Run, Don't Walk
Xenko team is taking a look into the recent trend of VR.
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Not so long ago, I heard some advice about supporting new features in a game engine that I hear often: Walk, don’t run. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Developers and artists need the basics to make any game, namely, a stable, state-of-the-art rendering system with things like support for PBR, efficient use of lighting technology, a decent physics engine, a functional U.I. system, pipeline optimizing shortcuts, a way to handle coding frameworks efficiently and much more. However, even for a game engine that needs to accommodate traditional game deployment platforms such as PCs, console and mobile devices, game industry software tool development teams rarely follow any kind of linear or waterfall product management techniques. Agile methods have allowed product managers and teams to sprint to support certain higher priority features as needed, some market driven, some purely technically driven. Not surprisingly, this is the way the Xenko game engine effort is handled at Silicon Studio, which allows us to react quickly to industry trends. Such has been the case with virtual reality (VR).
The largest disruption to the whole walk, don’t run philosophy we’ve seen the last two years has to be, without a doubt, the race to prepare game engines to support development for VR. Staying current and reacting to key trends in both the end-user market and in game development has always been a part of Silicon Studio Corporation’s strategy. We’ve spoken with many game industry leaders, notable game developers, and attended key industry conferences, all the while - listening and learning. Most every commercial game engine (and even most non-commercial games) have decided to change direction and embrace VR because of the VR market’s rapid growth. We, as well, must be prepared for the next generation of gaming and interactive experiences.
We want to make it easy for you to follow this new trend in gaming with us, by offering you a truly VR-friendly game development tool. We know there are many new and improved features game engines need to be useful for developing games and apps in VR. Therefore, we have decided to change course somewhat for our Xenko game engine plans - before we even release version 2.0, while we are still young, nimble and in beta. We realize VR is disrupting the work of some (most?) developers, but we haven’t forget those folks not interested in VR. We’ll keep improving the engine for our non-VR game developers as well. This said, we think - in the not very long run - you will be pleased with how well Xenko supports your VR development. For one, we know it’s necessary to make our rendering pipeline more flexible - to meet the demanding needs of VR. Also, thanks to the rapidly increasing popularity of VR content creation and experiences, expect cool new features as well to help you get started creating VR content.
Therefore, we are now 100% on track to support VR in Xenko. So, what does this mean? First of all, the technology hints were in place before the decision was made in July. Important rendering, lighting, and audio features were already in place or planned to soon to be in place. For instance, Forward Clustered rendering, touted as the best rendering for VR, is now supported, our support for Oculus Rift is in place, our performant multithreading and back-end support of next generation APIs such as Vulkan smooths the way for AAA style VR games needing the best possible performance, and last but not least, we are working on adding HRTF support to our audio system to accommodate a sense called proprioception, necessary for a true VR audio experience.
In conclusion, let’s not bury the lead here: the game industry disruption caused by this race to widely support VR, trough of disappointment or not, is the reason why Xenko is now on track to become the first built-from-scratch comprehensive VR engine for game developers.