Book Image

Unreal Engine 4 Virtual Reality Projects

By : Kevin Mack, Robert Ruud
Book Image

Unreal Engine 4 Virtual Reality Projects

By: Kevin Mack, Robert Ruud

Overview of this book

Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) is a powerful tool for developing VR games and applications. With its visual scripting language, Blueprint, and built-in support for all major VR headsets, it's a perfect tool for designers, artists, and engineers to realize their visions in VR. This book will guide you step-by-step through a series of projects that teach essential concepts and techniques for VR development in UE4. You will begin by learning how to think about (and design for) VR and then proceed to set up a development environment. A series of practical projects follows, taking you through essential VR concepts. Through these exercises, you'll learn how to set up UE4 projects that run effectively in VR, how to build player locomotion schemes, and how to use hand controllers to interact with the world. You'll then move on to create user interfaces in 3D space, use the editor's VR mode to build environments directly in VR, and profile/optimize worlds you've built. Finally, you'll explore more advanced topics, such as displaying stereo media in VR, networking in Unreal, and using plugins to extend the engine. Throughout, this book focuses on creating a deeper understanding of why the relevant tools and techniques work as they do, so you can use the techniques and concepts learned here as a springboard for further learning and exploration in VR.
Table of Contents (20 chapters)
Title Page
About Packt
Where to Go from Here

VR resources

Getting good information on VR is tricky. Everyone's still figuring this medium out, and nearly anything you read will wind up being some combination of legitimate information and unfounded opinion and lore. That's nobody's fault—this medium is simply too new for us to understand fully.

We began this book by advising you to question any accepted wisdom about VR, and we want to repeat that here. Remember that the earliest surviving motion picture was made in 1888, and it wasn't until 1925 that Sergei Eisenstein really figured out the language of film editing. It took thirty-seven years to figure out one of the most fundamental aspects of the genre. Citizen Kane came sixteen years after that. Please remember this when somebody tells you what you can't do in VR. We haven't got the faintest inkling of a clue what the limits of this medium are. Dive in and play with it. You're working on a frontier. Don't be afraid to try weird things you think might not work. This is how discoveries are made.


A quick word about the occasional bloggers who will crop up in your feed declaring VR dead because it hasn't yet erupted into a mass medium in the space of two years: that's not how new means of communication propagate through society. It took almost three decades for cellular phones to become common consumer devices and longer for personal computers. This is no different. At the time of this writing, we're still on the first generation of consumer VR headsets, with heavy lenses and wires, narrow fields of view, and external sensors. (On the morning this paragraph was written, Oculus announced its first desktop headset with inside-out tracking.) We're very, very early in the development of this hardware, with a lot of technical challenges still to overcome, but it's evident to anyone really paying attention that they are going to be overcome. We have no way of knowing whether, when you read this, we'll be in another VR is dead phase or another VR gold rush, or hopefully somewhere in the middle, but think about this from a standpoint of reality. When XR headsets are as comfortable to wear as glasses, don't require wires, have batteries that can last all day, and can offer immersive fields of view, we'll all be using them. This medium isn't going away. Work in it because you love it.

This advice aside, here are a few resources we recommend that you check out:

  • Oculus VR design resources—The Oculus VR Best Practices document, while a little dated at the time of this writing, remains one of the best overall guides for things to think about when designing for VR, and the Developer Perspectives collection should be considered essential reading for anyone designing for VR.
  • Road to VR—This is one of the longest-running and most expertly-edited news sources for VR. They're serious about this medium, and they know what they're talking about. Consider this essential regular reading.
  • Upload VR—This is another of the genuinely good sources of information on VR, and a great place to get information on the state of the VR hardware and software industry.

Here are a few people worth seeking out and listening to:

  • Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist, author, and composer, and he was a crucial pioneer in the development of VR's first phase in the 1980s. He's the reason we call it virtual reality. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone on Earth who's spent more time thinking about and working with this medium.
  • Michael Abrash is chief scientist at Oculus and is a consistent voice for its future. Seek out his talks on YouTube, or wherever you find them.
  • John Carmack, co-creator of Doom and Quake, now works for Oculus and is one of the foremost engineers pushing VR forward. If you want a good sense of where the tech is right now and where it's about to be, you can count on him to be a very candid and deeply informed source of information.
  • Marshall McLuhan was one of the most influential thinkers in the 20th century about the ways media and communication shape our society. You've been swimming through an ocean of his ideas whether you've heard his name before or not. The medium is the message—that's him. Global village—also McCluhan. His central work, Understanding Media, is a sometimes-challenging read, but it quite literally changed how we viewed the role of electronic media in the world. We bring him up here because to work in VR is to work on a frontier of communication technology that, through its powers of immersion and presence, has the potential to shape us more dramatically than anything previously has. McCluhan would have been fascinated by VR and probably terrified of what it could do to us. Why not put some thought into what that might mean?



There are many, many others we could cite, but, in truth, it's fairly impossible to write an exhaustive list of resources on a topic as new and fluid as VR, and it's possibly futile given that this is a medium within which five-month-old information is considered woefully out-of-date. Consider these resources as starting points, but understand that they're far from complete. Let your own exploration take you where it will.