Watch Epic Games’ Nick Donaldson Build a Scene in Unreal’s VR Editor

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Epic senior designer Nick Donaldson schooled us on some of the intricacies of Unreal’s new VR Editor, modifying a pre-built demo scene using the Oculus Rift and Touch controller in the Epic booth at GDC.

The Unreal VR Editor announced just last month is available today on GitHub for everyone to use for free on both HTC Vive and Oculus Rift (providing you have Touch controllers). But we wanted to see a pro at work, so we asked Nick Donaldson, who’s been working on VR projects like the editor itself, Bullet Train and Showdown, to strap into the Rift and show us how quickly you can create while in VR.

Donaldson showed us that movement in the Editor could be done one of two way. You can ‘grab the world’ by extending your hands and gripping the second Touch trigger, thereby moving the scene around you, or teleport directly to where you want to go.

See Also: First Look: Unreal Engine Will Soon Let You Build VR inside VR

Manipulating objects and making them larger or smaller, and even making the entire scene larger or smaller so you can get a better view was as simple as pinching and zooming with the lasers beaming out of the the controllers. Developers will notice that a full set of gizmos are available so you can fine tune assets in the scene just like in the desktop version. A ‘snap-to’ mode isn’t available yet, but Donaldson clearly didn’t have any trouble fitting pieces just right on the first go.

We’ll be publishing a full hands-on piece in the coming days, so check back for a full run down on our experience with Unreal Editor for VR.

  • JJ

    The headphones looks very unconfortable…

    • DougP

      I’ve seen several demos where the built-in headphones seem to:
      1) sit a bit *off* the ears – letting in external sound & not optimal
      2) playing audio into people’s earlobes

      I’d rather a Vive with my own quality headphones.

      • John

        They’re removable, so if you don’t like them you can use your headphones anyway. They made them built-in to let developers know exactly what the user is listening to, since each pair of headphone sounds different, and build perfect spacial audio is not that easy even if you know what the user is going to hear.
        I would have like them to be in-ear but maybe they thought it would be better if at least you can hear external noise, so you’re not completely isolated by external world… and if you break something, or your wife is screaming because your house is going on fire, you can hear them.

        • DougP

          I don’t like paying for something that I’m not going to use.
          It’s the same thing with the included xbox controller – woohoo, the future of VR control is here, a 1990s controller!
          Back in the day when Palmer was being honest, he’d said – “traditional controllers are crap for VR”, then Facebook & Microsoft come along & things changed.

          Just disappointed with what they chose to spend their money on & package –
          The motion controllers, additional room “sensing” (2nd emitter) & front-facing camera seem like a better inclusion than controller & headphones (most of us already own).

          • DM

            The pad is pretty much free, you can probably profit by selling the pad for £20. If you think they could double the tracking cameras and add a pass through camera for the price they paid for the xbone pad you are crazy

          • DougP

            Re: “If you think they could double the tracking cameras and add a pass
            through camera for the price they paid for the xbone pad you are crazy”
            Yeah…if I thought that, I’d be crazy. Good thing I don’t.

            Now back to my point(s)/what I think & said:
            I would’ve preferred that they NOT include an xbox controller & headphones…and instead put that $ into including the other components.

            I already have an xbox controller & way better quality headphones – why waste my money on something I won’t use?

            Or…to put it another way –
            If a PC gamer WANTS to use xbox controller as their input device – they already have one.
            If they’re newer to PC gaming & interested in the most immersive VR, they’ll want the touch controllers.
            Either way – xbox controllers = bad idea & superfluous for the majority of users.

            Headphones – again, how many people out there, the target market of the 1st phase of VR gear, DON’T already own decent (better!) headphones? Again, for most people it’s superfluous.

          • John

            Integrated audio is because of knowing exactly what people is going to hear, not because they think people don’t already own headphones.
            I myself own a pair of fantastic headphones wich I paid 300 bucks, but if I’m going to use them I will not hear exactly what developers want me to hear, because they’re calibrated differently.
            To trick your mind to believe you are in another place you need to trick your ears as you’re doing with your eyes.
            If you understand the importance of having the same screen and the same lenses on each device, then apply the same thing but for audio, and you will understand why is that important.
            For everything else, look at the comment above ;)

          • realtrisk

            “I already have … …way better quality headphones.” Really? So you’ve tried Rift’s headphones in a quiet environment where you can do a one to one comparison between Rift and your normal headphones? Also, your headphones cost more than $300? There certainly are some, but I doubt many people have them. Palmer Luckey is an audiophile, and said in his AMA “They are open-back drivers with pretty accurate response and a great soundstage. Somewhat similar to ATH-AD700s.”

