PlaneShift with Unreal Engine 5.1

By PlaneShift Team, March 1st 2023      6 comments.

Greetings, we have just released a new version of PlaneShift! This release is a transition release, with the sole objective to bring the game to Unreal engine 5. There are no PlaneShift specific new features or changes as part of this release.

Nonetheless it is a very important release for us, as it will enable new elements to be added in the future with more ease and using latest technology. We upgraded the whole game to Unreal Engine 5.1.1. Has not been an easy switch, because even if Epic advertises this as a seamless migration, it required some troubleshooting and inventive, also we had to learn some new elements.
The first thing we tested when moving to Unreal engine 5 was World Partition, which is the new way of managing large open worlds. We converted all our levels to it, but immediately encountered issues. In particular World Partition doesn't support Static Lights at the moment, which is a way for us to keep the hardware requirements low. Second it corrupted some of the levels, and the landscape had to be repainted/fixed, third it seems not possible at the moment to have non World Partition levels loaded in shipping release together with World Partition levels. This means our game start level where you login was not packaged properly and was not working. These issues let us decide to avoid World Partition from now, until it's more stable/compatible. We will definitely check it again in the future.

We restarted the migration, this time with World Composition, the same we used in UE4, and things went better. Then we had to re-patch the engine with our specific changes, and fix again some of the known issues, such as the XML parser, the tool-chain on Mac and the Mac mouse cursor. After that part was working, we had to test the final packaging on Windows, Linux, Mac. This is were we hit another big problem on Mac, as the compiler coudn't for some reason properly compile for Intel chips. Our Mac release is done for Intel chips, so that both Intel and M1 hardware can run it. After a lot of trial and error, we discovered a bug in the base engine, and found a workaround, so all was finally solved!
Given the amount of features present in PlaneShift, will be important if you could test it well, so we can find any issue before the next release.

Known issues
- There is a significant known problem with lights, as the convertion between UE4 and UE5 broke many lights, and it seems to behave differently between different platforms. Example the Laanx temple is very dark on Windows, but it's extra-lit on Linux and Mac. We already did some investigation on this, but it requires more work to find a good and stable fix. We decided to release anyway to avoid further delays and allow everyone to test the new release giving feedback.
- Even if we did a number of tests with medium hardware on all platforms and the FPS were pretty much identical, it seems UE5 raised the bar a bit on the hardware, and some low end PC may have trouble running it. Please test the game on different hardware and let us know in the linked forum post above the results.

New PlaneShift features
None. I'm mentioning this again to be clear, this was a technology only release.

What benefits we get from Unreal Engine 5
First of all the whole engine is upgraded, and significantly. There has been hundreds of improvements, patches and new features. In addition there are some specific ones we would like to leverage in the near future:
- All plugins are available in the upgraded UE5 version, including the one we use for character movement, and the voice chat. Upgrading will require some work, but will bring benefits. This is something we will work on soon.
- Metasounds is a complete new system for audio, and we want to use it for musical instruments. The ground work is done already as we tested it in UE5 some months ago. This will enable musical instruments in game again!
- There is a new Water system that could improve lakes and rivers. We didn't test it much yet, so has to be discovered to see how stable, performant and usable it is.
- New particle system Niagara. Improved, more flexible and provides better results, we could covert all our visual effects (spell effects mostly) to the new system.
PlaneShift remains an incredible journey, with a small team trying to make an MMO, probably the most complex game type. Join us as a player or as a developer!

All the bugs are tracked on our Flyspray, where you can register and add your findings.
If you want to support us, become a Patreon! Find other players in our Discord