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Programming Graphics Games

How Unity3D Became a Game-Development Beast 115

Posted by samzenpus
from the right-tool-for-the-job dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "In the early 2000s, three young programmers without much money gathered in a basement and started coding what would become one of the most widely used pieces of software in the video game industry. 'Nobody really remembers how we survived in that period except we probably didn't eat much,' said David Helgason, the CEO and co-founder of Unity Technologies, maker of the Unity3D game engine. A decade later, untold numbers of developers have used Unity3D to make thousands of video games for mobile devices, consoles, browsers, PCs, Macs, and even Linux. The existence of Unity3D and similar products (such as the Unreal Engine and CryEngine) helped democratize game development, making the kinds of tools used by the world's largest game companies available to developers at little or no cost. This has helped developers focus less on creating a video game's underlying technology and more on the artistic and creative processes that actually make games fun to play. In this article, Helgason talks about how Final Cut Pro helped inspire his team during the initial building stages, how it's possible to create a game in Unity without actually writing code, and how he hopes to make the software more of a presence on traditional consoles despite Unity3D being several years late to supporting the PS3 and Xbox 360."
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How Unity3D Became a Game-Development Beast

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I appreciate that Unity 3D allows small teams or even individuals to produce games that would not otherwise be possible due to monetary and time constraints, but the engine itself is still somewhat lacking and results in games like Receiver, which should be playable on relatively old systems, but instead occasionally drops frames on even modern hardware.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      Too many layers of abstraction. Think of this as the SDL of 3d game engines
      • by jones_supa (887896) on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:58PM (#43897515)
        SDL is actually quite thin, close to hardware, abstraction layer.
      • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday June 03, 2013 @07:25PM (#43900805) Journal

        But isn't this the problem of pretty much all game engines today? I mean you look at how good some of the games in the golden age of 99-04 looked and played, even on weak as hell hardware, and then you look at some of the frankly insane system requirements for modern games, games that only look moderately better than those games from more than a decade ago, and you can tell what having the "any idiot can use this without knowing anything" mantra when it comes to game engines has cost us.

        Everyone talks about "Windows bloat" but nobody talks about engine bloat and how many extra resources all this abstraction is costing us. It will be interesting to see if mobile gaming will bring a return to less abstraction or if like PCs they are gonna have to just grow insanely powerful so they can run engines that let you build by drag and drop.

        • by Guspaz (556486)

          I think your hypothesis only goes back 6 years or so, not ten :)

          Seriously though, modern games don't look much better than the original Crysis, and what improvement there has been doesn't seem much better than throwing more polygons and texture resolution at the problem. It seems we've reached a point of diminishing returns.

          There is, however, utility in more hardware power... that next-gen Oculus Rift isn't going to render for itself!

          • by hairyfeet (841228)

            I don't know about that, I thought Mechwarrior 3 and 4, No One Lives Forever 2,Freelancer, and the original Far Cry looked pretty damned good and with the exception of the last one the system requirements were pretty lean.

            Honestly i believe that since that time we have gone backwards as before since the engines and graphics were pretty much equal you had to come up with other things to sell the game, like GHOUL physics in Soldier of Fortune I & II, good writing and funny dialog in the NOLF series, or h

    • that's got little to do with Unity and more to do with shitty coding.
    • It results in games like Legends of Aethereus. It's only limitation is that of the Artist, you sir are trolling. It should be noted also this Engine is constantly evolving and adding NEW things for the foreseeable future.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It doesn't run on linux. Flash does.
        That they have problems porting it, doesn't speak well of their codebase.

    • by bluescrn (2120492) on Monday June 03, 2013 @01:36PM (#43897927)
      Unity doesn't suck (although the workflow doesn't suit everybody). A lot of Unity users are inexperienced, and don't fully understand how Unity's rendering tech works.