            So unless your headphones are better than ATH-AD700s, I’d say quiet down and wait for the retail product before making blanket declarations.

          • DougP

            I’m confident both my Koss pro phones & my gaming rig’s dedicated Senheisser cans are better.
            Look – it doesn’t add-up.
            IF Facebook could include phones as good as these, as MANY of us already own… they’re in the wrong business.
            They could sell WAY more headphones & undercut everyone out there than they could sell VR.

            I’m sure they’re decent headphones. Fine, I’m not in the market for decent headphones. I already have great ones.
            Many of us do.
            Spend that $ on VR (something we don’t have yet) – integrated camera, 2nd/3rd(?) sensor for better than 180-degree tracking, and motion controllers.
            Those things we don’t already have.
            Oh yeah, and anyone who wants an xbox controller probably already has one too – again, why give us things we already have & skimp on the VR (new) stuff.
            That’s my point.

          • http://www.djdowism.com/ Will

            High end headphones are only expensive because that’s the market. Headphone technology was essentially perfected in the 70s. Since then companies have been reverse engineering crappier and crappier technologies to prop up and justify the cost of their top tier products in service of the maxim of a “good, better, best” model of sales. The margins are massive for almost all headphones, but particularly for the top end. The cost to the consumer is basically artificial. In most cases there is very little difference to produce one set over another.

            There’s absolutely no reason a high quality set of cans can’t be manufactured at scale for $20. Certainly a set that is better than what 98% of consumers will ever own. In this case, the pair mounted on the Rift have also been reputed to be particularly suited for VR, with an exceptionally flat response, transparency, and a wide sound stage; these are qualities which are rare to come by.

          • DougP

            Will, if what you’re saying were true (it’s not) – Facebook’s in the wrong business with VR.
            They really should be selling those high end phones, they could steal the market & have a much bigger target market than VR.
            Then again, with the decisions they’ve made on what they’re choosing to focus on/include, I’m confident they’re in the wrong market.

            FYI – you don’t have to give me a history lesson in audio equipment. I’ve been an audiophile going on 30 years.
            Your comment about headphones & the 70s holds true for speaker tech. One of the reasons my home theatre setup includes 7x 30+year old Klipsh horn speakers.
            It is funny how people think audio equipment has dramatically (exponentially even!) improved, when in most cases quite the opposite is true. Mass market & cheaper crap out there, but NOT better audio.
            Heck, many younger people, the “ipod generation” have grown up so used to crummy earbuds & compressed audio that they actually prefer *worse* sounding audio.
            Sad really.

            Again, back to my point, there are plenty of us with great headphones, many as well who prefer enclosed ear (keeping out exterior sounds), who don’t need another set of headphones….no matter how good Facebook claims they are (& I’ve seen fanboys defending).
            We don’t need them. Period.
            Same for xbox controllers…again, if we prefer that method of input (although even Palmer admits it’s “crap for VR”) – we own them.
            So don’t waste money on non-VR kit that people already have.
            FB bungled it, probably due to contracts with MS (controllers) & playing catch-up with Valve on room scale (motion controllers) & missing camera ( thinking seated & 180-degree gaming ).

          • http://www.djdowism.com/ Will

            This is one of my favorite conversations.

            “Your comment about headphones & the 70s holds true”

            It is true. For both speakers and headphones. Any analog audio equipment essentially reached the top of the mountain 45 years ago. I worked as an audio visual technician for many years in many fields, and later as an account manager for audio visual products of all kinds, dealing directly with distributors and manufacturers for a while. I can tell you from both the technical and sales perspectives that the pricing of analog audio equipment is a complete shell game. Many audio engineers still prefer decades old equipment, whether it be amps, speakers, cans, or any analog source.

            The problem with a technology reaching it’s peak is that there are seemingly only two options when it does:

            1) A race to the bottom. The only thing to distinguish two equally excellent products from each other is price. The cheapest product wins. This almost never happens, because the other response is:

            2) Create an artificial market. Make slightly crappier versions of your peak product at whatever gradation you desire, and you now have a product line to encapsulate different segments of the market you created. Disproportionately expensive high margin products for rich, stuck up, or discerning customers, and low price low margin products for poor, cheap, or uneducated customers. Toilet paper is a great example of this.

