Mark Rein details the latest edition of UDK
Every month, Epic Games releases a new update to the free Unreal Development Kit (UDK) downloaded by more than 800,000 developers around the world.
With the same triple-A toolset as the award-winning Unreal Engine 3, UDK is popular among professionals, fledgling developers, and educators alike for its industry-leading capabilities and flexibility.
And while every month brings about new improvements, the June 2011 release is particularly exciting for UDK users. The release introduces a series of robust updates as well as new technology integration that provides access to Simplygon.
The first major update is the brand new foliage system (the result of which is pictured above). The foliage editor is amazing in that it allows level designers to ‘paint’ foliage throughout their levels as easily as drawing a brush over a canvas.
Foliage instance types can now specify a landscape layer for weighting, and foliage painting can be used for altitude-based painting, as well.
The new foliage painting tool, which is focused on speed and quality, enables developers to quickly paint foliage and decorations such as grass, small rocks and bushes onto landscape, static meshes or BSP. UDK is all about efficiently building games at triple-A quality.
Now, with our new foliage editor, designers can get the end result they need without investing a huge amount of time placing each individual object.
Other improvements in the June release echo this sentiment. With the new Unreal Kismet debugger designers can visualise the flow of their Kismet sequences while their game is running. Designers can also step through their sequences one frame at a time and set breakpoints.
These features can help identify exactly what parts of a sequence are currently executing in the game and for what reasons.
The addition of fully customisable map templates (menu image pictured), for example, lets designers immediately configure lighting for day, night, dawn, or sunset by dragging the appropriate thumbnail from the Unreal Content Browser into a level to populate settings and achieve the desired lighting effect. This gives developers a wide range of possibilities for more complicated lighting projects, and saves a great deal of time.
There’s now a single editor and game content tree for both PC games and mobile games. This allows developers to share gameplay logic and assets between PC and mobile more easily. We’re making it much easier to build cross-platform games, while still allowing developers to accurately preview graphics and gameplay with a single click.
Furthermore, Donya Labs is now a member of our Integrated Partners Program. Donya Labs’ Simplygon is used to automatically generate game-ready Level of Detail models (LODs) for a specific pixel resolution.
Simplygon, which is known to save developers hundreds to thousands of hours of manual art adjustment, provides high-quality mesh reduction without having to leave the Unreal Editor.
Developers can quickly simplify meshes, generate LODs, and immediately see the results in their maps. Simplygon is especially useful for converting high-end PC assets for deployment on mobile devices, which is a boon to Unreal Engine 3’s cross-platform strengths.