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Epic Games is launching a highly realistic model of a Ferrari sports car for players to use in Fortnite tomorrow. The imagery of the Ferrari 296 GTB car provided by Epic and Ferrari suggest it’s going to look better than anything else in the game.
That might be a little jarring for players who see a cartoon-like environment throughout the game and then see this realistic car zip past them in the middle of a battle royale match. But clearly this serves some of Epic Games’ own goals for Fortnite, which Epic hopes will one day be the prime gateway for the metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One.
Ferrari has partnered with Epic Games its cars to Fortnite using Unreal Engine. Ferrari and Epic said the hybrid sports car will make history as Fortnite’s first highly realistic, drivable vehicle.
Ferrari has been an early adopter of Epic’s Unreal Engine for design visualization, virtual production, and its Ferrari 296 GTB car configurator. Epic has been touting the value of real-time technology (meaning game engines that render an image in real time) and how it is changing the way that cars are designed, built, and sold.
Making it Unreal
Epic said the automotive industry uses Unreal Engine for numerous steps of the process: concept and iterative design, manufacturing, sales and marketing, training autonomous vehicles, infotainment, human-machine interface (HMI), driving simulators, and more.
Unreal Engine is also a go-to platform for “digital twins,” which designers use to show what a product will be like in virtual form before they have to manufacture it in physical form.
These models often live far beyond their initial design and engineering intent and into many experiences in the real world and virtual worlds where cars are featured. And digital replicas — whether virtual doubles of cars, buildings, or entire cities — are essential building blocks of the metaverse, Epic said.
Francois Antoine, the director of advanced projects at Epic, said in a statement that the car featured in the game is built on the same source data and uses the same Unreal Engine features as the 296 GTB in Ferrari’s own car configurator, and it’s this level of power and versatility which has led the automotive industry to put its trust in Unreal Engine.
Digital intellectual property encompasses the representation of the physical model, car configurators, virtual showrooms, car launches, marketing assets, models for video games, and film. Once you have your digital IP in Unreal, it can go anywhere — games, animated entertainment, feature films, live installations, simulations, and beyond, Epic said.
Epic stands to make money on this too. As part of this partnership between Fortnite and Ferrari, Epic will offer a variety of new content via the Item Shop, which players can get bundled for 1400 V-bucks, the virtual currency in Fortnite.
I asked how the one realistic object will affect the look of a world that is cartoony. Epic said in an email, “As we start to think about what interactions in the metaverse will look like, it’s important to understand how different types of digital assets will live together in the same space. Plus, the shape of a Ferrari is iconic, so while we could have created a stylized version, we’re thrilled to bring the Ferrari 296 GTB to Fortnite players in its stunning and original form.”
To make it look more seamless, Epic said that the “look-development — which is the process of building and calibrating the materials and textures to give synthetic surfaces the look of paint, metal, plastic, etc. — for the Ferrari 296 GTB was done in a photorealistic environment, just as it would normally be done when developing a digital twin for visual effects.”
Because Fortnite is already PBR compliant, no work was necessary to achieve a seamless graphical look between the Fortnite world and the realistic car, Epic said. That means that when loaded in Fortnite the Ferrari 296 GTB automatically casts shadows and displays reflections of the stylized world around it and is lit by the same lights and sky that light all objects in Fortnite.
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