GDC '08: Epic's beefy Unreal tech demo

Demo of latest version of Gears of War developer's toolset and technology shows 100 locust troopers onscreen at one time and the biggest meat cube of all time.

SAN FRANCISCO--Nothing says "Game Developers Conference 2008" quite like an updated Unreal engine demo from Gears of War developer Epic. We took the opportunity to sit in and get a more in-depth look at the Unreal Engine 3 technology that was showcased at the Microsoft keynote address earlier today. This included an impressive facial animation demo featuring an excitable bald-headed character with highly expressive features, as well as the "fracture" demo running in Epic's editing tools in a level surreptitiously named "Gears of War 2." However, Epic vice president Mark Rein quickly pointed out that "none of these demos are Gears of War 2, [Epic is] not showing that."

The fracture demonstration showed Gears of War's Marcus Fenix running through a stony corridor and blasting the nearby walls and pillars into rubble. Developer Alan Willard explained that the engine supported the ability to model seemingly intact walls and structures as a series of pieced-together fragments and was capable of immediately rendering different versions of the same pillar--either fully built, partially destroyed, or stripped down to the concrete and rebar center.

The engine's updated ability to deform surfaces was also shown in a brief water demo, which showed Marcus Fenix running through a pool of waist-high water in a ruined city, distorting the surface with believable ripples while also dynamically altering the normal maps of the water's surface. Fenix then exited the shallow pool and headed near a railed-off section of seaside sprawl and fired a few rounds into the water to kick up some ripples. Willard then used the editor to toss a massive concrete pillar into the drink, which created an appropriately large splash. The ripples from the splash realistically interacted with those from Fenix's gunfire, first overpowering them entirely, then dispersing in different directions as the aftershocks from the ripples subsided.

The demo then switched to two other impressive technical features, crowd generation and soft-body modeling. The first demo showed a horde of alien marauders thundering down an abandoned street. According to Willard, the engine is currently capable of displaying about 1,000 of these fully modeled monsters onscreen, and, as we saw, is also fully capable of continuously having these characters come pouring onto the screen once the previous ones have left sight because the engine instantly reclaims the hardware memory spent to render the last group of characters as soon as they disappear from sight.

Willard then switched to a demonstration of the engine's soft-body physics in which Fenix walked down a corridor and fired a few rounds at a fleshy, jellylike cube that came tumbling down a ramp, bouncing and deforming along the way and reacting realistically to repeated gunfire. Willard also turned and fired a few rounds at a silvery blob that was supposed to be liquid mercury, which also bobbled and rolled when pushed and fired at. Both soft objects were also "sticky" and realistically stuck to Fenix's model, getting pulled in the direction of Fenix's legs while the surfaces deformed appropriately.

Epic capped the demo with a presentation for a new Unreal-powered product that seemed, according to Rein, "entirely different than you'd expect to see [the] Unreal [engine] in." The product was an online social networking client from Korean-based startup Nurien Software called MStar. This unusual product features highly detailed 3D models as customizable avatars (which can have different facial expressions, hairstyles, and many different articles of clothing) that can have their own "rooms," which act as, according to Nurien's Taehoon Kim, "like 3D versions of MySpace," where users can store photos and videos, but which can also be furnished and can serve as places for online friends to visit.

MStar also includes a built-in dancing rhythm minigame, as well as a game-show-style trivia minigame called "QuizStar," and an interactive fashion-modeling minigame called "Runway," that will apparently let users make their avatars be runway models--the winners of the fashion competition will be decided by online votes.

Written By

Want the latest news about Gears of War 2?

Gears of War 2

Gears of War 2

Follow

Discussion

128 comments
-Intellectual-
-Intellectual-

@Vendre Rome Total War is a real-time strategy game and rts games are well known for having plenty of units on screen at the same time with medium textures. Gears is a third-person shooter with high textures. 2 different genres. Your comparison is invalid.

Vendre
Vendre

The most intresting part was the meat cube... (We have all seen Warhammer, Rome Total War, C.o that have thousands of entities on one screen..) But there is just one thing to say here. Fix those troika machine guns or we are all doomed.

DuDisNow
DuDisNow

I think GOTY will be close mainly with GeOW2, MGS4, and GTAIV.

