Unreal Engine 4 Layered Materials
Since 2006, Epic's Unreal Engine 3 was one of the most popular engines among game developers, and the company aims to repeat the success with its successor. The new Inside Unreal series aims to show the new capabilities of UE4, both in term of easier development and more game features. Layered Materials is the first feature to be showcased this way.
In computer graphics material determines how a 3D object interacts with light. It includes the colour or texture of the object, determines how light is reflected from it, giving it the specific look. Even with the same texture, using materials, red plastic will be rendered differently from red metal. In many game engines materials cannot be combined together easily. As an example, they wouldn't allow for a simple cube to have both shiny metal parts and matte rust. Either rust would be shiny or metal parts would not look metallic. The solution would be using several objects together, which is more costly in terms of performance.
Layered materials in UE4 allow for more flexibility in terms of how objects look. They combine several materials into one, allowing for different parts of objects to have very different looks. In the video that was demonstrated well on a rusty rocket, with the shiny Unreal logo without any modification to the rocket model. The visibility of different material layers can even be changed when a game is running, allowing developers both faster editing and the implementation of dynamic material changes during gameplay. It will be interesting to see what else we can expect from future games in the following Inside Unreal videos.