Game Developer's Conference: Virtual Reality and Game Engines Going Free
by Ryan Black | published Mar. 15th, 2015
Virtual Reality (VR)
Prominent game and software developer Valve announced its VR headset Vive, which is the product of a partnership between them and HTC.
Sony showed off Project Morpheus for the PS4 and announced that players will see it on the market in the first half of 2016.
Oculus, a prominent VR tech company, helped showcase the new edition of the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition, which is designed as an auxiliary device to the recently revealed Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. Also exhibited was the version of Oculus Rift that was unveiled late last year, the “Crescent Bay.”
According to Ian Schreiber, an assistant professor in RIT’s School of Interactive Games and Media, VR technology is not quite ready yet. In an email interview, he explained that VR tech is still a few years from the point where it will be both user-friendly and inexpensive enough to warrant investment by both players and developers.
“As with consoles, no one is going to develop for a particular VR peripheral until there are many people who own one," he explained. "There won’t be a lot of users until there’s a ‘killer app’ for it.”
Schreiber notes that this is where student developers could potentially come in. Professional game developers are not in a position to fashion their business models around VR since they need an install base to sell their games to.
This gives student developers, if they have access to the technology, a window in which they can experiment and possibly “create that ‘killer app.’” Schreiber stresses that “Students don’t have a perpetual monopoly on innovation here, just a temporary one until the tech reaches mass-market status.”
Game Engines Go Free
After Epic Games announced on March 2, 2015 that they would be dropping Unreal Engines 4's monthly subscription model, both Valve’s Source 2 and Unity Technologies’ Unity 5 were unveiled as free for users as well.
However, there are a few stipulations. Epic states there is a 5 percent royalty after the first $3,000 per product, per quarter for any game sold using their engine. Unity, along with their free version, is also offering priced “professional” and “enterprise” tiers.
Educators are faced with deciding whether or not to keep going with the current curriculum in order to minimize what Schreiber described as a “disruption to current students” or to implement any of the new engines into Game Development classes.
Schreiber says that even then, there is the question of whether or not to pick one or all of the engines. Centering curriculum around one might make students experts in a particular engine, but as he notes, teaching all of the engines may give them the skills to learn new tech.
“There is no clear, obvious, one-size-fits-all solution, and it’s a major question that all schools will be asking moving forward from here."