Early Access term confusing (is this an Alpha version or just a tech demo?) and some questions related to production using UE5


I find the term Early Access confusing for this release of UE5. It’s usually a term reserved for games that are still in production and that aren’t finished yet and I’m not sure why it was chosen for a major Unreal Engine release instead of using terms that are standard in the video game industry for engines (Alpha, Beta, Release). I’ve been using UE4 since the day that it was first publicly released (Alpha and then Beta and then full Release). I’ve started projects using the UE4 Alpha version and then updated the engine as newer versions became available up to the most recent release.

I would like to get some clarification about the following topics:

1 - Will there be regular updates for the UE5 engine released through the launcher until 2022 when it’s officially launched, or is this version the only one that will be available until that date, meaning that this version is a tech demo that we can play with until an official Alpha is released (the way the announcement is worded, makes me think that this is a possibility)?

2 – Is it safe to start a new project using UE5 and then update it, and adapt it until a full release version of UE5 is released, dealing with the bugs while being aware that this version is not final (just like when UE4 became publicly available - from Alpha to Release)?

3 – I’ve converted one of my newer project and so far it seems that it’s running perfectly with the addition of Lumen and Nanite. Any reasons why I shouldn’t just continue using UE5? My project won’t be completed until at least 2 years. Is it safe for me to start building it using UE5 or should I anticipate that there will be some major changes along the road that will force me to scrap everything and start from scratch (e.g. major map format change, Blueprint tech becoming obsolete and replaced by Verse, backward incompatibility with the Early Access version)?

4 – UE5 is not production ready. What does this mean exactly? Does it mean that it’s buggy or that if someone starts a project with this “Early Access” version, they can expect that they won’t be able to upgrade to newer versions in the future (official release in 2022, but what exactly will be released in 2022, the Alpha version)?

Thank you.

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  1. https://youtu.be/6W1DFdLiWN8?t=5247 (EDIT: This is post-release, read below for early access)
  2. You could, but that could potentially be a headache if you intend to use that project for production:
  3. Read the “Is Early Access Right for You?” section in Welcome To Unreal Engine 5 Early Access | Unreal Engine Documentation. The early access is stressed to be used “for testing new features”, so you should only be using it for testing, not production. Personally, I would (1) ask myself if I really need the new features in UE5 or can my game work without them, and (2) make my game primarily in UE4 and only do tests in UE5 up until UE5’s release. Remember, the UE5 full release will also support UE4 projects, so there’s no rush to convert them now.
  4. It means it’s not ready for production. Meaning things are still experimental (Nanite & Lumen docs both say they are still under development), and things can change and break previous versions. For example, from Navigating the New Unreal Editor Interface | Unreal Engine Documentation in the theme section:

I understand. I’m just wondering how this “Early Access” version compares to the initial Alpha builds that we got when UE4 became public. The wording is not super clear. Since my project is in the early stages, I’m OK with with living with bugs until an official Release, but not if this is just a tech demo. That’s the key point here, tech demo versus Alpha release. Some clarification on the subject would be welcomed. Saving hours/weeks/months of development time to bake lighting, is something that I take into consideration. I’d love Epic to chime in on the subject. If this is an Alpha build, I feel confident to move forward. If this is a tech demo, with zero public updates for the next 8 months, I won’t be using it and will continue using UE4 until UE5 is ready and an Alpha version becomes available. But, they have stated that they will be porting Fornite to UE5 in June, which means that the engine will get updates. My main question is: Will these updates be available to us? If they are switching to UE5, it’s an Alpha and it’s safe for people that are starting new projects to upgrade as well, taking into consideration that the road ahead will be bumpy. Exactly the same as when UE4 was initially released. Are my assumptions correct?

Edit: Just watched the stream that midgunner66 linked to. Frequent updates for UE5 are expected. Thank you for this valuable information!

Thank you!

You can read this to learn what early access means in Epic terms: Experimental, Early Access, and Beta features in Unreal Engine - Unreal Engine. Basically, it’s the equivalent of a beta. Their definition in that article is consistent with how they are treating UE5.

For your case, since you are planning to release your game 2 years from now, according to the docs, you can start using early access now:

Though, it does say:

You might want to consider trying UE5 Early Access if most or all of the following statements apply to you:

So I wouldn’t use UE5 exclusively.

It’s not but that’s OK. People and companies can change their mind. Nothing wrong with that.

Epic Games is retiring the “Early Access” designation in favor of the term “Beta.” (from your link).

I wonder why they’ve reversed that decision. Very confusing for experienced developers.

Thanks a lot for the information midgunner66, extremely helpful! We’ll let Epic sort out their naming convention.

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Frequent updates for UE5 are expected

Be aware that the timestamp that was linked was talking about post-stable 5.0 release, not Early Access.

They explicitly addressed the Early Access version at this timestamp: Welcome To Unreal Engine 5 Early Access | Inside Unreal - YouTube

“Maybe 1 or 2 hot fixes…similar to Previews…common issues, but after that, the next release will be 5.0”

If this is an Alpha build, I feel confident to move forward. If this is a tech demo, with zero public updates for the next 8 months, I won’t be using it and will continue using UE4 until UE5 is ready and an Alpha version becomes available.

While this may be redundant, figured I’d say my two cents: I would say this is like a beta compared to other software release pipelines, not alpha (which implies really rough edges; I would say they were “alpha” when they announced UE5), but definitely not a Tech Demo.

“You might want to consider trying UE5 Early Access if most or all of the following statements apply to you”

So I wouldn’t use UE5 exclusively.

I think this is reading into the “trying” word too much. It’s more of a suggestion of “try it out and if all of the other descriptions match your case, then go for it.”

Further, in the Compatibility section they state that UE5 EA projects will be compatible with UE5.0 stable.

With that information plus the wording in the prior sections, I made the decision to use UE5 EA exclusively for my project (that is set to release well after Q2 2022). I don’t think there’s an issue here with this, as long as you’re okay with instability over the next 6-12 months.

I’m also well versed in C++ (though my project is mostly BPs), and have no issues with diving into engine code (which I do every other day, but my project is also an advanced one so that may not apply to you).

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Thanks for the correction!

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