Epic's Unreal Engine 4 strides into public view with a spectacular real-time demo, dubbed "Elemental" (seen above). The short film depicts an ancient knight creaking to supernatural life while a decrepit castle comes apart around him, letting in floods of light and gusts of snow. It's a concise showcase of the underlying technology, which features sophisticated dynamic illumination, light-reactive materials, rich particle effects, per-pixel lens flares, and other visual processes that don't sound quite as sexy as they appear.
According to Epic, games running on Unreal Engine 4 won't ship until sometime in 2013 at earliest. With partners already lining up to use it, and the engine running in 1080p on a PC built from off-the-shelf parts (the demonstration I saw was running on a variant of the Falcon Northwest Fragbox, augmented with Nvidia's Geforce GTX 680), Epic can focus on highlighting the usability of the editor that accompanies UE4.
If you peer past the break you'll see a dry, detailed deconstruction of all the effects that comprise "Elemental," and a twist of sorts: the demo runs in real-time right from the editor itself. We'll leave it to Epic to explain how the engine allows for quick iteration on effects, materials and other visual properties, and how it can help manage the blueprints of a game, right down to the behaviour of the smallest particle.
We've also embedded several videos of some simple games created with the aid of Unreal Kismet, an integrated visual scripting system. if you have a cursory interest in the nuts and bolts of game creation, you may appreciate this informative glimpse at our impeccably lit future.