Buffy2525
Buffy2525

Awesome, can't wait for November!

armagon9177
armagon9177

This all looks great BUT, anyone see any great Halo 3 mods? I haven't. These features will only be available to developers who pay EPIC for the engine. Since EPIC jumped on the money train with Microsoft you won't be seeing any great mods or custom maps using this technology outside of EPIC. The 360 has xbox live which is a closed network where everything has to be Microsoft certified to get on there and makes it nearly impossible for people to get their custom levels on there. In the past when EPIC developed for PC we ended up with dozens of mods and possibly hundreds of maps from the mod community. Yes whoo hoo Gears 2 is coming out, but the ability to keep a game fresh after things get old by creating new content is what keeps a game fresh. Just look at all the great user made content for Unreal Tournament 2004. Console gamers, I'm only ranting because you don't realize what you're missing out on. Counterstrike for example was a mod. Rocket Arena for the Quake series. Any RA3 fans here? Now I'm not bashing consoles here as they are great in their way. Inexpensive fast gaming machines but very limited. I would have liked to see the Gears of War series be multiplatform. Gears is out on PC but nobody is modding for it cause it was rushed and is loaded down with Games for Windows restrictions and other BS. It was not polished for PC, and sucked. Who cares about mods? YOU should as thats where the current generation of game developers came from. Making DOOM Wads back in the day. This is sad for a creative person like myself to watch. Missed opportunity, and all so Micro$oft can try to out sell the PS3.

AnnoyedDragon
AnnoyedDragon

A few freezes and frame skips but I'm sure they will optimise that, I'm just thinking how practical these technical demonstrations can be applied to an actual game. Console gamers tend to just expect things to work and not consider the technical aspects under the hood. You can render 100 enemies thanks to LOD and instancing but what about the AI load and unique animations per model? Can the player actually handle that many uniquely operating opponents? A tri core should be able to manage those physics; but you have a very limited amount of memory to store all of it in, not forgetting the additional render load for the number of objects on screen. The first Gears of War was a single core game; but it did take advantage of the rest of the hardware, all of this is going to add more work. I suppose only time will tell how much of all this they can implement.

AcuRsxNsx2020
AcuRsxNsx2020

CANT WAIT TIL GOW 2 COMING OUT ON NOVEMBER 2008!!

AcuRsxNsx2020
AcuRsxNsx2020

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

DuDisNow
DuDisNow

This E3 I want to see a trailer and demo using everything from theis tech demo. And will Gears of War 2 be the best looking game this year? Let's find out.

DiscGuru101
DiscGuru101

Amazing. Loved every feature of that demo. For the 4 out of 154 who voted thumbs down on that video: Don't hate.

TFrieden0928
TFrieden0928

this is probaly the best looking game ive ever seen, gears 2 is going to be awesome, but i didnt like the multiplayer in the first one though, its too slow, too campy and too unresponsive. but that single player was something though.

vivendidoom
vivendidoom

I thought the meatbox was the most ingenieous idea for epics tech demo...but the ball of murcury was a fantasticaly amazing technological leap for epics software...kudos epic....kudos

breakdown84
breakdown84

wow the destructible enviorments loook great plus that water, whew! Gears of War2=AWESOME!!!!!

Bloodhawk_DX
Bloodhawk_DX

I don't care too much for Gears of War but maybe the second one will win me over.

Ravi_1900
Ravi_1900

@ Spartan_418 the flood wall texture in Halo 3 were runnin the same animation all over agian but here its simulation.

lazy_argonian
lazy_argonian

Since Epic can store 100 locust on the screen, imagine the multiplayer? *Drools all over desk*.

omegakie
omegakie

Was that a new gridlock map because it looked better than the original Gridlock and that's a lot of locust

leatherface_999
leatherface_999

Besides the ability to destroy some of the structures, what does any of this mean for multiplayers? The eye candy is appreciated tho without a doubt. Bring on the ultra violence in high definition!!!

pycho22solid
pycho22solid

100 Locust on screen? Lets see Epic prove it, I'm ready for some chainsaw to face action

Spartan_418
Spartan_418

The mercury-like liquid spere thingy looked aewsome. Now if they could just add some real-time reflections...

Spartan_418
Spartan_418

That meat cube thing looked like it used the flood wall texture from Halo 3. Lousy Epic. Making a giant pillow and giving it a nice texture (from another game) duznt count as "meat". I wanna see some blood and destructibility on that blobular thingy.

WizzyKid
WizzyKid

Lets hope they actoualy incorporate some of this stuff in their own games!

GrimBee
GrimBee

One thing I felt about gears of war was that there were too many locked doors and invisible barriers. And even though the game was really detailed, you just wanted to explore the environment a bit more than just duck and cover against walls. With this engine update... man... its going to be awesome to play through, especially with multiplayer maps. Imagine planting in some proximity mines into concrete pillars, causing the ceiling to fall down in great chunks onto your enemies... and then you walk on that concrete with their flesh squeezing out underneath... lol And with that fluid stuff.. there could be a massive variety of underground enemies in gears of war 2 that would really be cool to fight against. I would love for a terminator game to be based on this engine, 100's of endoskeletons in a future war, and a t1000 that turns into liquid or any shape with the new fluid technology at the push of a button :) Awesome stuff indeed :)

Autolycus
Autolycus

Most impressive. now all they have to do is stop scripting!

