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Tiled 1.3 Released

Tiled, the open source map editor, the open source map editor just released version 1.3, the first major release in almost a year.  Details of the 1.3 release from the release notes:

Scripted Extensions

The biggest change in this release is the introduction of the scripting API, which allows you to extend the functionality of Tiled with JavaScript. Scripts can implement custom actions, custom editing tools and add support for additional map or tileset formats.

Almost everything that can be modified through the UI can be changed through a script as well. Scripts can also connect to certain events to automate actions, for example on loading or saving an asset. Any changes made by scripts automatically create appropriate undo commands, which can be grouped together using the Asset.macro function.

Scripts can be grouped in folders to make it easier to share them with others, for example by cloning a git repository into the extensions folder. Tiled automatically reloads the scripts when it detects a change to any loaded script file.

Issues View

A new “Issues” view was added, where reported warnings and errors are displayed persistently and can be searched. Many of the issues reported here can also be double-clicked to jump to the relevant location for fixing the issue. The error and warning counts are displayed on the status bar to make sure they don’t go unnoticed.

While Tiled may encounter many issues of itself, for example when AutoMapping or exporting to certain formats, issues can also be reported through the scripting API. This could be used to add sanity checks to make sure your map won’t trigger an error in your game.

Configurable Keyboard Shortcuts

The keyboard shortcuts of most actions can now be changed from the new Keyboard tab in the Preferences. Shortcut schemes can be imported and exported and potential conflicts are marked in red.

New Update Notifications

Tiled now features a native up-to-date check, which displays an unobtrusive notification in the status bar whenever it detects that a newer version is available. This replaces the previously used 3rd-party solutions Sparkle and WinSparkle. For those who don’t want it, it can be turned off in the Preferences, in which case you can still manually check for a new version by opening the “About Tiled” dialog.

The new system does not automatically download & install the new package. For automatic updates, I recommend installing Tiled through the itch.io app.

Be sure to check the full release notes for an in-depth change log.  You can learn more about this release in the video below.  Additionally we have done a complete tutorial series that will get you up and running with Tiled.

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Unity And Oculus Team Up on VR Course–John Carmack Leaves Oculus

Two completely unrelated stories (beyond the Oculus commonality) in one today.  First, Unity and Oculus have teamed up to launch an 11 part, 20+ hour course on all aspects of creating a VR game using the Unity game engine with the Oculus Rift SDK and hardware.

Details from the Unity blog:

We’ve partnered with Oculus, to launch an extensive intermediate level course guiding you through all aspects of building a virtual reality (VR) game. As the VR industry continues to grow and mature, developers are asking more questions about making the switch to VR, and developers who already work in VR want to improve their skills. That’s why we teamed up with the experts at Oculus to build this comprehensive VR course, “Design, Develop, and Deploy for VR.

In more than 20 hours of hands-on course content, you’ll learn about programming, user experience (UX) considerations for VR, optimization, launching your game and more. Twelve experts from Oculus and Unity give you in-depth lessons to help you build your own vertical slice (think, level of a game) of an escape room game. Plus, after you complete the course, you can submit your vertical slice for feedback from Oculus.

Even though this course is centered around creating a game, the principles and learnings apply to almost any type of VR content, whether you’re building practical business applications or immersive experiences as art or entertainment. You’ll find this course useful even if your interests go beyond making a game. 

The course is hosted on the Unity Learn platform.  You can learn more about Unity learn here.

In additional Oculus news, John Carmack (of id fame) has announced he is stepping down as CIO of Oculus.  His announcement came via Facebook post, excerpt below:

Starting this week, I’m moving to a “Consulting CTO” position with Oculus.

I will still have a voice in the development work, but it will only be consuming a modest slice of my time.

As for what I am going to be doing with the rest of my time: When I think back over everything I have done across games, aerospace, and VR, I have always felt that I had at least a vague “line of sight” to the solutions, even if they were unconventional or unproven. I have sometimes wondered how I would fare with a problem where the solution really isn’t in sight. I decided that I should give it a try before I get too old.

I’m going to work on artificial general intelligence (AGI).

Thankfully John is leaving Facebook before working on artificial intelligence!  You can learn more about both announcements in the video below.

