Tim Sweeney Talks About The Future of VR and AAA Games

The man behind Unreal Engine talks about VR.
YAZAN Onur Kaya

The man behind Unreal Engine talks about VR.

 Who is Tim Sweeney? Did you play Bioshock? Or Batman Arkham Series? DmC? Gears of War? Mortal Kombat? Street Fighter V? No need to play them all, only only would suffice since they all have one, big thing they share; they're all made in Unreal Engine. Calling it "The most preferred and respectable game engine of our time" wouldn't be an overstatement. Lots of other alternatives came out thoughout all these years but none of them took Unreal Engine's place in terms of user base. The person behind this miraculous software is the founder of Epic Games, the guy who coded UE from stratch, Tim Sweeney. He is also the guy who created Unreal games, Gears of War and Infinity Blade series. So he's a respected developer too!

Epic Games, with VR experiences like Bullet Train and Showdown, and their determination in making UE a great tool for creating VR worlds, made it clear that they see virtual reality as the next big thing. So we wanted to talk with the big chief and see what he thinks about VR changing the industry;

1. You are one of the pioneers and a big supporter of VR. But do you think the time is ripe for a VR AAA title? If not, how much longer do we need for such a title to emerge?

We VR developers need to learn to walk before we run, and right now we're all in the crawling stage.

I believe Bullet Train achieves Triple-A quality content and visuals in VR today, but we are years away from having a large enough market to fund Triple-A *size* games.  I think that will start to happen as the industry approaches 10,000,000 PC VR owners; that is the scale that makes console-scale budgets possible.

In the meantime, it's good that VR games are relatively small in scope. That means developers can ship them quickly, and learn from each successive effort. Triple-A implies at least 2-year development times, and VR is moving way too quickly for that to be practical now.

2. Do you have plans to make an Unreal game with full VR support? Do you think it's possible when your own quality standards are concerned and with today’s technology?

We began VR efforts by building tech demos like Couch Knights and Showdown. Most recently, Bullet Train brought some game elements to a leading-edge tech demo.  The ultimate objective of these projects is to learn about VR so that we and our partners can built future games.  So, stay tuned.

3. What do you think is the biggest barrier standing in front of the VR consumer right now? 

Current products are for the hardcore, early-adopter PC audience. This is partly a barrier, but also an important on-ramp in the industry's learning experience. The experience, feedback, and contributions from these early-adopters are what will guide developers to eventually create VR experiences for tens of millions of mainstream gamers.

4. Among all the things, what would be the biggest game changer for our industry that was formerly impossible and is currently possible thanks to VR?

I believe that social interaction in VR will be orders of magnitude better than anything that has happened in the television and monitor era. When you and people around you have a sense of existing in a realistic, shared VR experience, the social experiences there will be very close to those in reality. Nothing like that on PC or console exists today, and in fact non-VR 3D social interaction has changed little since the DOOM days.

5. How did you feel when Carmack left id Software to go work with Oculus? Do you think that was a smart move, or do you think he took a big risk?

Very few people in tech history have led two distinct revolutions, and John Carmack is one of them. It's inspiring to see him pioneering VR both as a visionary and a hardcore programmer with every bit as much vision and intensity as when he pioneered 3D shooters 25 years ago.

6. How do you think VR will find itself a place within game industry, a technology that affects all platforms, or a platform for itself?

VR is definitely starting as a peripheral with Gear VR, Rift, and Vive. Ultimately, we will have entirely new platforms around AR which displace existing legacy platforms. At what point the transition happens is unclear. At the high-end, I think it would be a mistake to build a dedicated VR platform when VR can so effectively layer on top of gamers' existing investments in PC and console hardware.