            There is a third option, rarely considered, that I will present to you now:

            3) Just make the best product you can and sell it at a fair price. If an artificial market has been created, it is ripe for disruption. You create a segment of the market that belongs only to you, and customers flock to it . It may not be the cheapest product, or the shiniest, but it will represent by far the best value. In this case I believe it is possible to manufacture at scale a top end set of headphones for around $50, and at a 50% markup, sell them at $75. The longer manufacturing continues, the lower cost to manufacture becomes, and this is a product with no need for yearly updates so the model can remain the same for decades. The headphone market is ripe for disruption.

          • DougP

            Alright Will – I gotta admit, we might have different views on the use/benefit of the Rift packaging headphones vs say leaving audio to the user to supply (Vive comes w/earbuds…meh)… but we definitely found a play we’re in complete agreement on! :)
            People are perplexed, usually, when I tell them that audio hasn’t improved, and has mostly gone downhill, in many decades. Taking them down a little history lesson, some get it & others don’t. I do like to shock people w/the 1981 klipsch sound [ I’ll admit no longer using a tube amp..hehe…but for quite some time have used discreet amps & sound-field processing for movies ], who think a “surround soundbar” from Costco is the epitome of a century of audio development. :)

            Speaking of cans – my favorites, which only died few years back (regret not just soldering wires again, driver was still good), were a pro studio Koss from the (fairly certain) 80s. Newer ones haven’t impressed me & I’d bet wouldn’t last as long.
            I also don’t doubt your #3 option #s, but haven’t looked into the component/build costs.
            A funny (somewhat relevant?) story – years ago, when I had a company & was building some electronics hardware (audio & video), we had a very specialized product which we could build for $150’ish @ low volume (cheaper even mass volume) which we retailed for $499, knowing our nearest competition in the market was $5K.
            We got ZERO interest at tradeshows, from print ads (yes, back in the day)…we couldn’t figure it out.
            So in desperation we changed our advertising: Price $3999 (or there abouts) *slashed* limited time only to $1500!
            We sold out our 1st production run in a wk.
            Perceived value.

          • http://www.djdowism.com/ Will

            Klipsch horns are a great example of peak technology. I’ve heard great things about the old Koss stuff too. Even RadioShack had some exceptional speakers and amps in the 80s. Imagine if Koss had just continued manufacturing those same headphones that you rever? Their costs would’ve gone down over the years, and the quality probably would’ve even tightened up.

            Your story about attempting market disruption doesn’t surprise me. It must’ve felt like you discovered a glitch in the Matrix. It takes either a large, powerful, well respected company, or a company with a real talent and passion for educating their customers to pull off a disruption like that. The large company is unlikely to challenge the status quo, because standard thinking will tell them that reducing the number of products that they carry will cause them to lose revenue, and they may be right – particularly in the short term. But they will gain customer trust, loyalty and respect that can’t be replaced any other way. Short-term loss of revenue will soon be replaced by steady, reliable, and growing business. Any new product that they do release after this will be greeted their loyal customers based on the respect they’ve earned.

            More likely is a smaller or unknown company attempting a disruption like this, building from the ground up a new market segment of top tier products at fair prices. This hinges on educating a lot customers. That means effective marketing, which has never been more possible than it is today. Headphones are one of the top products I’d love to attempt this with (though there are many markets due for disruption in similar fashion), followed by speakers and amps. The audio market is absolutely saturated with intentionally mediocre products of all shapes, sizes, and prices. The right product and message could cut through this swath and carry home a bumper crop.

            Companies often complain that consumers are fickle. They’re not. They just have long memories. Sell them a crappy product and they’ll avoid you for life. It doesn’t matter if it’s your “good”, “better”, or “best” product. Screw them and they’ll just buy a different brand next time.

