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The future of gaming……..

Two weeks ago at GDC, Unreal debuted their new update to their Unreal 3 graphics engine, giving us a glimpse into the future of gaming as we know it.

The trailer for the update, entitled simply “Samaritan” as  showcased the potential for Unreal Engine 3 and DirectX 11.

So what does this update mean? Epic released pictures and videos illustrating the potential of the engine, and displaying it’s already impressive capabilities.

“Image-based reflections that allow surfaces of any shape to reflect an approximate version of scenes, with varying glossiness across surfaces, anisotropic HDR highlights and anti-aliasing.”

Reflections are hard to pull of in games. They require a lot of complex algorithims and equations to get right, and if they’re not done properly, the end result can look sloppy and unconvincing. Epic’s solution to these problems is to take a simplified version of the scene around a reflected image, like your character reflected in the surface of  water, and add all of the different effects that you would want to see on top of it. The picture below illustrates what they mean.

[courtesy of IGN]

The graphics look amazing, and I think it’s safe to say that they are the most realistic I have ever seen. Epic went on describing the new technology and its applications, continuing with “subsurface scattering” (SSS).

“Subsurface scattering (SSS) that simulates the light that scatters inside semi-translucent materials (this makes character skin come alive).”

This will mean that the skin of, say, a character in a game, will behave like skin does in the real world. Light isn’t simply reflected off of it; some of it is absorbed as well and eventually reflected back. Think of the difference between the plastic skin of a doll and your own, and that is what Epic are pertaining to.

“Anti-aliased masked materials that super sample the edges of masked and alpha-tested materials (this makes hair more look realistic than ever before).”
Put simply, aliasing is the appearance of jagged edges in game graphics. Hair up close, for exampl, often looks like a lot of horizontal jagged lines joined together, as if someone had created it in Paint on a PC. Epic claim that this will be a thing of the past.
This will mean far more realistic looking characters and environments, something that can decide if a game is a roaring success, or if it is destined for the bargain bin.
The update was released on March 9th, and anyone can download it from
For now, here is the Samaritan trailer, showcased at this year’s GDC. Enjoy.