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Crytek Release “Neon Noir” Real-Time Raytracing CryEngine Benchmark

Back at GDC 2019, Crytek surprised the world with a demonstration that showcased real-time raytracing without the need for modern RTX enabled hardware.  Today CryTek released that benchmark into the wild.  You can learn more about the benchmark here.

CryTek did an in-depth interview describing the process of creating the benchmark available here:

Crytek has released a new video demonstrating the results of a CRYENGINE research and development project. Neon Noir shows how real-time mesh ray-traced reflections and refractions can deliver highly realistic visuals for games. The Neon Noir demo was created with the new advanced version of CRYENGINE’s Total Illumination showcasing real time ray tracing. This feature will be added to CRYENGINE release roadmap in 2019, enabling developers around the world to build more immersive scenes, more easily, with a production-ready version of the feature.

Neon Noir follows the journey of a police drone investigating a crime scene. As the drone descends into the streets of a futuristic city, illuminated by neon lights, we see its reflection accurately displayed in the windows it passes by, or scattered across the shards of a broken mirror while it emits a red and blue lighting routine that will bounce off the different surfaces utilizing CRYENGINE’s advanced Total Illumination feature. Demonstrating further how ray tracing can deliver a lifelike environment, neon lights are reflected in the puddles below them, street lights flicker on wet surfaces, and windows reflect the scene opposite them accurately.

Neon Noir was developed on a bespoke version of CRYENGINE 5.5., and the experimental ray tracing feature based on CRYENGINE’s Total Illumination used to create the demo is both API and hardware agnostic, enabling ray tracing to run on most mainstream, contemporary AMD and NVIDIA GPUs. However, the future integration of this new CRYENGINE technology will be optimized to benefit from performance enhancements delivered by the latest generation of graphics cards and supported APIs like Vulkan and DX12.

The benchmark is available on the Crytek Marketplace and requires you to have the CryEngine launcher installed.  You can check out the benchmark running on rather antiquated hardware (at a respectable clip!) in the video below.  According to the CryEngine Roadmap we should expect to see raytracing support (with or without hardware) in CryEngine 5.7, scheduled for a Spring 2020 release.

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Xenko 3.1 Released

The open source MIT licensed game engine Xenko just released version 3.1.  We have featured Xenko several times in the past including this somewhat outdated tutorial series.  The 3.1 release is somewhat difficult to nail down what is new, as the release blog post primarily focuses on the new NuGet features:

Xenko was always a big proponent of NuGet: since first version, Xenko was distributed as a NuGet package.

However, due to limitations (hello packages.config and project.json!), we were leveraging NuGet more as a distribution medium than proper NuGet packages: Xenko 3.0 is still a monolithic single package and it would not work out of the box when referenced from Visual Studio without using Xenko Launcher and Game Studio.

Xenko 3.0 paved the way by making Xenko compatible with the new project system (game projects were referencing Xenko using a PackageReference).

Today, Xenko 3.1 brings Xenko as a set of smaller NuGet package, each containing one assembly, with proper dependencies:

GitHub

As a result, it is now possible to create a game project that references only the packages you want.

You can learn more about the release, as well as a complete unfiltered change long here.  One other thing to be aware of before upgrading to Xenko 3.1 is the requirement to use Visual Studio 2019!  You can learn more about Xenko and this release in the video below.

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Unreal Engine Game Development Bundle

There is a new bundle of interest for game developers on Humble, this is the Humble Unreal Engine Game Development Bundle featuring GameDev.tv.  It’s a collection of courses and assets (as well as the games QUBE 1 and 2) for use with the Unreal game engine.  As always the bundle is split into different tiers, where you buy a higher dollar value tier, you get all of the tiers below it.

In this bundle the tiers are:

1$ Tier

  • Unreal Cinematics Training Course
  • Q.U.B.E
  • Star Sparrow Modular Spaceship
  • Another Stylized Material Collection 8

16$ Tier

  • Math For Games Training Course
  • Unreal C++ v4.1X Training Course
  • QUBE 2
  • Master Control Material
  • Rusty Barrels Volume 2
  • Another Easy Terrain Material

20$ Tier

  • Unreal Multiplayer Training Course
  • Unreal C++ 4.22 Training Course
  • Unreal Blueprint Training Course
  • Unreal VR Training Course
  • Steampunk/Victorian Environment with Vehicles
  • Gamemaster Audio – Prosound Mini Pack
  • Slum Village Environment

As with all Humble Bundles, you can decide how your money is allocated between the publisher, humble, charity or if you so choose (and thanks if you do!) to support GFS using this link.  Learn more about this bundle in the video below.

