Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Unity 3D + Oculus Rift: Not free... yet

Since the recent announcement by the Oculus Rift team that their Unity 3D plugin will only work with the Pro version of Unity, there has been a HUGE uproar in the Indie development community about what this implicitly means: Mainly, if you want to use Unity 3D to develop games for the Oculus Rift, you'll have to pay the $1,500 Unity Pro licensing fee.

I've noticed that roughly 90% of the vitriolic comments on this issue fall into one of two categories:
  1. People screaming about how terrible it is to force developers to pay $1,500 for a licensing fee, and then threatening to cancel their pre-orders.
  2. People angrily asking whether or not the information is true - multiple times, despite receiving responses.
Although I very much sympathize with the concerns about this unexpected price tag, a few points should be noted regarding the best method to express those concerns.

Regarding the first category, nobody is being forced to pay $1,500 for a licensing fee.  If you don't want to pay, there are other methods of developing 3D games for the Oculus Rift that are free - mainly, the newly announced FREE Unreal Development Kit which is coming out in April.

Regarding the second category of comments, I have but one relatively obvious piece of advice: Go to the source .  The moment I read this announcement, I shot off an email to the Oculus Rift support team and received a quick response.  Here's what they said:
"Hi Matt - currently the occulus rift implementation requires requires image effects (a Unity Pro feature) to distort the rendering path to properly match the hardware, from what I gather, so this is a technical limitation (not a Unity a business choice) currently. Hopefully further down the line occulus rift developers may provide a plug in which does not require these pro features to work, but as it's early days I can only recommend that you raise your concerns with them on their forums."
True, not exactly the answer I was looking for, but it is a definitive answer.  Screaming for a different answer in the forums is just pointless.

Now let me be clear, I am just as disappointed as the next hobbyist developer about the Unity Pro requirement.  After all, Unity is a breeze to work with, and it seems to support more platforms than the UDK.  But we gotta' keep things in perspective here.  The Oculus Rift development kits haven't even started shipping yet (although technically they are supposed to tomorrow), we are all getting four free months of Unity Pro to play with, and there are a lot of very smart developers out there who probably would like nothing more than to score major points by providing the rest of us with a hack to get things working on the free Unity version.

Meaning, relax.  Take what you can get in the short-term, and if history is any indication, we'll get what we want in the long-term.