Creating virtual 3D worlds has been a dream of programmers for many decades. Virtual reality, once a faraway fiction, is becoming a reality. Failures such as Nintendo’s infamous Virtual Boy are now a distant memory, and major successes including PSVR and Google Cardboard have become the norm for the emerging technology. In fact, Statista projects incredible growth for virtual reality, estimating that the market will expand to $40 billion by 2020.
Creating Your Own VR Apps is Possible
Creating your own virtual reality applications is more possible now than ever. The cost to participate in virtual reality, for both consumers and developers, has lowered dramatically in recent years, and a plethora of tools is now available for new development teams to enter the fray.
One of the most important elements to your virtual reality development process is the engine you use to build with. Unless you have unlimited time and unlimited resources, it’s in your best interest to use a commercial engine rather than create one yourself.
Developing VR Apps with Premium Engines
Akin to other development environments, there are many free-to-use and open source engines at your disposal. You’ll have plenty of options to choose from, but you’ll need to educate yourself about these tools to ensure you’re making the best project in regard to your specifications.
The Unreal Engine and Unity have been used for myriad 3D video games and virtual reality applications. They have been classic choices for video game development and even for mobile app development.
The Unreal Engine is free to use and allows development teams to create their own interactive applications at no cost. Once your application is developed, however, you’ll have to share a small percentage of your profits with the Unreal team.
How to Build VR Apps Without Coding
Interestingly, you can code your entire application with simple logic alone through the use of their Blueprint Visual Scripting functionality. With Blueprints, you can design programmatic actions, methods and computer behavior without writing a single line of code.
This design feature isn’t available on any other major engine. If you have a design-heavy team, filled with more analytical designers and artists than programmers, you may want to consider using the Unreal Engine.
Why Unity is a Developer Favorite
Unity, a similar engine yet underpowered when compared to Unreal, allows developers to use their engine for a small upfront fee, but you won’t have to pay out any royalties once you’ve purchased the program. To use Unity, you’ll need to have a team with strong C# skills.
If you don’t have a strong background in C# and don’t have the funds to bring on a more experienced C# programmer, you should strongly consider using the Unreal Engine. If your team has the programming ability and design ability, Unity can be a great and relatively low-cost option that sacrifices little in terms of quality.
There are Great Open Source Options, Too
If you’re looking for the lowest cost possible, you’ll want to investigate completely free engines. Video game engines such as Godot may be serviceable, but virtual reality compatibility is not completely assured. You’ll have to devote more time and resources into editing the engine your needs.
Completely open source virtual reality-ready engines are also available for use. Apertus VR is one such example. It’s a set of embeddable libraries that can easily be inserted into existing projects. OSVR is another virtual reality framework that can help you begin developing your own virtual reality games. Both OSVR and Apertus VR are fairly new creations, however, and you may experience bugs and other issues you would not encounter with Unity or Unreal.
Developing virtual reality applications is incredibly hard work, but with a bit of persistence and with some help from experienced developers, you should be able to get the hang of the virtual reality development process.
While you can’t control a great deal of what happens within the development process itself, you should make absolutely sure that your framework is well laid out.
Selecting an engine or virtual reality framework that works for your team is a decision that requires a great deal of time and effort. Take your time weighing the pros and cons of the tools available to you. Moving forward will mean you’re committing yourself and your team to a specific engine. That sort of decision has a lot of weight in the development process.