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Unreal Studio Now Part of UE 4.24 + Twinmotion Free Longer

In addition to the Quixel acquisition news, Epic Games had a number of other announcements today, mostly in regards to non-game development uses of Unreal Engine.  The first news is that Unreal Studio and it’s associated Datasmith functionality are being rolled into Unreal Engine 4.24.  Details from the announcement blog:

As of our upcoming Unreal Engine 4.24 release, the features of Unreal Studio are being rolled into Unreal Engine and will be made available to everyone for free. Unreal Studio, which has been in open beta since March 2018, is a suite of tools and services designed to augment Unreal Engine for architecture, manufacturing, and product design; however, its features have applicability across broader markets.

The most notable Unreal Studio feature that will now become a standard feature in Unreal Engine is Datasmith, a workflow toolkit that enables you to efficiently aggregate and optimize 3ds Max, Revit, SketchUp Pro, Cinema 4D, and a wide range of CAD and BIM data in Unreal Engine.

Making Datasmith available to all Unreal Engine users brings high-fidelity, whole-scene conversion to the masses! In addition, the new Visual Dataprep makes automating data preparation workflows more accessible so smaller, design-focused teams can benefit from them.

As part of this integration all Unreal Engine users will gain static mesh editing, basic UV projections, jacketing and defeaturing optimization tools, and a Variant Manager.

Additionally they announced that the free period for TwinMotion (acquired in May) would be extended into 2020:

Previously, we’d announced that Twinmotion would remain free until November 2019; once downloaded, you can continue using the free version indefinitely. Today, we’re extending the free availability until our next release of Twinmotion, which is anticipated to ship in the first quarter of 2020. The new version will offer even greater photorealism, improved assets, tools to facilitate collaborative workflows, and more.

Twinmotion is a toolset that makes it easy to create interactive architectural scenes powered by Unreal Engine, you can check in out in action in this video.  You can learn more about both of these announcements in the video below.

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Humble Software Sale On Now

The folks over at Humble Bundle are running a deal on software until November 18th, 2019.  Included software includes game engines, art and video applications, audio applications, a 3D modeller and more.

Highlighted items from the sale include:

There are a few dozen more items on sale so be sure to check the sale homepage for more offers.  You can learn more about the sale in the video below.  All the above links contain affiliate codes that give GFS a small commission if you use them to purchase anything (and thanks if you do!).

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Top Programming Languages Of 2019

Every year GitHub release their State of the Octoverse report containing a huge number of insights drawn from datamining the massive number of public and private repositories on GitHub.  One of the most interesting parts of the report is always the most popular programming languages.  This year, the 10 most popular programming languages on GitHub are:

  1. JavaScript
  2. Python
  3. Java
  4. PHP
  5. C#
  6. C++
  7. TypeScript
  8. Shell
  9. C
  10. Ruby

The list was created using the following criteria:

Top 10 primary languages over time, ranked by number of unique contributors to public and private repositories tagged with the appropriate primary language.

Every year Stack Overflow have a similar report, drawn instead from a developer survey.  The language popularity reports are remarkably consistent between the two 2019 reports.

You can learn more about the reports watching the video below.

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Sulis Open Source Rust RPG

Sulis is an open source (GPLv3) licensed RPG written using the Rust programming language.  It is a full implementation of a western style ( Baldur’s Gate, Divinity) RPG with Lua scripting, turn based combat, dialog and inventory systems and much more.

Sulis is available for download for both Windows and LInux on sulisgame.com.  Features of Sulis include:

  • Cross platform native binaries, currently built for Windows and Linux
  • Multiple campaigns with over 8 hours of playtime, featuring both handcrafted and procedural content.
  • We are designing a detailed and fully realized world and story – check out the Lore page.
  • Designed with modding in mind – although more work still needs to be done in this area.
  • A powerful 2D graphics engine with zoom, scalable UI, HiDPI support, and a swappable graphics backend.
  • Runs on very modest hardware – even software renderers (although at a reduced frame rate).

