Monthly digest for April 2024

Unreal Engine 5.4 has arrived. Plus: a new licensing model, a GDC 2024 recap, and more.

Nick Pfisterer •
Monthly digest for April 2024

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the monthly digest for April 2024. Spring has arrived in the northern hemisphere, and with it comes a lot of game industry news. In fact, this issue will be packed with more news than usual since I missed March (sorry about that). I'm also introducing some changes to the format, so please let me know what you think.

Before we dive into the news: I recently published my first developer interview with the team behind the indie horror title DON'T SCREAM. It was a pleasure to learn about their creative process as well as their experience working with Unreal, and I hope you enjoy reading it. If you are interested in being featured, please reach out.

Unreal Engine 5.4 is now available

You can download it now on the Epic Games Launcher and GitHub. This is a pretty significant release that brings many new features, including modular control rigs, adaptive tessellation for Nanite, a new motion design mode, and much more.

Note: Next week's newsletter will highlight some lesser-known features and quality-of-life improvements that flew under the radar, so keep an eye out for that!

If you are upgrading, brew a cup of coffee or tea and check out these resources while you wait for the new version to download and install:

I also want to give a shoutout to Tim Hobson, a senior tech writer for the Unreal Engine documentation team. He highlighted several noteworthy documentation updates on X (formerly Twitter) that were published in tandem with version 5.4, such as dealing with GPU crashes, Lumen performance, Temporal Super Resolution, and Neural Network Engine.

Similarly: Jean-Sebastien Guay, a technical art director at Epic Games, called out the new PCG Biome Core and Sample plugins, an example (with documentation) of what kind of biome creation tools can be created using Unreal's new PCG framework.

New pricing for Unreal, Twinmotion, and RealityCapture

First announced at Unreal Fest 2023 and later detailed in a blog post, the new pricing model for non-game industries is now in effect. The new pricing model is designed to make Unreal Engine development more sustainable in the long term while keeping the tools free for most people. Hopefully it will help Epic recover from their recent financial woes.

I highly recommend reading the official blog post carefully – especially the FAQs at the end – but here are the key points you need to know:

*You are required to pay for seats if your company generates over $1 million in annual gross revenue, does not create games, and does not create applications that are licensed to third-party end users and rely on Unreal Engine code at runtime.

The State of Unreal at GDC 2024

In March, Epic Games hosted their annual State of Unreal keynote at GDC to announce the latest features coming to Unreal Engine, share updates from their product ecosystem, and showcase the latest projects from their partners and licensees.

This year, we got an impressive tech demo showcasing some of the new features coming in Unreal Engine 5.4, a brief update on the Epic Games Store, and an extensive look at what's next for UEFN. You can watch a recording of the full keynote. If you want a breakdown in text format, Epic has you covered.

Epic also hosted a variety of learning sessions and technical presentations at GDC, which are still in the process of being released (no playlist available at time of writing). That being said: If you are interested in the bigger picture and only have time to watch one presentation, I recommend this one:

Why you should watch: Presented by Kurtis Schmidt and Tim Tillotson from Epic Games, this talk goes deep on SceneGraph, a new framework for composing game objects that is built on top of the Verse programming language. It's coming soon to UEFN and is primarily marketed as a UEFN feature, but make no mistake: this will eventually land in Unreal Engine as "a new foundation for building game objects in the engine", according to Schmidt. SceneGraph seems poised to eventually replace the current Actor/Component framework. Schmidt: "This is not actors; it's a new thing."

What's on our radar

In other news