The Influence of Gaming in the Digitization of the Built Environment: Interview with Epic Games' David Weir-McCall

The Influence of Gaming in the Digitization of the Built Environment: Interview with Epic Games' David Weir-McCall

Epic Games operates one of the world’s largest games, Fortnite, and also develops Unreal Engine, the most advanced real-time 3D creation tool that powers Fortnite and is used in industries beyond games. Over the last few years, more professionals in architecture and related fields are using Unreal Engine to bring stunning, photorealistic worlds to life.

In an exclusive interview with ArchDaily, David Weir-McCall, Architecture Industry Marketing Manager at Epic Games, shares his insights on the use of digital technology, such as the likes of Unreal Engine, for collaboration and co-design within the field of architecture, engineering, and construction.

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From Epic Games' Build: Architecture 2021. Image © Lucian R.

What is Unreal Engine and what are the benefits of using it as a visualization tool for architectural viz and multi-platform immersive experiences?

Unreal Engine provides solutions for creators that need to author content or experiences for a broad range of projects – from interiors and individual buildings to masterplans and entire cities. Unreal Engine can be leveraged by specialists alongside other industry software like 3ds Max, Revit, Rhino, SketchUp, and many more, to create photorealistic visualizations. It’s the pinnacle of our creative suite, which creators can progress projects onto after first building them in Twinmotion, our less-technical program designed for non-specialists. What makes Twinmotion special is that it can be learned in a very short amount of time, and projects started in Twinmotion can be easily imported into Unreal Engine so the full power of the engine can be unleashed in real-time.

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The Process. Image Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects
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The Process. Image Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

The industry is still learning the benefits of real-time technology compared to traditional means of rendering, but there are two key benefits people should keep in mind: The first is the concept of “what if’s per hour.” Photorealistic, real-time results mean you can evaluate more creative decisions per hour – giving you more creativity. It also means you can evaluate more issues per hour – making you more productive.

The second benefit is the “time machine” effect that this technology brings to the end-to-end process. This ability to experience the future via real-time technologies means customers can anticipate issues or problems long before the first wall is erected or the concrete is poured. And those costs of design changes rise exponentially over the life of a build, so it’ll save money, resources, and headaches down the road.

With Unreal Engine, real-time visualizations can now be used for engaging, collaborating, and even entertaining peers and stakeholders. From optimizing creativity to finding problems before they cause major issues, this technology is helping teams as the project goes from virtual to physical.

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The Process. Image Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

How have gaming and digital immersive realms and environments influenced the practice of architecture and engineering today? How does gaming translate into other forms of multi-platform immersive experiences?

Game developers are experts at creating vast, believable, immersive worlds. Literature, film, and TV also create engaging worlds for their fans, but where the games industry excels is with interactivity. These virtual worlds are bustling with life, and the players can interact with these characters and environments in ways that aren’t possible in linear entertainment.

There is a significant need for people with real-time visualization skills to help shape the future across industries, and interactive 3D storytellers and designers will be in greater demand over the next decade, whether that’s across architecture, animation, live events, automotive, simulation – non-games industries are embracing the possibilities with real-time interactive content.

For professionals across the built environment, solving complex problems requires visualizing them in 3D and visually communicating them to stakeholders who may not be capable of understanding traditional 2D drawings. Whether it is a photo-real digital twin of a city for urban planners to understand a new development, or a construction team planning their logistics on-site, the future will be built by those that best understand how real-time works. Unreal Engine and Twinmotion unlock these opportunities and solutions across the industry.

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Using Twinmotion. Image © KPF

How is the use of digital technology applicable to the field of architecture, engineering, and construction?

The recent pandemic has taught us the value of moving to a digital basis for goods, services, and systems so that disruption and adaptability can be more seamlessly managed in the event of change (whether unexpected or managed). The built environment is very much a part of these interconnected systems, and as the pandemic underlined, building in new methods of design and communication tools is critical to futureproof the way in which architects and stakeholders can collaborate and problem solve globally through increased digitization processes.

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The Process. Image Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

This digital “twinning” of designs and processes is now very much underway, which will unlock even more value for increasingly more stakeholders: For example, a project that starts with an architecture firm might become a tool for visualizing simulation results with an engineering firm, then evolve into a method of optimizing construction and minimizing waste. That same model might then become an operational digital twin or something that a homeowner has as a reference for future renovation efforts. It is only a matter of time before this digital-physical infrastructure becomes more connected and integrated, and we see transition being better enabled through Unreal Engine and Twinmotion.

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From Epic Games' Build: Architecture 2021. Image Courtesy of BIG | Terminus Group

How can the use of digital technology improve workflow at both a collaborative and creative level?

Collaboration is hard if you don’t have a common vision or understanding of what you’re working on. If you’re not using real-time technology to have a shared presence or understanding, it’s like you’re in two separate rooms and trying to describe to each other what the problem is or how the design looks. While a static image is essential and will never go away, the idea of stepping into the static image and turning it 3D to gain insights into scale, dimensions, materials, and lighting is really the domain of an interactive experience. If you can be in the same “place” as a collaborator - even if they are a thousand miles away, this is clearly going to be more efficient and cheaper than if you have to fly somewhere to review a design issue. The more complex the problems become, the more you need robust and effective collaboration tools to address concerns early. This “real-time” enablement is what has many firms excited about using our technology.

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From Epic Games' Build: Architecture 2021. Image Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects
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From Epic Games' Build: Architecture 2021. Image Courtesy of CENTRUS

What does the future of the field of architecture, engineering, and construction look like when paired with the growing advancements in technology, specifically Unreal Engine?

The need to represent the physical world in a virtual fashion will begin to drive the next wave of technological advancement, in which these digital offerings become part of the metaverse. With this added dimension of real-time integration, whole new experiences can be constructed and new methods of engaging with customers and stakeholders will be possible. The path to that future will be enabled by Unreal Engine.

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About this author
Cite: Jullia Joson. "The Influence of Gaming in the Digitization of the Built Environment: Interview with Epic Games' David Weir-McCall" 07 May 2022. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/981411/the-influence-of-gaming-in-the-digitization-of-the-built-environment-interview-with-epic-games-david-weir-mccall> ISSN 0719-8884

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