bulk of the PC experience as we'd hoped for, at least its 60fps mode looked good and ran pretty well. Achieving the same level of performance in UE5 will likely require a very high-end PC.

CDPR's agreement with Epic Games, however, appears to be more than just a licensing agreement. The CDPR statement speaks of a collaboration with Epic Games "with the primary goal of helping to customize the engine for open-world experiences", which highlights a key point about UE5 in general and its potential application in a Witcher title in particular: the fundamental systems at the heart of UE5 innovations are still under development.

The first iteration of the REDengine is found in The Witcher 2 and is still a visual delight today.

Watch on YouTube. The Valley of the Ancient demo, for example, hinted at the possibility of creating quite large worlds, while the city of The Matrix Awakens focused on the strengths of procedural generation in making those worlds easier to create. However, nothing we've seen on Unreal Engine 5 still resembles the kind of environments seen in The Witcher series. Castles, cities, caves and deserts would not be a problem but, as far as we know, Epic Games has yet to solve the problem of integrating non-opaque objects into Nanite. To put this in simple terms, elements like trees, foliage, and characters would need to be rendered traditionally before moving on to Nanite, subject to the kind of distance pop-in and other limitations we see in today's games.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of systems required for an open world game and it will be interesting to find out if the collaboration between Epic and CD Projekt RED will bring the skills on which Cyberpunk 2077 and The Witcher were built for the benefit of all the developers of Unreal Engine 5. This could be what is implied in the concept of partnership and would distinguish this type of agreement from, for example, a project like Returnal by Housemarque where UE4 was the basis, but the final game was heavily customized with the Finnish studio's internal technology.

window.parent.googletag = window.parent.googletag || {cmd: []}; window.parent. This content is hosted on an external platform, which will only display it if you accept targeting cookies. Please enable cookies to view. Manage cookie settings This content is hosted on an external platform, which will only display it if you accept targeting cookies. Please enable cookies to view. Manage cookie settings The stage is ready for the next Witcher game but we can't help but feel sad about the end of REDengine (or maybe, REDengine in the plural). It's a shame because, fundamentally, diversity in core technologies translates into visually distinct games that can push graphics into new and exciting territory - Cyberpunk 2077 on PC tops our list of the best graphics games of 2020. Visually, is far ahead of any Unreal Engine title released to date, although obviously UE5 is a different kettle of fish.

We are moving into uncharted territory with this new technology but what is clear is that this it is a further step towards the homogenization of video game technology: beneficial in many ways but also worrying in an industry that thrives on new and different ideas and techniques. The best scenario? The new game from The Witcher retains the identity of a CDPR title but takes full advantage of the potential offered by Nanite, Lumen and Metahuman technology. These are all exciting features but all still in the making. Perhaps their use in a game of this stature will pay off for both Epic and CD Projekt RED, while potentially raising the bar for all UE5-based developers.

Powered by Blogger.