Epic Games has released the latest version of Unreal Engine 4, which adds some key new tools for virtual reality developers.
Arguably the most interesting feature of 4.12 is the VR Editor, which enables devs to build their game’s environments form within virtual reality itself. Announced at GDC and initially released via GitHub, this is a preview of the final version that will be released at a later date.
The VR Editor uses motion controllers to select and place objects, as well as navigate a repurposed UE4 interface. The current iteration requires HTC Vive or the Oculus Touch.
Epic stresses that this is “an early experimental feature” and the team will be “improving it continuously over time”.
Also of interest to VR devs is support for Daydream, Google’s new virtual reality platform. Dedicated to creating mobile VR experiences, the Daydream tech is still available in UE4 for those who have yet to receive a full dev kit from Google. It can also be used to create Google Cardboard apps.
UE4.12 is not all about virtual reality – it also introduces the real-time cinematics and animation tool Sequencer, which was shown off at GDC. The successor to Matinee, this allows devs to edit and produce their in-game cutscenes using new tools such as automatic keyframing, cinematic cameras and live gameplay recording.
It should be noted that as of 4.12, C++ programmers on Windows will require Visual Studio 2015 to use Unreal Engine – fortunately that includes the free Express and Community editions.
There are more additions and improvements, including real-time planar reflections, dual-normal clear coat shading models, and previews for OSVR support and the Vulkan mobile renderer. You can find out more in the Unreal Engine 4.12 release notes.