The Game Developer's Conference isn't just a place for developers to showcase their new games. It's also a place to discuss development strategies and new technologies. At GDC this year, Epic Games has been showcasing a demo video which demonstrates what Epic believes next generation graphics are going to look like.
Since it was released, Epic's Unreal 3 Engine has quickly become the standard engine in the gaming industry. Many popular titles have been developed using the technoloy, including Batman: Arkham Asylum, Bioshock (also 2, Infinite), Borderlands, Bulletstorm, Gears of War (also 2, 3), Mass Effect (also 2, 3), and Mirror's Edge, to name just a few. With so many developers committed to using the game engine, it's to be expected that Epic Games would be making additions to it.
While it still isn't Unreal Engine 4, the next iteration of the Unreal Engine will take full advantage of Direct X 11, and from what was shown at this GDC, it will be powering some very beautiful visuals in the future. Images from the video have become available and are here for your viewing pleasure:
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Tech demos always impress, but this rainy setting shows off a lot of cool tricks that will help make games feel very real. The billboard reflections image showcases reflections of the neon signs in the water on the ground. If you didn't notice, the reflections are more defined closer to the source and less so further from it. Furthermore, the pavement can be sort of seen through the reflections, defining the surface that the reflection is being shown on.
The dynamic reflection shadows image shows an effect where the shadows of objects in the scene are also reflected in the water on the ground. This gives those objects a better sense of belonging to the scene where previously they might have seemed a little displaced.
In the MSAA (Multisample Anti Aliasing) image, it is difficult to discern any difference between MSAA being on and off. Is this a sign that MSAA will be redundant in future games?
The upgraded Unreal Engine 3 will mean that not only Epic Games, but also the other developers working with the game engine, will be capable of creating this level of visuals on powerful enough hardware.