          • John

            Did you even read my reply? XD

          • John

            I agree with all you said, except for the integrated audio wich I think you’re underestimating (and wich you are not paying that much, cause I don’t think it could be more expensive than 15 $).
            I don’t know exactly why they chose to put an Xbox controller in the bundle but I think the main reasons are:
            -Some developers made games for oculus you dont need motion sensing controllers to play, and because oculus obviously want to sell them, the only way to do it was to delay the touch controllers, as otherwise most of people would have ignored them (some of those games however are really cool and seem to work really well on vr);
            -They needed the partnership with Microsoft because of the implementation on Xbox one and Windows 10, so probably Microsoft came and said something like “Ok guys, we’ll do what you ask but in exchange you must help us by buying a controller for each Rift unit for a lower price than usual”;
            However, if you consider that the Vive costs 200$ more than the rift, and that the touch controllers and a second camera are likely cost less than that, for a lower price you get the same things plus an Xbox one controller and integrated audio.
            However i think they’re both fantastic products and I don’t think there is a real right or wrong choice. Personally I still trust in Oculus and I think they really want us to get the best vr experience possibile, plus I like the touch controllers more than the Vive’s, so I’ll go for that, even if I have to wait a little to get the full experience.

      • John

        Anyway it seems that the guy in this video didn’t even set them because he’s not using them. I think they’re adjustable in length, so if you set them right you should probably be comfortable anyway

        • DougP

          Understood.
          Just wish they’d included motion controllers, 2nd sensor, or camera instead of headphones (& xbox controller).

          I use VR fairly regularly & prefer my over-ear headphones, not just audio quality being top-notch but also keeping out the exterior sounds – to me it means more immersion.
          I don’t want to hear *exterior* noises or heck, even computer fans, when I’m in VR.

          • John

            I know what you mean, I whished the same things first but then I realized the importance of all that (each for the user and for the company), and I came up with the decision that it’s worth it anyway :D

          • realtrisk

            Ah, so again, you’ve tried the CV1 HMD and found they leak in ambient noise, huh? You’ve tried in multiple environments with different kinds of sounds and arrived at this conclusion?

            Norm from Tested said he was using the headset and someone was standing right next to him talking and he couldn’t hear him at all. Sounds pretty isolating to me.

          • DougP

            Ah, so again, you’ve tried high-end headphones? (frequently several hundred+) & found that for some reason those are sold for many hundreds of dollars…yet somehow Oculus is able to include a VR headset, xbox controller, & tracking camera for the same price & arrived at this conclusion?

            It doesn’t add-up.
            If the Facebook headset includes the same quality of headphones that many of us buy for several hundreds+ in that $600 bundle….well, they’re in the wrong business!
            They’d kill it in the headphone markets, as they could undercut everyone by hundreds of dollars & sell higher volume.
            I don’t buy it.

  • John Smith

    Guys,if you have time take a look at our new forums that we have just recently launched related to Virtual Reality.Join us here: http://vrforums.org/

  • gnagyusa .

    This looks really cumbersome and tedious, compared to a mouse / keyboard / screen.
    Especially if you want precision.
    Also, how long can you do this without your arms getting exhausted and getting eye strain and a head ache in the HMD?

    • DM

      If you have weak kitten hands your arms might drop off after 5 minutes :-( or I guess you can just see how long things take to make your arms tired in real life by waving two small battery packs about? I don’t think you need a vr headset to try that out for yourself :-)

      And I think most people should realise by now that vr doesn’t magically just give you eye strain and headaches.

    • http://worldwidechaosinc.com Walter Sharrow

      I’d have to agree, using your full body to do something as laborious as level construction might not make for the best productivity. It is cool though.

      I made something like that, albeit far simpler, as a test for the GearVR in the Unreal engine. Those 3D widgets of theirs are GREAT for VR interaction. If you’re developing VR in Unreal, I’d highly suggest you get familiar with them.

    • realtrisk

      Except if you are designing a game for VR in which case this makes much more sense, as you can make adjustments to scale in real time while looking at the environment. Multiple devs have talked about how hard it is to create levels on a monitor, think they look great, then import them into VR and find out you got the scale of everything wrong. It adds extra steps and extra work, so they were excited for this.

      I think the best of both worlds would be to do general design on a monitor, then jump into VR and adjust scale/size of objects to get them just right.

    • yag

      Don’t worry, people already played a lot with motion controllers in VR (see HLVR mod, still the best FPS experience now), nothing exhausting and it’s a very precise and natural way of aiming.

  • Greg Dietz

    okay the touch controllers seem pretty accurate. hard to tell off a video of course but watching him adjust scale and move things around w/o much tweaking after, means it has to be pretty accurate right?