Middleware makers Epic Games and Unity Technologies have been working on every major VR HMD revealed to date, so it’s no surprise to hear that both are involved with Google’s new Daydream platform.
Epic Games fired first. The company is of course the creator of Unreal Engine 4, and CTO Kim Liberi took to the stage of the Google I/O developer conference today to announce a partnership with Daydream that sees it integrating that middleware with the platform. Other members of the Epic team were also present in a new video (seen below) that highlighted the Daydream motion controller. The video showcased a magical VR experience in which players explored a trap-filled dungeon holding a staff that was mapped to the controller.
Unreal Engine 4 support is already available via a plug-in from Hardsuit Labs on GitHub, linked on a new Epic Game blog post. Native support will be integrated into Unreal Engine 4.12 when it launches on June 1st 2016. Daydream itself is launching this fall, so expect to see the first games developed using the engine in the next couple of weeks and months. All games will be running on Google-approved Daydream Ready smartphones, so you can also anticipate some powerful handsets powering visually striking titles.
As for Unity, Google’s Nathan Martz confirmed that native support for the engine, which is hugely popular for mobile development, is on the way. CEO John Riccitiello later arrived on stage to talk about how mobile VR is the most important part of the industry and will be defined by experiences over games or shopping, powered by the new Vulkan API. He spoke of social experiences in which families share a couch while across the globe, or visits to the Taj Mahal without leaving your house. Unity support will be arriving later this summer.
That means Unreal Engine 4 developers have a small headstart here, which is surprising given that the vast percentage of games running on Daydream’s biggest competitor, Samsung’s Gear VR, are running on Unity. That said, easily one of the more visually striking titles on that system, CCP Games’ Gunjack, runs on Unreal Engine 4, and it’s very possible that the Daydream exclusive sequel, Gunjack Next, will use it too. Could Daydream represent Epic Games’ big push for mobile VR dominance?