The source code is hosted on Github.

You can learn more about, as well as see Sulis in action, in the video below.

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Unreal Engine 4.24 Preview 1 Released

Unreal Engine have just released Unreal Engine 4.24 preview 1.  Preview 1 releases are always among the most interesting as you can see all the major new features that are going to be in the next version of Unreal Engine, although like all preview/beta releases, it should not be used in production.

Major new features of UE4 4.24 preview 1 from the Unreal forums:

Animation Updates:

  • Inertial Blending (Beta). Creates a natural procedural transition between poses. It is based on bone velocities and momentum from the outgoing pose.
  • Animation Blueprint Linking (Beta). An extension to the sub-instance system allowing for dynamic switching of sub-sections of an animation graph, enabling multi-user collaboration and memory savings for vaulted or unavailable items.

Audio Updates:

  • Stream Caching (Beta). A feature enabled at cook time that significantly changes the way audio is loaded and released from memory. When enabled, almost all compressed audio data is separated from the USoundWave asset and automatically divided into separate chunks.
  • Audio Synesthesia (Beta). The Audio Analyzer module and Audio Synesthesia plugin expose extracted audio analysis data to be used for gameplay scripting via Blueprint. This enables designers to drive animations, effects and other elements tightly coupled to sounds being played in game.
  • Audio Mixer on by Default. The new audio mixer, as first announced at GDC in 2017, will now be enabled by default in 4.24. The audio mixer in UE4 uses a common software audio renderer across all platforms. This not only provides feature parity across all our platforms, it also extends the audio feature set in a wide number of areas and prepares UE4 for continued audio innovation.

Editor Updates:

  • Variant Manager Improvements. The Variant Manager allows editing and control of a variant system. It can be used in car configurators or other customizable product experiences. The variant manager also has potential for TV & broadcast applications, where users can switch between created scene setups at runtime.
  • Datasmith for Alias Wire Support Improvements. Alias Studio is a product design software used for surface modeling.
  • Sun and Sky Actor. We modified the existing Sun Positioner plugin to wrap a directional light, a sky light, and the newly introduced Atmospheric Sky created by the rendering team. The goal is to provide a workflow similar to the HDRI Backdrop actor added to 4.23, where users are provided with self contained functionality into a single actor.
  • Extended Editor UI Layouts. You can now create, save, load, export, and import multiple Editor UI layouts—even across different machines or devices. Team members can create specific Editor layouts that improve their workflow, and share these layouts with everyone on the team. .
  • New Project Workflow. The new project creation dialog has been completely redesigned! Instead of the dialog with tabs, there is now a New Project wizard. This simplifies the workflow for creating projects by breaking it up into smaller steps that are easier to understand.
  • New Toolbars for Chaos Fracture Plugin (Experimental). The UI for the Chaos Fracture Plugin has been updated! We have moved the Fracture and Cluster tools from the Modes panel into two toolbar palettes. These two palettes are designed to naturally progress through the phases of creating a destructible mesh.
  • Datasmith Improvements for 3ds Max, SketchUp, CAD, AxF

Dev Tools

  • AutoSDKs (Beta). The AutoSDK feature enables customers to distribute target platform SDKs while configuring them for the Engine on demand. UnrealBuildTool, AutomationTool and the Unreal Editor are all designed to work seamlessly with AutoSDK — the switching between SDKs is handled by UnrealBuildTool, which is invoked by the other tools.
  • BuildAgent Tool (Beta). BuildAgent is a utility for managing agents on a build farm. It supports fast cleaning of Perforce workspaces using locally stored information about file timestamps, as well as fast switching of workspaces using a local cache of files addressable by MD5 digest. It also includes functionality for parsing errors and warnings from build steps and propagating them to UnrealGameSync to display for users.

