Videogame engine developers have spent much time promoting their platforms for use in virtual reality (VR) design in recent months, with both Unity Technologies and Epic Games adding native support for the likes of Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus. Today, the latter has presented an open discussion with three key studios concerning their forthcoming VR projects.
Speaking with Minority, Reload Studios, Frima Originals and Three One Zero – all currently working on AAA VR projects for various platforms – Epic Games received some significant feedback on their work with Unreal Engine 4’s VR compatibility. Mostly complimentary of course, the discussion offers some interesting insight into the decision of choosing an engine at high-end studios.
“We have been working with Epic for a long time now and they have always been very supportive and responsive, and our concerns have never gone unanswered,” states Julien Barnoin, CTO of Minority currently acting as Lead Programmer on Time Machine. “The amazing rate at which features are added to the engine by the Epic team is also staggering, and we’ve been regularly upgrading from each version to the next as we always find new, exciting and very useful features. The overall accessibility and openness of the team in support forums also sets an example that more companies should follow.”
Speaking about the decision to not only use Unreal Engine 4 to develop their next title, but also the reason for choosing to create a VR experience, Vander Caballero, CEO of Minority, echoes the common sentiment that this new medium offers opportunities for experiences not previously afforded by videogames:
“In our next game, Time Machine, living dinosaurs can come at you from any direction. You are not looking at them on a screen, like through a fish tank. You are in that prehistoric, dark fish tank with them, with no walls to keep you safe. That’s when the moment becomes visceral,” states Caballero. “In Time Machine, you’re a human navigating an alien environment – prehistory – among creatures no human eyes have ever seen alive… and they’ve never seen a human either. We could only have done this in VR.”
James Chung, CEO of Reload Studios, is passionate about Unreal Engine 4 to near the same extent that he is about the studio’s own forthcoming project, World War Toons. Speaking openly, Chung states: “UE4 is one of the best engines to begin with. And it is THE best engine for VR.”
Going into more detail, Chung revealed that Unreal Engine 4 wasn’t actually the studio’s first choice for World War Toons. Although he doesn’t reveal which engine they had previously been working with, he makes no bones about the fact that he’s happy with their decision to change.
“We initially started out with a competing game engine that a lot of other developers are using. But it was clear after a week or so that the quality and the kind of game we want to make would work so much better with [Unreal Engine 4].”
Frima Studios are currently working very secretively on a VR experience known as FATED. An original IP built from the ground-up to make use of the new technology, FATED is aiming for AAA quality amongst a field of indie hit-makers. Speaking of their decision to use Unreal Engine 4, Vincent Martel, Executive Producer on FATED, is also complimentary of Epic Games’ development platform.
“When it came to choosing our engine, [Unreal Engine 4] felt like a natural choice for us. We did several projects with previous versions of the engine and we were eager to try [Unreal Engine 4]. We are very happy with our choice so far,” comments Martel. “[Unreal Engine 4] is exceptionally powerful and built with rapid iteration in mind. It is something essential to pretty much any game development, but even more when it comes to VR.”
The final developer to offer words on the effectiveness of Unreal Engine 4 as a platform for VR comes from a studio currently developing their title for multiple platforms and editions which do not actually support a head-mounted display.
“Epic has been a tremendous partner and supporter of Three One Zero and ADR1FT. They have bent over backwards to help us and make us feel like family. As one of the 1st games shipping in [Unreal Engine 4] on multiple platforms, they’ve been vigilant about helping us through the process and making sure we get all the support we need,” states Adam Orth, CEO Three One Zero. “ADR1FT was conceived with VR in mind from day one. It was important to us to use a toolset that frees us from the constraints of technical hurdles so we can create the most unique and compelling VR experience for ADR1FT. Since VR is an unknown frontier at this point, we wanted to stack the deck in our favor… UE4 was the obvious choice for us. [sic]”
All four of these titles promote high quality visuals design and gameplay designed to compliment the current state of VR. Working hard to avoid design issues that may induce simulator sickness or even discomfort in the player, these studios look set to become four of the key players in VR over the next 18 months. VRFocus has met with each of these teams over the past few months and will be sure to keep you updated with all the latest details on each of the forthcoming VR titles.