Epic CEO on 250 million Fortnite players, digital humans and a $ 100 million development fund

Epic Games has released a wealth of information on the state of the Unreal engine during its keynote address at the Game Developers Conference today. We had a glimpse of the news and were able to interview Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic, and Kim Libreri, Director of Technology.

Sweeney said that Fortnite had reached 250 million players and that the popular Royal Battle game has not declined because of the popularity of its rival, Apex Legends. He added that Fortnite's largesse will allow Epic Games to create a new $ 100 million fund for Unreal Mega Grants for game developers.

Sweeney also spoke from his point of view about openness and open source technology. He praised Microsoft for its open approach to HoloLens 2 augmented reality technology. He ultimately believes that high-quality glasses will replace all of our screens, such as smartphones, TVs and movie screens.

Libreri and the developers of Goodbye Kansas have shown the company's progress with digital humans, or the creation of ultra-realistic human faces through real-time ray tracing. They created the credible human imagery of the Trolls.

We discussed these topics and more before the epic speech at GDC 2019.

Here is a transcript of our interview.

Above: Troll has amazing digital human images.

Image Credit: Epic Games / Goodbye Kansas

GamesBeat: Can you talk about what's going on in your speech?

Tim Sweeney: Kim will present technology demonstrations on physics and digital humans. We are going to talk about Epic's online services that we open for free for all developers on all platforms and in all stores. And we will talk about the state of the Epic Games store. This is the big news. We are about to reach 250 million Fortnite players. Since Apex Legends came out, we've won a high number of Apn Legends players, which is amazing.

GamesBeat: Some people thought that Apex Legends could slow down Fortnite. I suppose not.

Sweeney: We hit a Fortnite summit without an event twice after the release of Apex. We have never seen a visible break in Fortnite. It's funny. FIFA is the only game where you can see where his highs are in Fortnite's playing time. It's another game for everyone, extremely popular around the world.

What Apex Legends has done is restore energy to many shooters, people who enter and exit fencers based on what is popular. It's great to see other games get into the Royal Battle, add their unique touch and advance the state of the industry.

Kim Libreri: The first thing we are doing, do you know who Quixel is? It is a photogrammetry company that makes many assets, a large library of assets including rocks, trees, plants and natural phenomena. If you have played a triple-a game in the last year and are going through a large open environment, it is likely to be in Quixel. They contacted us before Christmas saying, "Hey, we have a movie we're working on, and we'd like you to open it to your GDC keynote."

So we start with this film that was made by three artists using their assets. This looks super photorealistic, and this was done in Unreal Engine 4.2.1, the current version, as opposed to the forthcoming release coming out next week, 4.2.2. It seems very good. This represents the state of the art of pixelation. This is the Unreal engine before we have done a thorough redesign of the graphics systems of the engine.

We have now made the engine capable of launching ray tracing. We are no longer talking about prototypes or demonstrations. We now have an engine that will launch rays. What we are trying to explain to people is that ray tracing is not just about shiny bottles, glass surfaces or refraction. It's a question of subtlety. It brings a quality of lighting that you have only really seen in animation or live photography.

Above: Troll takes advantage of real-time ray tracing.

Image Credit: Epic Games / Goodbye Kansas

To show that, instead of doing a demonstration ourselves, we wanted to work with a client who would have early access to 4.2.2 and make a short film. It is based on an old Swedish fairy tale by an author named Jon Bauer. This is a princess and fairy and a troll. They made a small teaser, about a minute and a half, a cinematographic piece, all rendered in real time in front of the public on a Nvidia 2080Ti. It's a movie, so 24 frames per second. It looks awesome.

The star of the short film is a digital reconstruction of Alicia Vikander, the actress Tomb Raider. She was also in Ex Machina a few years ago, an extraordinary Swedish actress. She is an amazing digital human. 3Lateral builds the digital man. But the real story is a fairy tale very sweet and beautiful with incredible lighting.

We will review the characteristics of ray tracing, explaining how the addition of ray tracing forced us to modify the engine. It must always be compatible with earlier versions for existing clients. We can not change everything to such an extent that they can no longer load their old scenes. But as a side effect, the engine has become faster, so rendering in Unreal Engine is now faster than ever. We'll go over the features we've added to manage cross-platform performance, from Android to high-end workstations, and then we'll have a gameplay demo that will illustrate something we feel is a long time . business.

As an industry, we risk entering a strange valley, not around digital humans, but around interactions. You can walk around in an environment built in Unreal Engine that looks very photographic. With ray tracing, it looks very photographic. But if you pick something up, try breaking a wall or breaking a door, you will come across a very simple rigid body physics, relatively simple collisions – physics is still in a simple state in the video game industry .

We wanted to try to see if we could draw some lessons from the film industry over the last 10 years. Can we do large-scale simulation and collisions and destructions and particles that bring the world something like a Michael Bay movie show, but in a video game? We've created a gameplay demo that shows deadly destruction, cold explosions, and anything that might make an impression – what would it look like to blow up an environment? This is the physical demonstration.

We call it chaos, the new physics system. All this turns on an Intel Core i9. They were instrumental in helping us make sure things went as fast as possible. It's amazing. Shit explodes everywhere. You will be able to play this demonstration on our stand. We will have two configurations on which people can go, huge screens where you can blow up this robotic city.

Magic Leap will also present its demo on our booth, so you can interact with a digital human. Vlad, of 3Lateral, will talk a bit about our plans for the advent of creating a digital humanity, making it a cheap venture. This is happening now for most developers. It's out of reach. Most small studios can not put quality digital humans into their games. It s too difficult. We will talk a little bit about it.

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