Toolchefs has released a free open beta of Atoms Unreal, its new plugin integrating Atoms Crowd, its software-agnostic crowd animation system, into Unreal Engine.
The firm says that the system should enable game developers to create simulations with thousands of crowd actors that run in real-time, even on consumer hardware.
A skeleton-based crowd system for Maya, Houdini – and now Unreal
Created by former tools developers at MPC and Framestore, Atoms Crowd is a skeleton-based crowd simulation system compatible with VFX tools including Maya, Houdini and Clarisse iFX.
The Atoms Unreal plugin is Toolchefs’ first step into the real-time market, and enables users to transfer simulation caches from other apps for visualisation, or to create simulations directly inside the game engine.
Users can create their own behaviours using UE4’s native Blueprint system or via C++ scripting.
Toolchefs says that the implementation provides better real-time performance than particle-based systems.
The latest demo video, embedded above, shows 1,600 crowd agents running in real time on a mid-to-high-end laptop with a six-core Intel Xeon CPU and a Quadro P2000 GPU.
Updated 24 April 2020: Atoms Unreal 1.3 is out. The update adds a new ragdoll module and agent collision component to the plugin, and improves performance by “20-30%”.
Updated 8 August 2020: Atoms Unreal 1.5 is out.
The update further improves performance when working with large crowds: something that Toolchefs says has been driven by the needs of users looking to use the plugin for broadcast work.
The changes increase the size of the crowds that the software can simulate by an order of magnitude: this new demo shows a stadium scene with around 42,000 crowd agents.
Other new features include a dedicated ragdoll module for simulating Mexican waves within a stadium, a new texture atlas generator, and the option to use custom agent metadata inside a material network.
Pricing and system requirements
Atoms Unreal is available for Unreal Engine 4.22+. It is available free during the open beta, which has recently been extended indefinitely.
After the end of the beta, the Atoms Realtime licence required for real-time simulation will remain free for anyone earning under $30,000/year. Users earning under $100,000/year will be able to buy one Indie licence for £500 (around $650). Pricing for studios has yet to be announced.
Atoms Crowd itself is available for Windows 8.1+ and CentOS/RHEL 6.5+ Linux. The software also integrates with Maya 2016+, Houdini 16.5+, Katana 2.6+ and Clarisse iFX.
Download Atoms Unreal and Atoms Crowd free from Toolchefs’ website
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