Developers Will Soon Code VR Games Inside Virtual Reality

The new tool works for creators of VR games as well as traditional ones.

Epic Games, developer of the Unreal Engine 4 video game creation software, has announced a new tool that will let game developers design in virtual reality.

The new tool obviously makes sense for developers working on games that will also be played in virtual reality, but can be used to make traditional games as well.

Using a combination of virtual reality headsets and motion controllers, game designers can move, see, modify and immerse themselves in their Unreal Engine 4 game world as they're creating it.

Epic Games technical director Mike Fricker and community manager Chance Ivey debuted the editor on a Twitch stream Thursday. They demonstrated the ability to drop into the full Unreal Engine 4 editor and interact with objects in a 3D space, grabbing things with two hands instead of with a mouse and keyboard.

Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney feels the innovative way of editing will open up the VR medium for an even larger segment of the population. He sees people who edit Minecraft maps as the perfect users of the new software.

"Especially non-programmers and creative folk," Sweeney said. "It's much easier to edit in VR when you can just reach out and move the object."

The editor includes the traditional control points and interface that game makers who use the Unreal Engine 4 would be used to using. An iPad appears in your virtual hands when the editor needs to access the design interface. Already, most of the features are enabled in the VR version of the software and they are quickly implementing the rest.

Motion controllers were key to the success of the editor, Sweeney said. They had tried mouse and keyboard alongside joysticks and other interfaces. The Oculus Touch and HTC Vive, handheld controllers that allow a user to interact through movement and gestures, made the difference in how the editors operated in the virtual space.

"I had never really grasped how intuitive it can be until we prototyped it," Sweeney said.

There are still some shortcomings as text can be difficult to read, and coding in the C++ language is challenging when in the lower resolution virtual world. Sweeney says that 24,000 pixels in height per eye would be needed to achieve true visual acuity, and we're not there just yet.

Still, he and Fricker compared old editing software to the horse and buggy, and the new software to Henry Ford's Model T.

Epic Games hope to announce much more info at the Games Developer Conference on March 16.