After Alpha 1 ended back in August 2021, Steven and the Intrepid Team had to make a decision about the future of using Unreal Engine 4 for the Ashes of Creation project. Even though they were some years into development, with Epic Games releasing the new engine, eventually support for Unreal Engine 4 would be halted. That meant that Intrepid would either have to release Ashes of Creation and then make an engine swap, or they would have to incur whatever delays necessary while still in development and then hopefully make up time with the versality that comes with UE5.
With the decision made to swap over to Unreal Engine, the Engineering team began the process of swapping over all the custom code that Intrepid had written. By December, the process was mostly done and by the middle of January 2022 the entirety of the team was working on the Unreal Engine 5 build.
What UE5 brings to the table
There is a lot of power that comes with Unreal Engine 5, specifically Nanite, Lumen, and the simultaneously work capability on the Open Worlds.
Nanite, which is a virtualized micropolygon geometry system, which to put it simply allows the artists to import high quality Zbrush sculpts directly into Unreal Engine and it takes care of all the polygon scaling. This is a game changer in the process development time, because it removes the necessity to do polygon scaling in 3rd party programs and loading all those different files into the game data.
Lumen allows for dynamic global illumination and you can do it in real time. No longer does the lightning artist have to wait for lightmaps to bake (render), instead they can work in almost real time and create much better lighting solutions.
Finally, the simultaneously work capability on Open Worlds allows more than one developer to be working on the same region at the same time.
Did Intrepid Studios lose any development time?
I have seen a lot of people talk about how much time Intrepid lost over the transition to Unreal Engine 5. The truth is, they didn’t lose any development time. In fact, this change-over will probably result in the game coming out faster. While yes, it is true that Intrepid now has to double-back and re-touch the environment art, the truth is the environment art team, and the art team in general, are much further ahead than the other departments. So anyone saying that the swap to UE5 will end up delaying the game, is either ignorant or trolling or repeating bad information.