Valve announced today at GDC 2015 that the powerful Source 2 engine will be available for developers to build out content with in the near future. This is a giant leap for third party game devs to have access to such a powerful tool. DOTA2 and Half-Life 2 are just some of the examples of amazing games that currently run off of Source 1 and it will be interesting to see the extra juice that V2 can provide (there is a DOTA2 Alpha on Source 2 already). Better yet, the engine is going to be available completely free to content creators and all indications point to Source 2 having VR support. Now, any startup game company with chops can create an integrative experience for the Steam platform. While Valve is set to release their highly anticipated Steam Machine on a commercial scale in the future, they’re clearly not straying from their PC gaming roots.
Valve Software Developer, Jay Stelly, was quoted in a recent press release saying, “The value of a platform like the PC is how much it increases the productivity of those who use the platform. With Source 2, our focus is increasing creator productivity. Given how important user generated content is becoming, Source 2 is designed not for just the professional developer, but enabling gamers themselves to participate in the creation and development of their favorite games.”
This announcement by Valve comes on the heels of Epic releasing their popular Unreal Engine Platform into the wild for developers to use at no cost… Unity 5 will provide all features free to developers as well when it is released. The momentum continues to build, and let’s be real, this is all a wet dream for PC GPU manufacturers like nVidia and AMD. All systems are go: the PC is making its stand as the VR engine of choice.
Time for a random question:
Shall we be so bold as to say that one of the impending philosophical battles in VR may not be between individual companies, but between console and PC gaming as a hardware engine? Sony is set to release its Morpheus headset in early 2016, so we will soon get to see how this starts to play out in the next year or two.
The Bottom Line
Let’s not forget that Valve and Epic are still businesses that want to make money. Basically, what they are betting on is a huge explosion in VR where the small percentage of royalty revenue that they take from popular games far exceeds their own IP (in Valve’s case) and the subscription fee to use proprietary dev tools (Unity was $19 a month). This is actually a huge signal to the projected overall growth of the larger VR market in the coming years if we observe from a strictly economic standpoint.
It’s becoming increasingly clear in the VR community that the golden key to the mass-adoption kingdom is amazing content. Was it ever really a question though? This fact has been the single truth in computing platforms gaining a foothold beyond the early adopters since the beginning. Screen resolution, tracking, refresh rates… these are all technical problems on the hardware side that will inevitably solved. Consumers in the mass market need a strong use case to want to put an HMD on which is why developers are being handed the grease to slick that path. With moves like the ones that Valve and Epic have made in the spirit of the open-source movement (though they will still make some money off of games that do well), a plethora of solid VR content of the likes that we have never seen is surely on the way in the PC gaming world. We, as developers, must continue to do great work and be creative in our efforts to build the future of the virtual reality industry.
I’ll leave you with a Henry Ford quote:
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
What else is missing from the VR toolkit that will facilitate the production of more amazing content?