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Ether One Dev Talks Unreal Engine 4, Improved VR Support and Project Morpheus

Earlier this year VRFocus awarded its first 5/5 review to Ether One, the debut effort from Manchester-based indie developer White Paper Games. The title’s narrative and presentation were top notch, making it all the more exciting when the developer confirmed it would be porting Ether One to Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4 and releasing it on PlayStation 4 as well as an updated PC launch. VRFocus recently caught up with the developer’s Pete Bottomley to talk about the up date.

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In the interview below Bottomley talks about exactly what is being upgraded in the new version of Ether One as well as touching upon possible Project Morpheus support and if previous players can expect to pay twice for the experience.

VRFocus: Why are you promoting Ether One post-release?

Pete Bottomley: The main reason we’re here is we’re doing a rerelease of Ether One on the Unreal Engine 4 because we’re releasing with Sony and using the Unreal Engine 4 is much more affordable for smaller studios so we decided to make the effort to push it out on PC and hopefully other platforms as well as that. And so we’re just building the game from the ground up and going from there.

VRFocus: When you say ‘from the ground up’, you’re revisiting every scene?

Pete Bottomley: Exactly. The game design is going to stay exactly the same so it won’t be a different game. Obviously the visuals will change with the different engine, but it is building it from the ground up. It’s not just porting it straight over, we’re redoing all of the gameplay, programming and the scripting. All that sort of stuff is having a full overhaul.

VRFocus: There was a blog post that said you were pushing VR. Can you talk more about that?

Pete Bottomley: So we’ve got a couple more events. We’re over at IndieCade in California which will be awesome because we’ve never been outside of England before. And so once we get the demos out of the way – we kind of just had to build a demo to showcase – so once we get the demos out of the way we’re gonna focus on polishing up one full area which is an outdoor harbour area and it works really well on the Oculus implementation for Ether One. And so we’re just gonna polish that up, work on the VR and hopefully just start it from the ground and get something good.

I mean people seem to really like the Oculus integration the first time round but I think we can do a much better job and we’ve learned a lot since we implemented it, so it will give us a good excuse to really get going with it.

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VRFocus: You’ve always been hitting at a PS4 version coming along. Can you talk about the process of getting Ether One onto PS4 and how Sony have been with you guys?

Pete: Bottomley: Yeah, Sony have just been awesome. Working with Sony and Epic Games with the Unreal Engine, both companies just really love games and they know you by name and are really personable. When you need any help they’re always there offering support, so Sony are providing the kits and just providing support in any way they can. They’ve been really good and it’s good that they’re taking chances with small games like ours I guess.

VRFocus: Fans have asked what might happen for people who have already bought Ether One when the new versions release?

Pete Bottomley: So I can’t confirm anything yet because we can’t confirm what the situation will be. But what I’m hoping, and I’ve spoken to the licencing at Epic Games and they seem to think this is an okay thing to do, but we’re hoping to just give it away for free on Unreal Engine 4 for people that already bought it. We’re not going to try and charge people for a game that they already have.

And then whether we by default start selling the Unreal Engine 4 version on Steam, I’m not sure because it might override people’s UDK [Unreal Development Kit] saves and stuff like that. Anyway that’s complicated stuff. I’m hoping it will be easy once we get there but we’re not planning on charging for anyone that’s already got the game.

VRFocus: So presumably you’re working with DK2 on the new version?

Pete Bottomley: Yeah, we’ve got one that we have access to but we’ve not started working on the integration just yet. We’re hoping to just go straight in with Unreal Engine 4. Depending on how easy it is we might put it in the UDK version with just a patch. I’m not sure how easy that would be, but it will definitely be in the UE4 version.

VRFocus: So there’s a chance it could reach the original version of Ether One as well?

Pete Bottomley: Yeah, I mean I honestly don’t know. Because integrating Oculus into the Unreal Engine is pretty straight forward because they have such good connection with each other and just the basic implementation was pretty quick and then it’s just about fine tuning stuff and making sure it feels good. If that’s the same case with the DK2 then, yeah, I don’t see why not. But again it’s just down to time and we really want to focus on getting the Unreal Engine 4 version polished and out there for people to start playing.

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VRFocus: And what kind of time scale are you thinking of right now for the Unreal Engine 4 release?

Pete Bottomley: So the last few months have been going so quickly. It’s really easy to get going on the Unreal Engine 4. We think internally we can get the game polished off for Christmas. Now whether that’s completely bug-free and shippable I’m not sure but we definitely plan to have the game finished by then. And then we just have to talk with Sony about when is it a good time to release, what their plans are and kind of start building some kind of attack plan for them.

VRFocus: How’s the reaction been here at EGX?

Pete Bottomley: Really good. I mean a lot of people saw the Gamescom reveal and they were like ‘what is this game?’ because it’s kind of like a small indie game on the PC market and not as many PlayStation people have seen it. They’re all more curious about the game and they pick it up, put some headphones on and people seem to be getting immersed and just playing it for a while, which is really good and will help us get it out to a lot more people I think.

VRFocus: In terms of story content, is there anything different at all?

Pete Bottomley: No, as a team we’re going to keep everything the same. I mean we’re really happy with the gameplay, really happy with the narrative. Even if there were a couple of things I wanted to change I’m not going to change because we want to keep it consistent with the original thing. The only thing that’s going to change is obviously the updated visuals and the engine.

VRFocus: What about Project Morpheus support on PlayStation 4?

Pete Bottomley: So obviously we’re releasing on PS4, the Rift was a really good part of the experience of Ether One and people really seem to like it. I’m hoping we can get Morpheus support. Obviously nothing confirmed yet but we just want to start playing with the kit, hopefully just check it out. I’m feeling hopeful that it should be really good but we just can’t confirm anything yet.

VRFocus: It seems like a logical step seeing as its already on Oculus. It doesn’t seem like it would be hard to implement.

Pete Bottomley: Dev relations guys at Sony, they’ve been saying that they worked pretty closely with Epic to make sure that it was as easy to implement as possible. If that’s true and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be because Oculus was easy to implement then I’m hoping. You know it’s just about getting it really nice so, you know, fingers crossed.