Epic Games has made several significant changes to its popular virtual reality (VR) compatible engine, Unreal Engine 4, in 2015. While new updates have arrived at regular intervals, the company also took the chance at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in March to reveal that the engine would be made available for free. Yet another important addition is due to arrive next week, as Epic Games ships the first preview release of Unreal Engine 4.8, which will include official support for Valve’s SteamVR system.
The company notes that Unreal Engine 4.8 will feature ‘plug-and-play’ integration with SteamVR, allowing for easy development across the system’s unique features. This includes the room-scale tracking, in which users can walk around in an area of up to 15 feet by 15 feet and have those movements replicated in-game thanks to a laser-based tracking solution known as Lighthouse. Support for SteamVR’s input solution, a pair of motion-tracked controllers, is also included while there’s also integration into Blueprint visual scripting and native code so developers need not depend on programmers for its use.
Developers will be able to test and utilise these features for themselves with the first head-mounted display (HMD) to use SteamVR, the HTC Vive. The kit recently opened sign up pages for studios to apply for a free developer edition of the device. Units are expected to ship in the near future and continue to go out throughout summer 2015. The kit itself is expected to launch in time for holiday 2015.
“Epic is once again taking a leadership position in the technology solution space by embracing the industry-wide momentum toward VR,” said Gabe Newell of Valve. “With SteamVR integrated into its engine tech, Epic is making it that much easier for Unreal Engine developers to be successful.”
VRFocus will continue to follow both Unreal Engine 4 and SteamVR, reporting back with the latest updates on both.