Did I hear you right? Game Engines in Architecture!
Updated: Jul 28
I got that look again, as if to say
“Did I hear you right?”
The first time I encountered that look, was many years ago when I was looking for employment, after completing my Masters degree. The only difference this time was it was on a Zoom call, while chatting about a possible new project and not across a meeting room, mid interview.
What had I said to be given such a look, I'd simply mentioned how game engines can be used really effectively in architecture to show off our 3D work, but the reaction I got was more like the one I'd get, if I’d said something completely ridiculous - or maybe I had!
This was back in 2004, back then game engines had some advanced features for the time, although comparing them to the current versions of the same software they were pretty basic and primitive. Since then they have come a long way, but looking forward I believe we will be seeing and hearing considerably more about these tools & technologies for displaying architectural concepts.
I believe that the new graduates coming into our profession are more open to using these tools and technologies, to show off their unbuilt designs. The way I see it, the main difference between the architectural sector and the gaming industry when it comes to 3D CAD software is that architects want to use the technologies to build stuff, whereas game developers usually want to blow stuff up! However, when you turn off the bad guys and guns you have a tremendously powerful piece of software.
There are many game engines available, but here at Resolution Studios we have been using the Unreal Engine (also known as UE5). Epic (The makers of UE5) originally released their game engine to the gaming community to prolong the life of their games. It was intended for die hard fans of the Unreal Tournament game to create their own levels and share them, so the game never grew old.
Over time the Unreal Engine took on a life of its own and is now being used by independent developers, as a platform to create their own games. In 2014 Epic made the software available to the gaming community and universities offering accredited courses, but the following year they made it available to all users.
There have been many versions of the software and with each new update came new features. Epic have invested a lot of time, energy and money into their game engine to make it the go-to software for game developers. But with a few tweaks to the software here and there, the architectural sector can also make full use of the fantastic features it offers.
Once a design has been modelled and textured in 3D, it can be imported into UE5. It may need some editing to run smoothly in real time but it is a small price to pay for the tools which become available. Architects are reaping the benefits of real time rendering and are able to use gaming software to explore a building virtually, by going where they want, when they want and looking at what they want from where they want - much the same as you can in a 3D game.
At Resolution Studios we generally turn off the guns and bad guys but depending on your relationship with your client and design team you may want to leave them turned on - I'll leave that up to you :-)
Make no mistakes, real time rendering is a game changer for our industry. In the past I have waited hours for animations to render and spent £1000s with render farms to generate the frames for animation projects. Game engines have many tricks and shortcuts that can speed this process up, depending on the complexity of your scene and the power of your hardware, you can generate frame rates on screen of up to 120 frames per second - offering a smooth and high quality experience for the viewer.
When used to generate the frames for an animation, game engines can offer many tools and cinematic features to improve the quality of what can be produced. This means we can generate professional looking animations in minutes and not hours. A crucial advantage of this is that amendments can be made to a design, without putting the whole project back, if sections of an animation need to be re-rendered.
If game engines in architecture are something new to you, then you will undoubtedly be hearing more about them in the coming years. Epic have recently released their long awaited Unreal Engine 5, but this is only one of several game engines available. As we move forward and our clients' expectations for interactive real time environments and cinematic quality walk-throughs grows, I believe that game engines are going to become a more commonplace tool in our industry.
If you don't start to embrace what is currently available, you may well find yourself getting left behind.
If you were to draw a Venn Diagram, where the three circles are Architecture, Cinema & Gaming, game engines would fit nicely into that area where they all intersect. I only read today that the BBCs coverage of Wimbledon this year will be presented from a virtual studio and they will be incorporating the power of UE5 to generate the 3D graphics for this.
I am really excited about the new release of the Unreal Engine and what we as architectural visualisers will be able to produce going forward. Epic have described UE5 as the software that will produce games for the next generation of consoles. Although some of the new advanced features are a little processor heavy, but as computers & consoles specifications continue to improve, there will come a time when the fantastic features that Epic have provided for us will become standard for all.
One thing I love about working in the architectural visualisation industry is it does not stand still for long, there is always something new to read about, learn about and try out.
I for one want to be at the front of this and I'm looking forward to seeing how our industry evolves to make full use of these tools, technologies and features over the coming years.
About the Author
Jamie Wilkes has worked as a 3D visualiser and has over 20 years experience working with 3D CAD in the architectural industry. He is now owner and director of Resolution Studios, a 3D visualisation firm based in Hagley in the West Midlands.
Starting out as an Architectural Technician, Jamie worked on a number of commercial and residential schemes, producing CAD plans, elevations & sections of buildings. After completing his Masters in Digital Architecture Jamie then followed his passion for 3D & took a role as a full time 3D visualiser working mainly in the leisure sector. Resolution Studios was established by Jamie in 2008 and has since provided 3D visualisations for planning applications and marketing developments in many sectors throughout the UK and abroad.
Do you want to be making use of the latest tools and technology with your next project, if so then please get in touch and we can see how we can work together.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 01562 88 10 09