Here’s how Epic Games Just Revolutionised the World of Virtual Reality

Good news – virtual reality is back. A technology which once seemed destined to be consigned to the list of nineties might-have-beens is on the rise again. And with Epic Games adding a virtual reality mode to its Unreal Editor, the sector just got the big leap forward it’s been waiting for. 

So what’s so ground breaking? Put simply, this technology allows game developers to create virtual reality content much more easily by wearing a headset. Other competitors are also on the move. Unity Technologies and Crytek have similar plans in the works, but Epic Games have stolen a march on all of them – their software can be downloaded now allowing all Unreal Engine 4 developers to get to work straight away.

Although it’s early days we’ve already seen a few hints at what is to come. Last month we saw a simple showcase of a small stone area before last week’s Game Developers Conference let people get up close to a new template featuring a Wild West theme.

This template was stacked with features such as water towers, signs, and buildings which users can fiddle with in terms of size, orientation and position with the motion-tracking functions of the HRC Vive controller.

It’s a very easy process. Duplicating items or adding new objects through the VR Editor’s asset menu is very simple – a snap to ground menu option will stop you from having to adjust your viewpoint for every single addition you make. It’s easy, intuitive and straightforward, but that’s just the start.

One thing everyone needs in a VR environment is effective navigation. Because the VR editor lets you scale your viewpoint moving from 50x to a 1:1 ratio, you can move around the environment in much the same way as a player would. There’s no need to take the head mounted display off and wait for export times to finish.

There are a number of ways a user can move around the world once zoomed-out such as rotating or pulling, jumping or teleporting, but when you’re down at player level you can move around just as the player would do.

As for other aspects of the Unreal Engine 4 VR Editor, many of these will hit you as soon as you plug in such as the texture mapping, real time lighting and so on, but what’s really clever is the stuff that lies beneath. The blueprint system allows a designer to open a single blueprint and adjust its properties within which means an object can react upon any player or AI input. This has lots of potential such as enabling developers to create more than just the visual design in VR but entire game loops and win/lose scenarios.

This VR editor is still in its infancy, but the potential is enormous. It’s clear that there is much more coming. It feels as if we’ve only scratched the surface of that this will be able to deliver. It’s gone a long way towards revolutionising video game development and becoming the standard for video game design.