Epic Games and their CEO Tim Sweeney have been discussing their currently in development Unreal Engine 4, the successor to the very popular UE3 that was used in everything from Unreal Tournament 3, through to Mass Effect 3.
“I spend about 60 percent of my time every day doing research work that’s aimed at our next generation engine and the next generation of consoles,” Sweeney told IGN. “This is technology that won’t see the light of day until probably around 2014, but focusing on that horizon enables me to do some really cool things that just aren’t practical today, but soon will be.” He says the fun of this project is “exploring areas of the technology nobody else is really yet contemplating because they’re still a few years away from practicality.”
At the moment, Unreal Engine 3.0 and its 3.5 variant can handle 2 or so cores on a CPU, with anything more than that really being used only by the operating system of background services. However, in the future as chips (whassat?) get more and more cores and threads (Intel’s Sandybridge E chips could have up to 12 threads thanks to hyperthreading) they need to have an engine that makes use of these.
“The big challenge that’s going to be coming up in the next decade is scaling up to tons of CPU cores,” Sweeney said. “Once you have 20 cores, you can’t easily say this one is going to be for animation and this one is going to be for details on the face of the character, because all these parameters change dynamically as different things come on screen and load as you shift from scene to scene.”
While there are some people claiming that the next developments in gaming are still up in the air, we’re still not quite there with the movie visuals. Sweeney expects that within another ten years we could be almost there, with the strive towards lifelike graphics still being a major focus of developers.