E3 in the days of VR

By Joe Kreiner

E3 2015 will see the rise of VR as commercial reality. Though it remains to be seen how much VR will impact the show, it certainly will be a big topic of conversation. I wanted to highlight via short interviews a few of the best UE4 VR projects coming soon (and that you may see at E3).


Time Machine – Minority



Why VR?

"VR has the power to break the fifth wall - the TV screen or computer monitor. The sense of presence that VR inspires when we put on an HMD is changing how we tell stories and experience them. In the past, film and TV created conventions that limit the way we experience the world. For example, when we watch a nature documentary, we are always kept safe by the person holding the camera, who never gets attacked by the crocodile.

Some hunting games tried to move beyond that, but were always restrained by 2D flat screens. So, they failed: our brains never recognized the animals we were tracking as potential dangers, so our fight-or-flight reflex didn’t kick in. Being physically remote from the environment of the game kept us from total immersion. So then, games tried to solve that issue by making bigger, meaner monsters, but the result was the same because that huge dragon was still stuck on one side of the 2D flat screen, while we sat safely on the other side.

VR completely breaks that wall. 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. 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."

Vander Caballero, CEO/ Creative Director

Why UE4?

"UE4 maximizes our entire team’s productivity. While programmers are just as comfortable using a text programming language as a visual one, designers and artists gain a lot more independence with UE4’s powerful visual tools. As a result, designers and artists no longer have to wait on programmers to write code for them before they can implement new gameplay, materials or animations. This allows our programmers to focus on developing the game's core systems. In addition, the broad range of built-in high-level functionality in the engine, such as landscapes and the lighting system, also save us a lot of time implementing them, giving higher quality results. In the end, we get great looking results for a lot less work, so we can focus on improving the game."

How do you feel about Epic as a partner?

"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. 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."

Julien Barnoin, CTO/ Lead Programmer


World War Toons – Reload Studios



Why VR?

"For the first time in the human history, you are no longer removed from the stage.  Using VR, now you are in the middle of all the action!  We dreamed about this all our lives.  How can we not be part of it?"

Why UE4?

"Because UE4 is one of the best engines to begin with.  And it is THE best engine for VR.  :)

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 UE4."

How do you feel about having Epic as a partner?

"This is not just a lip service.  Working with Epic has been one of the most pleasant thing in the chaos of game productions.  Not only is UE4 an excellent tool to begin with, the support and feedback we've been getting through Epic team has been phenomenal!  Developers not using UE4 are simply missing out."

James Chung, CEO Reload Studios


Fated – Frima Studio



Why are you using UE4?  Why VR?

"It was only after a few demos with the DK1 that we realized that VR would change the way we tell stories and touch our audience. We knew we had to be part of this adventure and create a meaningful experience that puts story telling and emotions in the forefront. FATED was born.  When it came to choosing our engine, UE4 felt like a natural choice for us. We did several projects with previous versions of the engine and we were eager to try UE4. We are very happy with our choice so far. UE4 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."

How do you feel about having Epic as a partner?

"We've been working with Epic for a few years now and things have been great. They are extremely enthusiastic about VR which make them the perfect partner for FATED. It's comforting to know that they will do everything to support this new technology and our development. In the same way that they support us, we want to support the game developer’s community. We actually do it on our FATED blog by sharing tips and tricks and our way to use the engine in our VR game development. We think it can be useful for the game developers community and help them to create quality material."

Vincent Martel, Producteur Exécutif / Executive Producer, Frima Studio


ADR1FT - Three One Zero



Why are you using UE4? Why VR?

"We are using Unreal to create ADR1FT for a few reasons. First, we are a virtual company and we need a powerful, robust and feature-rich toolset that is universal to the game industry. There’s no question that a very large portion of AAA game development over the last decade has been created using Unreal Engine and we are purposefully leveraging that at our studio. We need to be able to have a toolset available to our employees and contractors that they know right out of the box and can be up and running in a few hours. Having a universal toolset also allows us to be able to access and hire talented, senior developers because they know the tools and don’t have to move their lives/families to wherever we are to work on ADR1FT. This has been a key success for our development process.

Second, the built-in support for Virtual Reality platforms. 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."

How do you feel about having Epic as a partner?

"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 UE4 on multiple platforms, they’ve been vigilant about helping us through the process and making sure we get all the support we need. Using a brand-new engine is challenging in any development scenario. The tech is a living, evolving work-in-progress. Epic has been awesome about sharing their roadmap with us so we can plan the best way to make ADR1FT. We’ve been treated with care and respect. It feels good to be able to reach out and get help and answers when we need it. I’ve seen this evolve over our development cycle and it’s pretty clear Epic is dedicated to supporting and nurturing their partners. That’s awesome. That’s how it should be."

Adam Orth, Founder, Three One Zero

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