Next week, Epic Games plans to launch a preview release of Unreal Engine 4.8 (UE). The big deal with this build is that it will have support for Valve Software's SteamVR. And because UE4.8 will be free to use, anyone will be able to download the engine and get started in creating games and other experiences that support Valve's SteamVR platform.
"SteamVR with Unreal Engine 4 is plug-and-play, and with the full advantage of features such as room-scale VR, input, and Lighthouse, Valve's laser-based tracking solution," Epic Games' press release stated. "SteamVR is completely integrated into Unreal Engine 4 across Blueprint visual scripting and native code, so projects can be built without dependency on programmer support if desired."
Two applications already include support for SteamVR. One is an upcoming fishing sim called Dovetail Games Fishing, which is powered by UE4 and was previewed in Valve's booth during GDC. Another SteamVR application is called Showdown, developed by Epic, which can be seen in the upcoming HTC Vive headset. Powered by SteamVR, the Vive headset is scheduled to arrive in consumer hands during the 2015 holiday season.
News of SteamVR support arrives after Epic Games dropped the monthly subscription requirement for Unreal Engine 4 back in March. Although the engine is free to use, developers will still be required pay a 5 percent royalty fee after the resulting product brings in $3,000 per quarter. Tim Sweeney called the move a simple arrangement; Epic succeeds when the developer succeeds.
"This is the complete technology we use at Epic when building our own games," Sweeney said. "It scales from indie projects to high-end blockbusters; it supports all the major platforms; and it includes 100 percent of the C++ source code. Our goal is to give you absolutely everything, so that you can do anything and be in control of your schedule and your destiny."
Revealed back in March, Valve's SteamVR is a "full-featured 360 degree room-scale VR experience." The HTC Vive Developer Edition launches this Spring and includes two single-handed wireless controllers, two base stations and the headset. A tracking system keeps tabs on the orientation and position of the headset and controllers.
In addition to SteamVR, Valve also provides an OpenVR version for developers who don't want to use Steam.