Lion55
Lion55

wow...words can't describe this...

Lion55
Lion55

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

thekey
thekey

Gears of War 2 and Ninja Gaiden 2 is going to be SICK!!!

vass86
vass86

that looked awesome.

sancezz
sancezz

Strange. I always wondered what happened to environment deforming technology - It dissapeared along with Red Faction. Why has it taken so long for the industry to pick up that technology again? Considering the (now) poncy power of the PS2... Still. Bring on Gears 2.

Grubish360
Grubish360

That is sweet, I can't wait to blow holes in the walls and kick around a giant meat cube! EDIT: Who cares what system is better, I have a 360 and a Wii, I dont have a PS3, but really it doesn't matter which one is better.

mintvilla144
mintvilla144

the unreal engine works brill on both systems, just look how well unreal tournament runs on the ps3, graphically it looks very similar to this

TehUndeadHorror
TehUndeadHorror

Who cares about whatever consoles better. Didn't you hear? GEARS OF WAR 2!!!

ahmedbilal1993
ahmedbilal1993

Thasnk God, this game aint comin on ps3. i would pretty much like to see the face of the ps3 owners. this game rullz.

wingnut99
wingnut99

@jacob-goodlich. As a dev.... No The PS3 video card cant run all that at 1 time. Remember. The PS3's GPU is a 4th gen video video card. The 360's GPU is much newer. But it all cames back to what we do. We can make games with just 64mb video ram look like it was running on a PS2. Thats why the PS2 has killer looking game's I might add. We have alot of tricks we can use.

jacob-goodlich
jacob-goodlich

pretty impressive but it would probably stuff up your 360 if you had it on for like 5 minutes, and whats all this ps3 bashing? the ps3 could actually handle the is kind of power much better and easier with no 3 rings. im no fanboy i have a 360 and a ps3, this engine should be used on another game i think, i thought that the first one was overated.

wingnut99
wingnut99

@MiltoxBeyond. Thats about it. As a dev. The tools we use are power. When MS made X box and Xbox 360, Thet came to use, or them I should say. They wanted to know what we need, what we want and how to have it down. Sony on the other hand... They just do what they want. they did ask dev's what we needed. they gave us some of the things we wanted and needed. But MS has been in this Biz for a lone time. Really The dev kits are the same, But updated. So we know we can give the games good looks. I can say anything to or about Epic. But the Unreal engine has change everything about games. They made other devs push for life like games. Also the 360 was some what had around the Unreal engine. So the 360 can and will run it better.

MiltoxBeyond
MiltoxBeyond

No one ever said the PS3 could do anything visually better than the 360. Technically the 360 has the better graphics card, so visually the 360 has the advantage. If programmers knew how to work with the PS3's sorta multi-core processor, then all they could do would be handle better physics calculations, as in more accurate explosions, deformations, etc. but graphically, it can't do much more than the 360. Really what determine's the games appearance is the developers skills, and familiarity with the system. I own all the systems so it really doesn't bother me, but most of the games will be slighly better on the 360 mainly because they have more experience with it...

Yuna08
Yuna08

Oh My God....just WOW Look at the water! It does better than Bioshock! (well of course, lol) I'll get my 360 fixed no matter what. I'm planning to buy a PS3 but it seems that this video convinced me not to anymore :) Long live 360~!

Great_Ragnarok
Great_Ragnarok

People for the last time! if you want to compare hardware specs then don't argue over company released specs.rely on a third party like anandtech.com who actulay open up these babies to see how they work! and yes X360 and PS3 are currently equal as they both have a very similar GPU. In terms of the CPU the X360 sld have a lead but right now most engines are relying more on the GPU.

wingnut99
wingnut99

@Senor_Kami. It is running off the 360, but it was recorded for the show. I still dont see how Sony fan boys say the PS3 is more power full. I think this show what the 360 can do, it can do even more.

Senor_Kami
Senor_Kami

My only question is what was this running on? A 360 or some miracle PC that could run 4 instances of Crysis at max settings with like a steady 80fps.

Phylyn5151
Phylyn5151

"prioritymail: Game technology absolutely blows my mind! Imagine what games will look like in 20 years!" True, Look how far we have come in the last 20 years!

rockybob
rockybob

I strongly prefer Unreal Engine 3 to CryEngine2. CryEngine2 looks great but runs like crap on every system around. Unreal Engine 3 looks great and runs well on 200 dollar video cards.

hellrazor707
hellrazor707

allot of what i didnt like about the unreal engine was its lack of water physics and destructible environments and it looks like they are covering that very well. i will expect allot more from GOW 2 now that they have these new capibilities