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Next-Gen Gaming Could Look Like Movies

Could the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X make games that look as good as modern day movies? That's what Epic Games' Kim Libreri believes. Libreri — the Chief Technology Office at the company — was interviewed by Playstation Magazine UK about Epic's next-gen ambitions. Though that piece can't be read without buying a subscription, Video Games Chronicle (VGC) has published some select quotes from the interview.

According to Libreri, games will look better than ever. Non-playable characters, enemies, and even in-game physics will behave more realistically. While Libreri isn't saying that games are going to reach a life-like quality just yet, he is saying that graphics might be on par with what you'd find in cinema. And reaching this point is something Libreri's been eagerly anticipating for quite some time.

"It has been a lifelong dream of mine that real-time computer graphics, and in particular games, can be as believable and realistic as a movie," he said, adding, "Next-gen graphics and processing power will not only make games more immersive, but will also enable entirely new gameplay concepts that can take advantage of fully dynamic environments and lighting, much-improved physics, smarter AI, and richer multiplayer experiences."

Though "movie-realistic" may sound like a fancy catch phrase — a bit of marketing lingo cooked up to sell consoles and games — it's actually something games have been working toward for a while. Video Games Chronicles points to the popular Disney+ series The Mandalorian as proof. For that series, LucasFilm actually partnered with Epic, using the company's Unreal Engine to create some of the sets and effects in real time. Given that many game development studios already use the engine, and Epic is rolling out a new version in Unreal Engine 5, having games that look as good as high-budget films may not be far fetched.

Supposedly, that's exactly what Epic plans to do. According to the interview in Playstation Magazine (via VGC), Epic's Unreal Engine 5 will allow film-quality artwork and set pieces to be scaled and rendered with no loss in quality, and without bogging down the engine.

Epic credits its Nanite technology for this breakthrough, an advancement in rendering that the company was eager to show off in a demo titled Lumen in the Land of Nanite. The demo was named for Unreal Engine 5's two key technologies, Lumen and Nanite. Lumen is an innovation in how in-game lighting behaves. Nanite is the key part for backgrounds and sets. 

The demo showed off the impressive graphics that Unreal Engine 5 can render, accompanied by a voiceover explaining in simple terms how it works. According to the demo, Nanite allows "hundreds of millions or billions of polygons" to be rendered in Unreal Engine with "no loss in quality." The end result could be more far more detailed environments without the issues associated with load and rendering times.

It's a big step for gaming, but Epic seems confident that the tech can back it up.

In its article, VGC points out that movies and shows are a bit of a different beast than games. Video games often involve a lot of movement, and therefore they frequently need to load new scenery. Meanwhile, all a movie needs is a stationary set and special effects, and obviously movies don't need to be concerned with load times. However, Epic promises Unreal Engine 5 will make it possible to get that same kind of quality in a video game without any loss of function.

So there you have it. According to Epic Games and Kim Libreri, we may be on the verge of video games that truly look like movies. We'll be keeping an eye on Epic, the Unreal Engine, and its new Nanite technology to see if it lives up to the hype. We'll be sure to let you know what we find.