Unity lays groundwork for more VR games with latest upgrade

The company has added native support for the Oculus Rift, and more are on the way

PCWorld senior writer Brad Chacos using the original Oculus Rift developer kit.

PCWorld senior writer Brad Chacos using the original Oculus Rift developer kit.

Virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift will never make it big without lots of content. To help developers build games for such platforms, Unity Technologies has begun adding VR-specific features to its suite of cross-platform development tools.

Unity's platform is already used to build games for smartphones, PCs, TVs and game consoles. Now, the company has, like many others, caught the VR bug. Unity version 5.1, which was launched on Tuesday, includes a first round of VR features.

Native Oculus Rift support is now available to all Unity users. To help developers, the update to Unity's platform also handles a number of VR-specific features out of the box. Important basics such as head tracking and the correct field of view are applied automatically and rendered in stereo. Support for Microsoft's HoloLens and Gear VR from Samsung will be added in the near future. The company said it didn't have anything to announce regarding native support for HTC's Vive. But there are already third-party SDK's for that device, including Google's Cardboard and others.

Version 5.1 will also add the Unity Multiplayer Service, to make it easier to build multiplayer games. The Multiplayer Service is currently in preview but will become generally available soon. It offers a Matchmaker server, designed to make it easier for gamers to find others to play with, and a Relay server, which aims solve connectivity problems for players trying to connect to each other behind firewalls.

These are the first multiplayer and VR features that will be native to the Unity software, and they are just first steps, the company said.

Version 5.1 can be downloaded from Unity's website. Developers can choose between the free Personal Edition or the Professional Edition, priced starting at US$75 per month, or $1,500.

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