Unity Adds 'Chessboard UI' Feature To VR Scene Editor

GDC begat a sub-show called VRDC, an apt bolt-on notion a year ago, but now virtual reality has become part of the fabric of the game development conversation. Epic’s annual GDC address takes place Wednesday morning and promises some surprises, but if it’s anything like Unity’s (Tuesday) or Crytek’s (Tuesday), VR will be front and center.

It all began last month, when both Epic and Unity unveiled VR editing capabilities -- tools that literally allow designers and developers to don headsets and manipulate objects in VR, for VR.

Unity’s lead designer, Timoni West, who was last seen revealing Unity’s VR Scene Editor tool at VR LA, took to the stage again this past Tuesday to show off a brand new feature called The Chessboard. This is a more advanced editing mode with a new user interface tool and mechanics to help you manipulate objects in a much more precise and efficient way.

The Chessboard acts as smaller squares of objects on the scene. You can grab objects from one palette and place them on the small scene and manipulate those objects by hand (or controller). West used the Oculus Touch Controllers. As you place or scale objects, you still keep a global perspective — that is, of the bigger scene. Move an object on the Chessboard and it moves in real time in the grander, overall scene. West also showed how developers can take light and move it and manipulate it to see what it does to a scene. West called it “playing with the best dollhouse in the world.”

You can watch the entire Unity event in the YouTube video below if you don’t have anything to do for the next two hours, or you can skip to 1:56 and watch West play in the dollhouse.

Earlier in the week I met with Sylvio Drouin, executive vice president of Unity Labs, who noted that there were limits to what someone will want to do in the Scene Editor. Although it’s a great way to lay out a scene, it would be rather difficult to work too long on complex design in VR today.

Although West said on stage that Unity doesn’t have a ship date yet, Druin said the plan was to have an Alpha release in July.

Fritz Nelson is the Editor-In-Chief of Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Follow us on Facebook, Google+, RSS, Twitter and YouTube.

Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson is Editor-at-Large of Tom's Hardware US.