Geometry Updates:

  • Modeling Mode (Experimental). We have implemented a new Editor Mode that allows users to create and edit static mesh assets directly in the main 3D viewport using existing Actors/Components that are placed in the world. This does not replace the Static Mesh Asset Editor, but is a separate set of tools that are focused on interactive 3D modeling.
  • Modeling Mode Sculpting Tools (Experimental). Sculpting Tools are a subset of the Modeling Tools Editor Mode. We know that this kind of tool is of particular interest to artists, so we wanted to give you some details! The feature is a simplified version of 3D sculpting found in DCC tools like Mudbox or ZBrush. The basic concept is the same: you click and drag on your mesh to push the vertices around.

Mobile Updates:

  • Auto-instancing on Mobile (Experimental). We are planning to support the auto-instancing feature of the HLR on mobile devices for improved performance due to reduced draw calls. This functions the same as desktop auto-instancing, but it uses a texture instead of a buffer due to limitations on Mali devices, which can only support a buffer of 64 kb.
  • Android App Bundles. Android App Bundles are a new upload format for the Google Play Store that defers APK generation and signing to Google Play itself. Google’s Dynamic Delivery system then provides an APK optimized for a user’s device configuration automatically. As of 4.24, we will be supporting App Bundle builds through the Unreal Engine.

Networking Updates:

  • Network Engine Test Suite. In 4.24, we added automated testing features to the EngineTest project for networked features. We added a FunctionalNetTest to this project so we can create tests designed to make sure that different areas of networked games behave properly. With it, developers can test network features such as replication and RPCs between server and clients. This allows for testing with both Listen Servers and Dedicated Servers.
  • DTLS Support (Experimental). The DTLS packet handler component uses OpenSSL to implement a DTLS (https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc6347) based encryption scheme for network traffic. It provides two different approaches for accomplishing this goal, encryption based on pre-shared key values (similar to the existing AES packet handler), and a system based on exchanging self-signed X509 certificates.
  • Steam Sockets (Experimental). SteamSockets is a networking plugin that takes advantage of the new Steam network protocol layer that was introduced recently into the Steamworks SDK. This plugin empowers a project to take advantage of some of the finer benefits of Valve’s network functionality to provide a smoother (and safer) online experience for players when using Steam.

Niagara Updates:

  • System Overview (Beta). There is a new tab in the Niagara Emitter and System Editor, which gives a high-level overview of the system or emitter being edited. The System Overview panel combines the pan-and-zoom Graph node view with compact versions of the Emitter Stack. With this new panel you get something which feels similar to the Cascade editor, but matches the form, elements and style of Niagara.

Online & Media Framework Updates:

  • Pixel Streaming Updates (Beta). PixelStreaming plugin was re-architected to resolve various quality-related issues and for general improvement, plus adding features requested by current customers:
    • Fixed video encoding artifacts.
    • Improved streaming over limited bandwidth network connections like mobile networks.
    • Add “Freeze Frame” feature to Pixel Streaming API – to show a static image (either custom or automatically generated) and pause streaming by user request, e.g. to avoid wasting network traffic on user inactivity.
    • Added encoding support for AMD GPUs.
    • Early implementation, and not completely on par with NvEnc
    • Upgraded WebRTC version to release 70.
    • As an ongoing initiative, integrated PixelStreaming with UE4 Media Framework. This allows basic Pixel Streaming playback inside UE4.

Open World Updates:

  • Landscape Blueprint Brushes and Landmass Plugin (Beta). Up until now Landscape data could be imported and/or edited from the Landscape Editor Mode only. This new feature opens the Landscape data to Blueprints. It is now possible to assign Blueprint Brushes to the new Landscape Edit Layers. Those Brushes have a Render event that can be implemented in Blueprint that allows the user to inject landscape data (Height data and/or Weightmap data) into the Edit Layer.

