Meta invests in open source engine Godot - for what reason?
Meta wants to make Godot a VR-ready game engine and is funding its development. What's behind this move?
This is the second time Meta has poured an undisclosed amount of money into the further development of the open-source Godot engine. The company made its first funding pretty much exactly a year ago.
"The new grant from Meta's Reality Labs allows us to continue our commitment to making Godot an excellent choice as an XR platform," reads the Godot Project blog.
Here's what happened with Godot XR
The first grant went towards a full-time position for engine programmer and XR pro Bastiaan Olij, who this year developed a mobile version of the Vulkan renderer, added support for multiview stereoscopic rendering to the engine, and reprogrammed large portions of Godot 4's XR core.
Godot 3 also now supports the industry standard OpenXR on Meta Quest 1 & 2, Meta Desktop XR (including Link), and Steam VR on Windows and Linux. Meta switched to OpenXR in August, and as of Summer 2022, all support and development of older Oculus interfaces will cease.
New Godot editor: develop VR games with Quest.
The new meta-investment will be split evenly between two projects. Half will go towards further developing the engine's XR support, and the other will go towards expanding the editor.
XR developers should be able to work directly in virtual reality or augmented reality in the future. This would eliminate the need to switch between the monitor and VR goggles when programming and designing.
Another goal is for the new XR editor to run independently on Quest glasses. This would eliminate the need for a separate computer, at least in theory, and make it much easier to get started with XR game development.
The Godot executives assure that the benefits of Meta's funding will remain free and open-source, as will the remnants of the Godot project.
Meta seeks a malleable engine alternative
Today, the majority of all VR games are developed based on Unity, with Unreal Engine accounting for the rest. Besides these two major development environments, there are hardly any alternative options for developers.
With Godot, Meta is building an alternative to the two major game engines in the (currently unlikely) event that Unity and Epic no longer cooperate. Facebook tried in vain to buy Unity in 2015.
Further, a targeted Godot promotion could result in a game engine along Meta's lines. An XR editor that runs on Quest and Cambria devices is just one example. In the future, Meta could optimize Godot for its own XR chip and XR operating system. Both components are important building blocks of Meta's XR future.
According to a Twitter poll from the fall, nearly a third of all Godot developers are considering XR projects, and five percent are already using the engine for that purpose.