The ever-popular Unreal Engine has been updated for Oculus Quest, and the latest update brings a significant performance improvement with it as well as a host of new graphical features. The biggest feature includes the addition of Vulkan support, which has been proven to significantly increase performance of games without any graphical fidelity loss. This is done because Vulkan is considered a low-level language and is able to function without the need for the CPU to constantly get involved, lowering the processing power needed for the same scene and increasing available performance.
Vulkan isn’t anything new, but the implementation of Vulkan in Unreal Engine specifically for the Oculus Quest is the new addition. This is particularly important because the Oculus Quest runs a mobile chipset, which is significantly less powerful than what you would find in a desktop or laptop computer that’s capable of running VR games and applications.
But it’s not just about adding Vulkan to improve performance; Unreal Engine 4.22 has been updated to support a host of graphical-quality improvements as well. The two most exciting technologies being introduced are Multi-Sample Anti-Aliasing (MSAA), which can significantly improve clarity in scenes that have a lot of fine detail, including text and other smaller elements.
The second important addition is Fixed-Foveated Rendering (FFR), which allows developers to choose elements in a scene that can be rendered at a lower resolution than the rest of the elements. For instance, the sky can be rendered at a lower resolution than the ground, increasing overall performance of the game since it doesn’t have to spend so much processing power on a scene element that’s so far away.
Foveated rendering usually requires a headset with eye-tracking so that the game engine can render different parts of the scene at different resolutions, but this is a creative implementation that offers some kind of performance benefit, even if it’s not directly comparable.
Another notable addition is Mixed-Reality Capture, which provides more ways for developers to initiate AR content on supporting platforms. Check out the official Oculus Developers Blog post if you’re interested in reading more technical info regarding all these improvements.
Unity also told UploadVR that they’ll be adding Vulkan support later this year, which means the vast majority of VR titles will have the ability to use that better-looking better-performing Vulkan base. Unity and Unreal Engine are the two major gaming engines in the industry and make up the bulk of all games and applications developed for VR or otherwise.
Vulkan was created by the Khronos Group, a non-profit organization that includes members from every facet of the industry, including hardware manufacturers like NVIDIA, Intel, and AMD, software and OS developers like Microsoft and Google, and plenty of other industry giants like Facebook (who is behind Oculus) and HTC.
Vulkan was designed as the replacement for OpenGL ES, which was originally developed for much less sophisticated computing systems compared to what modern electronics offer. This includes technologies like multi-core rendering, and plenty of other tricks which can reduce overall processing load. This is particularly for standalone VR HMDs like the Oculus Quest and the Oculus Go, as it can improve battery life and performance at the same time.