In Los Angeles earlier today Gabe Newell gave a crowd of VR developers what might be the best present this side of a Half-Life 3 announcement. During the Vision VR summit keynote he told those in attendance that they will all be getting a free HTC Vive Pre headset. A grinning Newell described it as "his Oprah moment", and—as you can see from the video—the room went predictably nuts.
Valve handing out free Vives to devs is a smart way to encourage even more support for the nascent hardware. Newell appeared on stage via a prerecorded message that contained more good news: Valve and Unity have collaborated on native SteamVR support for the game engine, and Valve is releasing a rendering plugin for Unity that will improve visual fidelity and performance.
Unity’s press release, sent out after the keynote, doesn’t offer much more in the way of detail.
“Valve and Unity Technologies today announced a new collaboration to offer native support for SteamVR in the Unity Platform, giving developers new reach at no extra cost,” it reads. “Additionally, a new VR rendering plugin has been added to further enhance functionality.
“Integration of the SteamVR code delivers native support for Valve's upcoming SteamVR platform to all of Unity’s developers. Beyond SteamVR support, Valve has developed an advanced SteamVR rendering plugin for Unity that allows for enhanced fidelity and performance, bringing consumers more realistic experiences.”
The press release also includes a brief quote from Newell which states that most of Valve’s demos for the Vive were made with Unity. From my experience demoing games on both Vive and Oculus, I’d say that’s true across the board—the majority of the games I’ve played were built on Unity, so better VR support natively integrated into the engine can only mean good things.