How practical is Niagara for game dev?

I’m curious how people’s interactions and use of Niagara have gone. It is obviously an insanely powerful tool but how practical is it for actual game development versus cascade? The learning curve is pretty steep, and basically involves learning a new language and ways of thinking about fx- Has anyone integrated it into their regular pipeline or is it primarily used for one off vfx?

Another thing I’m curious about, how is everyone keeping up with all the new techniques and possibilities that have opened up to vfx artists in the past couple of years?

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Hey @EdwardLouis I’ve been using cascade for the past 8 years, even when UDK was around (old unreal engine), recently I started switching to Niagara and I must say there are a lot of similarities between Cascade and Niagara. Definitely a lot of “transferable knowledge” there.

Niagara has a lot of additional features and options, I did explore some of them but definitely I did not even scratch the surface of it. Definitely worth to start investing time to learn it as it will replace Cascade at some point imo.

In terms of Niagara and production, I have not used it yet but I’ll be pushing for it asap. The only issues I’ve got so far with it is the LOD system as I cannot find it in Niagara :slight_smile: other than that no issues.

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You make a good point. Niagara likely will become the standard. But yeah I still can’t figure out how LODs are handled either lol

I believe the fortnite team have used Niagara in their workflow.

I’ve done a few tests with it before, and it very much feels like a step up in freedom. If a certain particle behavior isn’t in the engine just yet, nothing stops you from just adding it in.

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We’ve used 100% Niagara for our 2 latest projects, (we’re a 50-100 people studio). The first project was a bit difficult because Niagara was pretty unstable back then. This time around we are very comfortable with it but it still requires our Engine programmers to go in and fix things here and there, not nearly as much as last time though.

Personally, in production, I’ve been using it for about 1 year and it’s been pretty smooth, i definitely think it’s production ready, it would help if you have programmers capable of fixing issues here and there though. One minor inconvenience is whenever we pull a new build, it’s a bit of a hassle to go through all the systems to fix deprecated modules, this doesn’t happen as much lately though.

Before Niagara, i was using Cascade and i honestly don’t think there is too much of a difference, the UI is different of course, but the logic is still the same. You do have a lot more power with Niagara though and if you pick up Niagara scripting as well, the possibilities are pretty much limitless. That is probably the only issue i have with Niagara, up until very recently there was pretty much no documentation for it. Some very basic Niagara scripting examples would go a long way to help beginners get into it.

If you or your studio is already working in UE4, i would say try to make the switch to Niagara sooner rather than later, i personally don’t see a reason to cling to Cascade longer than you have to.

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We tried to use Niagara in production and it was very cool in terms what you can do and how easy. We didn’t found a lot of trouble in learning and overall conversion of existing effects was very quick. But there are still some stability issues with it so we returned to Cascade until official release of Niagara out of beta.

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How practical is a race car? Not very, unless you’re racing. I’d say, if your project had potential for expanded fx integration, a team size to handle it and time, definitely go for it. It will be slower than just cascade for your first project and potential other unknowns. Its definitely production ready.
When I was in film I wanted to learn whatever the latest fx tool what. Sometimes I could, other times the project just didn’t make sense to integrate it. There’s always something out there new to learn I generally wait for the project to dictate when to learn it. Mess around enough to get what it can do, watch demos and keep it in mind for the right time to go deep into it.

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