Rendering Updates:

  • Ray Tracing Features Updates (Beta). We have a number of new improvements to highlight – some are:
    • New RTGI method that delivers faster results. (Experimental)
      • Enable it using r.RayTracing.GlobalIllumination.EnableFinalGather 1. It supports a single bounce and samples per pixel should be set to 8.
    • Improved instancing support for Instanced Static Meshes and Hierarchical Instanced Static Meshes with improved efficiency for large worlds.
    • Multi-view support for Virtual Reality devices and split-screen. (Experimental)
      • NOTE: denoiser support is not yet in Preview 1. It will come later in the preview releases.
    • World Position Offset support for Static Meshes (enabled with per-Actor setting)
    • Improved multi-bounce ray traced reflections with better support for area shadowing in reflections using samples per pixel greater than 1. We’ve also added support for SSR fallback when using the command r.RayTracing.Reflections.Hybrid.
    • Niagara VFX support for Ribbons.
  • Screen Space Global Illumination (SSGI) (Beta). We’ve added beta support for dynamic global illumination as a screen space effect. Currently, it can be enabled using r.SSGI.Quality. Use a value between 1-4 to choose a quality level. It’s intensity and tint color can be adjusted using the Post Process Volume > Rendering Features > Global Illumination category.
  • Material Layers (Beta). Will enable you to combine your Materials in a stack giving you similar functionality to Material Functions except that is supports the creation of child instances. Existing documentation on this feature can be referenced here.
  • New Atmosphere Fog Component. We have a new AtmosphereSky component which adds a physically based Earth-like atmosphere. It can be used to create exotic worlds and provides a ground view with and aerial perspectives, including ground to space views for planetary atmospheres.
  • Burley Subsurface Scattering. We’ve added the Burley algorithm to the SSS Profiles Asset. This method is more physically accurate and aims to improve the quality of skin shading and simplifying setup using physically based material properties. This SSS model targets high-end skin rendering with cleaner, more accurate falloff.
    • Enable it in the SSS Profile Asset.
    • The Editor Preview Level should be set to Cinematic
    • It requires Temporal Anti-Aliasing to be enabled.
    • For existing content using the standard SSS Profiles, it should require minimal changes to your existing content.
  • Hair and Fur Rendering and Simulation (Experimental). We have experimental support for hair rendering and simulation. In 4.24, you’ll be able to import your Alembic (.abc) groom from an external DCC application, create and setup your hair using the Groom component in UE4, Author and Edit your Material in UE4, and use Niagara to set up hair physics with some adjustable settings.
  • Runtime Virtual Texturing Improvements (Beta). We’ve continued to improve process and add useful updates to the RVT workflow for 4.24. These are some of the improvements coming this release:
    • Added settings for more refined control of your RVT through the RVT Asset.
    • Added RVT Material Types. We now have four options compared to the two in the previous release.
    • Added different RVT Base Color and Normal Storage settings for encoding.
    • Added two new RVT Asset actions through the context menu for “Find Material Using This” and “Fix Material Usage” to streamline workflows when creating or fixing RVT Assets and their references.
    • Ability to build a Streaming Virtual Texture from your RVT from its low resolution mips. This makes it more efficient to make use of both Streaming and Runtime Virtual Textures together to save memory.
    • Tied RVT to Scalability options for along with console variables to tune RVT settings per-project and/or per-platform.

Virtual Production Updates:

  • Pro Media Export (Beta). Currently, the export to disk capabilities from Sequencer is limited and does not address the production needs. We are adding Pro media codec support for Avid DNXHR to sequencer export to better integrate with film pipelines and TV Pipelines.
  • 3D Text (Experimental). As Unreal Engine becomes used in the Broadcast industry there have been a number of requests to support Geometry based 3D Text.
  • nDisplay QoL – Revised Architecture for Pawn, GameMode & Inputs. We have a number of improvements to highlight:
    • Pawn – We were forcing users to use a custom nDisplay Pawn – nDisplay would not properly work with regular Pawns or Character Classes.
    • GameMode – Must be using a Custom nDisplay Game Mode. We’re getting rid of that as well.
    • Consequences – Adding rotations via rotation components vs the controller

XR Updates:

  • OpenXR (Beta). A new UE4 plugin that utilizes the new OpenXR standard to support a wide range of VR and AR devices through a single plugin.
  • Magic Leap Update. We’ve updated the Magic Leap integration with support for their latest 0.22 SDK. This required updating almost the entire surface area of the plugin and brings us from a relatively old 0.19 integration up to what they are currently publicly shipping.

Be sure to check the complete forum post for a list of fixes and breaking changes in this release.  Check out the video below to see Unreal 4.24 preview 1 in action, including how to enable and use the new mesh modeling and sculpting tools.

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