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VR Digest: Free CRYENGINE V;
Unreal In-VR editor released

The week's top VR news brought to you
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VR Digest: A VR newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent
written by Ian Hamilton (@hmltn) issue 59, part 2 – March 17, 2016

VR Digest: A Virtual Reality newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent

Welcome to Part 2 of our special GDC edition of VR Digest! You can read Part 1 online here.

Unreal In-VR Editor Released for Public Testing

Developers blessed with motion controllers can get their hands on Unreal Engine’s in-VR editing mode starting today, by downloading the “dev-vr-editor” preview branch directly from Github (requires activation). Also included is Unreal’s new Sequencer tool, which is designed to enable linear storytelling.

Epic also demonstrated real-time motion capture integration, recreating this Hellblade trailer live with actress Melina Juergens wearing a facial capture rig offstage. This raises some tantalizing prospects for VR like having a live actor interact with users in virtual reality. A fascinating behind the scenes video discusses the possibilities.

“It’s really getting hard to distinguish between computer graphics and reality,” Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said. “You can see this leading to something like the Metaverse in science fiction.”

Epic announced that they will be giving away an additional $500,000 in developer grants and that Valve will be providing Vives to deserving Unreal developers who apply through Epic.
 

Crytek Releases “Free” CRYENGINE V

Crytek released CRYENGINE V with a new “pay-what-you-want” pricing model. Crytek hopes to raise additional funds through enhanced technical support tiers and paywalled learning resources. They’ve also created an Indie Development Fund which will distribute funds among three teams at a time and will be supported by donations from the community.

Crytek is creating an Asset Store, following in the footsteps of Unity and Epic, which will give them another revenue stream and make developing with the engine more approachable.

To entice Unity developers, Crytek has added a C# scripting API (the same language that the vast majority of Unity developers use). You can even edit your C# code in VR.

CRYENGINE V also adds support for PlayStation VR and the HTC Vive to its existing Oculus integration.

Meanwhile, Amazon is continuing to develop their own free game engine based on CRYENGINE, Lumberyard. It will not support Oculus runtimes below 1.0 and therefore VR support is not yet available.
 

Unity 5.4 Open Beta and New Features

Unity is moving to a new release strategy that mirrors what Epic has been using for Unreal. The engine will now be available as a stable branch and a beta branch, and beta access has been extended to all users rather than just those who pay $75 a month for Unity Pro. The goal is to get more people testing the beta so that bugs will be found more quickly and the stable branch will be, well, more stable.

Unity Asset Server has been reborn as Unity Collaborate, a new hosted version control system that provides a central repository hosted on Amazon Web Services. It will support teams of up to 15 users with almost no configuration and an easy learning curve, as well as providing an easy backup solution for solo projects.

Unity demonstrated a new lightmapper (video) that will be more performant than the oft-derided Enlighten that supplanted Autodesk’s Beast with Unity 5’s release a year ago. Enlighten will stick around, but the new system is more appropriate for use in Mobile games and VR titles.

VR was a big part of Unity’s GDC presentation, including a video about their Unity Labs team which has been working on the in-VR editor. Timoni West reprised her live demo of the in-VR editor showing a new “chessboard” feature that allows for much faster scene layout than in the previous demo and brings the Unity solution closer to Unreal's in capability.
 

Bits

Oculus announced a slate of 41 games, 30 of which will be available on March 28th alongside the first wave of Rifts. A handout at GDC revealed all of the prices and comfort ratings. Tested posted a video with impressions of half a dozen experiences, and UploadVR released a supercut of most of the games’ trailers.

Ubisoft showed off their new experimental VR title Eagle Flight on the show floor at GDC, and it demonstrates an interesting technique for mitigating discomfort in VR: the player’s field of view is reduced dramatically depending on how they are turning or accelerating. A video posted by UploadVR shows it in action.

Meta 2 Augmented Reality goggles have been making the rounds at SXSW and GDC, earning many accolades. More details have surfaced since we last discussed the headset. It offers a 90-degree field of view which puts Microsoft Hololens’ 45-degree field of view to shame, and can be pre-ordered for $949, one-third the cost of the Hololens. TechCrunch posted an in-depth video about it including more through-the-screen footage. Road to VR posits that the device is the equivalent of the Oculus DK1, promising and worthwhile for developers, but years away from a consumer product.

Allegorithmic announced the availability of Substance Painter 2, an update to what has quickly become an essential tool for game artists.

AMD unveiled its upcoming GPU plans with a new architecture -- Polaris -- offering a 2.5x improvement in performance-per-watt, thanks to a move to the 14nm manufacturing process. The upshot is that AMD’s new cards should run a lot cooler and quieter than the current generation. Also revealed was the Radeon Pro Duo, a single liquid cooled graphics card that combines two Fury X cards for and sells for $1500.

The card is aimed specifically at VR developers, following the philosophy that developers should use as much horsepower as possible to avoid sickening themselves with judder before they have been able to optimize their graphics to run on lesser hardware. The card will also offer 16 teraflops of “compute performance”, which is something that is generally not optimized for in gaming GPUs, but is useful for content creation workflows.

Themeparkreview.com took a test ride on one of Six Flags’ VR-enabled roller coasters in Georgia and came away impressed.

Manus VR finger tracking glove developer kits are now available to pre-order for $250, excluding shipping. Manus is not taking payment at this time, just reservations. The developer kit includes SDKs for Android, Windows, Linux, iOS, and OSX, plugins for Unity and Unreal, and a demo game for each supported platform. The gloves also include a mounting solution for HTC/Valve’s lighthouse sensors, which provide accurate hand tracking. A video shows the lighthouse solution working in concert with the gloves in a work-in-progress game.

Autodesk improved VR support in their Stingray engine, which gained Vive and Oculus 0.8 support.
 

VR Digest™ is a Virtual Reality Newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent, a producer of premium Virtual Reality experiences. We publish weekly on Wednesdays.

 
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