Come with me
And you’ll be
In a world of pure imagination
Take a look, and you’ll see—

Enough! That’s enough, Willy Wonka. This is an event for the learned scholars of virtual production. Take your revolutionary chocolate-tech fantasies to Burning Man.

Willy Wonka - Unreal Engine

Anyway, Epic Games is bringing their annual Unreal Fest back to a live audience this year. The festival will make camp in New Orleans from October 17th to the 20th for three full days of speakers, presentations, and industry innovations in XR and virtual production (the 17th is simply “opening ceremonies”). You could call it a conference – which it surely is – but it’s also a massive showcase for creators who do their worldbuilding and storytelling using Epic’s oft-discussed Unreal Engine.

Epic put out a call earlier in 2022 for project submissions to be showcased. The parameters were that the projects must have been developed with Epic tools like Unreal Engine 5 or another Epic platform (like MetaHuman Creator). According to 80 Level, projects considered for submission needed to abide by at least one of three themes:

  • It highlighted industry innovation.
  • The project showcased an “interconnected ecosystem”, meaning the creators enhanced their storytelling ability because of the use of multiple Epic tools.
  • The narrative was built with cross-media storytelling or a project that demonstrates an approach to story that’s grounded in the metaverse.
Unreal Fest 2022 - Lyra game

Unreal Fest will hold more than 100 sessions at Mardi Gras World, which despite sounding like a Chuck E. Cheese for adults, is actually the workspace where Kern Studios actively builds some of the most elaborate and ostentatious floats for Mardi Gras each year.  Registration for the physical event has sold out but gamers, creators, and anyone interested in highly specific presentations on all facets of Unreal Engine can still register for the event’s livestream, which will allow viewers to interact with 14 one-hour game-focused sessions.

Session highlights include “What Goes into a Good Battle Royale?”, which is an exploration by Iron Galaxy Studios of how they build the “Rumbleverse”, a free 40-player battle royale brawl released by Iron Galaxy in August of 2022. Another session titled “The Gritty Reality of Real-time Cloth and Rigid-Body Character Physics” will focus on best practices in developing character simulation. It’s not a conference of fluff – many sessions have a highly practical tone, with topics like “building modular characters”, “building open worlds in Unreal Engine 5”, and “virtual cinematography”.   

The speaker lineup at the event includes Sarah Bond (Corporate VP of Xbox), Adam Boyes (Co-CEO of Iron Galaxy Studios), Matthew Ball (author of The Metaverse: And How it Will Revolutionize Everything), and several in-house speakers from the Epic Games team.

The itinerary on Monday night: “beads, badges, and beer”. The itinerary on Tuesday night ends with a “drinks reception”. The itinerary on Wednesday night? Drinks, a parade to Mardi Gras World, and a party at Mardi Gras World. Epic could have easily named their conference “Games, Beads, and Booze”.

During the day (pre-tipsy yelling from the game hub), attendees can explore all of Epic’s tools at the expo, meet with the Epic team to ask questions, and entertain themselves with their choice of learning sessions. Yes, it’s definitely a giant PR event for Epic and everyone will be there to network and ogle advancements in Augmented Reality. Beyond all the structured events, there’s a core intangible:

The aspect of community.

Sometimes it just feels good to be in a room full of people who understand the passion behind building new worlds and the tools you use to do it.

Those interested in livestreaming the 2022 Epic Games Unreal Fest can register on the Unreal Fest website. Check out the full Unreal Fest session lineup here.