Epic Games showcased the world’s first snippet of gameplay running on the Sony PlayStation 5 during a Summer Game Fest livestream on Wednesday. The company unveiled its next-generation Unreal Engine 5 with a graphics demo titled Lumen in the Land of Nanite that showcases many of the astounding next-level features that this new technology will be capable of using hardware like the PS5.
Was that actual gameplay? Is Lumen in the Land of Nanite a full game that players themselves can one day experience? The answers to these questions are pretty exciting yet also a bit of a letdown.
This is the first time we've seen anything running on the PS5, which is cause for excitement alone, but Lumen in the Land of Nanite should not be mistaken as a PS5 launch title.
Epic Games essentially took their PS5 dev kits for a test ride by running a bunch of assets from its new Unreal Engine 5 on Sony’s hardware. This new version of the Unreal Engine provides developers the building block to create new games on the PS5 in the future, but sadly Lumen in the Land of Nanite won’t be one of them.
Is Lumen in the Land of Nanite a new game?
No, Lumen in the Land of Nanite is a brief demo that Epic Games put together to showcase Unreal Engine 5. Epic Games company told IGN that as of right now there are no plans to develop it further than this demo.
Game engine developers and console manufacturers have always released special demos that highlight the strengths of development tools and hardware. But there’s always a chance that Lumen in the Land of Nanite could be worked into a full game in the future, like how Quantic Dream’s 2012 tech demo was worked into Detroit: Become Human.
Is a Lumen in the Land of Nanite available to play?
Even though Epic Games has no plans to release Lumen in the Land of Nanite as a demo to the wider public, it’s still a game that a tester at the company played and recorded for Wednesday's demo. “It is playing 100 percent in real-time on the [PlayStation 5] and you do have full control over the character,” Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney told IGN.
The demo is "playable" in the sense that it exists and can be played using a PS5 controller, but it isn't available for public consumption whatsoever. “It’s totally playable," Epic Games CTO Kim Libreri echoed. "In fact, if GDC happened we would have let people play through the thing.” GDC 2020 attendees would have gotten a chance to play it if the conference hadn't been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The demo does run completely on a PS5 dev kit, so it gives a realistic look at what genuine PS5 gameplay will one day look like when running a game made within Unreal Engine 5.
What was the reaction to Lumen in the Land of Nanite?
The response to Epic Game’s tech demo was overwhelmingly positive by gamers on platforms like Twitter and Reddit. In fact, many people expressed interest in buying it as a full game and were disappointed when they discovered it was only a demo with no plans for a public release.
“PLEASE tell me Lumen in the Land of Nanite isn't just a tech demo,” tweeted TealGameMaster. “I WANNA PLAY AS LUMEN! Seriously though, Unreal Engine V on PS5 looks like a perfect dream!”
Redditor u/tyzenxebec22 was even moved by the soundtrack of Lumen in the Land of Nanite and though it would make for a convincing next-gen launch title.
“I honestly got goosebumps from the music that they composed for this tech demo,” they wrote. “It looks to be a solid IP if they decide to go through with this for next-gen.”
What does Lumen in the Land of Nanite’s title mean?
The title for Epic Games’ demo highlights two areas of real-time graphics that the company wanted to push forward with the release of Unreal Engine 5. Technical Director of Graphics Brian Karis and Special Projects Art Director Jerome Platteaux explained what these two areas were during the showcase on Wednesday.
What is Lumen?
Lumen is a codename for how the Unreal Engine 5 has made strides in dynamic global illumination, which are a group of algorithms used in 3D graphics that simulate realistic lighting in scenes.
“Beautiful bounce lighting instantaneously. [We] don’t have to be constrained to a game where the world has to be static and I’m able to iterate it a lot faster and we call this new system: Lumen," said Karis and Platteaux.
What is Nanite?
Nanite is a codename for how the Unreal Engine 5 will give developers access to "truly virtualized geometry," which would allow them to easily import their 3D models into the engine from other software without the need of extra steps that could prolong a game's development time.
"We could directly use film quality assets and bring them straight into the engine. And that’s a big deal for an artist," said Karis and Platteaux. "[We] just want to be able to import my ZBrush models, my photogrammetry scan, my CAD data, without wasting any time optimizing ... In the end that's what it’s all about art that just works. And we call this new technology: Nanite.”
So there isn't an in-game lore reason for the name, it's just two codenames that teased the Unreal Engine 5's two biggest improvements.