What Is MetaHuman Creator? Epic Games' App Makes Realistic Human Faces in Under an Hour

Character creation tools have long been a staple in video games, from Cyberpunk 2077 to Dark Souls. This week North Carolina-based developer Epic Games teased the next generation of customization software.

Dubbed MetaHuman Creator, the tool is a cloud-based computer app the company claims can reduce the time it takes developers to create "real-time digital humans" from weeks to under an hour—resulting in some uncannily life-like virtual characters.

Epic shared multiple videos showcasing MetaHuman Creator in action. It is powered by Unreal Engine, an industry-leading game development software.

"I am full rigged, reading for animation and motion capture," a female avatar made using MetaHuman Creator says in the clip, before the same animation shifts to a male avatar who explains the tool had been tested on everything from feature films to mobiles.

Introducing MetaHumans—the next-generation of digital humans. #UE4

Animation and mocap-ready, #MetaHumans will be created by you, using the new easy-to-use MetaHuman Creator.

Get a sneak peak at this groundbreaking new tool:https://t.co/oF9yUcNByn

— Unreal Engine (@UnrealEngine) February 10, 2021

Epic said MetaHuman is free for use with Unreal Engine. It said in a tweet: "Game devs only pay a 5 percent royalty once their games exceed $1 million in revenue."

According to Epic, MetaHuman Creator draws from an "ever-growing library of variants of human appearance and motion" that lets game developers sculpt every aspect of a digital character—from facial wrinkles to brow structure to eye colors.

The general concept will be familiar to anyone who has spent hours trying to recreate a human's likeness in video games, however the output quality and general smoothness of workflow appears tailored for teams working on the next-generation consoles.

Epic said MetaHuman Creator users will have the option of selecting from a diverse set of preset faces if needed. The software lets users select from "around 30 hair styles that use Unreal Engine's strand-based hair" or "hair cards" for the lower-end platforms.

At launch, it will offer 18 differently proportioned body types and different types of preset clothing for the digital avatars—helping developers to produce characters faster.

Once the dev team is happy with the digital human, they are able to download the asset and animate it using Unreal Engine performance capture tools.

It is compatible with Unreal Engine's Live Link Face iOS app, but will also support tools including ARKit, Digital Domain, Faceware, Speech Graphics and Cubic Motion.

Crucially, any animations made for one MetaHuman will be compatible with any other creation—helping developers to reuse work across projects. Epic said the tool is likely to be released in an Early Access program in the "next few months" of this year.

It said: "Creating one high-quality digital human is difficult and time-consuming. Scaling that effort to create many diverse digital humans of the quality required by next-gen platforms and high-end virtual production is a formidable task indeed."

The company released sample digital humans that developers can modify and sculpt in order to test the software, compatible with Unreal Engine 4.26.1 or later.

In June, Epic provided a first-look at Unreal Engine 5, showing off a real-time demo on a PlayStation 5 that was able to produce near photo-realistic environments and light.

MetaHuman Creator by Epic Games
A screenshot showing digital humans made by the MetaHuman Creator game development tool. Epic Games