      Without a background in lower-level games/graphics programming, It's very easy to over-use expensive features (pass-per-light dynamic lights, projectors, full-screen post effects) without knowing what Unity is having to do behind the scenes.
      • by Seumas (6865)

        I am starting to use Unity, despite not knowing C# (though it's easy enough to pick up) and find it beneficial to someone who has a bit of a coding background, but absolutely no experience or knowledge of "okay, I know how to write code, but how do I apply it to making a game, where you have so many different layers and abstractions. . . .?"

        I mean, I could use something like SDL or a number of other options, but after the "make a ball move around on the screen" part, I have no idea where you go. How do you

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I appreciate that Unity 3D allows small teams or even individuals to produce games that would not otherwise be possible due to monetary and time constraints, but the engine itself is still somewhat lacking and results in games like Receiver, which should be playable on relatively old systems, but instead occasionally drops frames on even modern hardware.

      Receiver was built in less than 7 days. I'm pretty sure they didn't spend a lot of time optimizing it for legacy hardware.

      http://www.wolfire.com/receiver

    • I agree. It's been over a decade and it's still in a shitty state. The only reason to use it is (was) reach. It seems that Unreal, which performs better and is tooled better, has the same reach. If you make one of the thousands of shitty games that this "article" refers to, then you'd even make less than the $50k/yr limit, making unreal's UDK free.
      • by DaveyJJ (1198633)
        Do let me know when the full UDK *editor* can run in OSX.
        • Virtualize it, or run a windows partition on your hardware. If you're the type to let religion prevent you from using the right tools, then by all means, use a less than ideal solution to suit yourself.
      • by slart42 (694765)

        I agree. It's been over a decade and it's still in a shitty state. The only reason to use it is (was) reach. It seems that Unreal, which performs better and is tooled better, has the same reach. If you make one of the thousands of shitty games that this "article" refers to, then you'd even make less than the $50k/yr limit, making unreal's UDK free.

        But then, if you make shitty games making less then UDKs $50k/yr limit, you likely wouldn't succeed in shipping your game at all without Unity. Unity does make game development very accessible and allows many people to make games (some of them shitty, but also many great ones), without needing to understand all the details of the tech. That won't stop you from using that understanding to make much more pushing games if you can.

  • Oculus Rift (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Saethan (2725367) on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:52PM (#43897401)
    My only experience with Unity is seeing how its Oculus Rift support has made rapid prototyping of games possible. The headset was out for literally days before the first demos started popping up.
    • And that's always the point of an SDK. It's not to improve the quality of polished work, but to give a framework that does all the overly duplicated work for you, so you can focus on the unique parts you care about.

      If you want a high performance sports car, you're going to need to reinvent the wheel to make it perfectly mesh with your design. If you're just trying to develop a cool idea to attach to your car, why would you?

  • How in god's name do they dodge a bundred million patent lawsuits?

  • by Rydia (556444) on Monday June 03, 2013 @01:05PM (#43897589)

    Allowing more open development is fantastic. However, the summary (and really a ton of people) have the relationship at play with games backwards:

    "This has helped developers focus less on creating a video game's underlying technology and more on the artistic and creative processes that actually make games fun to play."

    The underlying technology, however, is the essence of the game. It's what tells us how mario moves compared to sonic or y metroid cant crawl. The artistic and creative process, while quite important, largely affect how a game is presented visually and thematically. The rise of one-size-fits-all platforms, designed to be broadly used not only between titles but between genres and platforms, has led to a massive homogenization of gameplay. Gameplay, of course, is what makes a game fun to actually play. Setting is not gameplay. Writing is not gameplay, and graphics aren't gameplay.

    Yes, these platforms are customizable, but the distinctness that came with each game or class of games has largely been lost as games increasingly rely on generalized engines. Unity and Unreal (and various other engines) are great, but they're not responsible for freeing developers to make experimental games. To the extent that is happening, it is despite of, not because of, those engines.

    • by Richy_T (111409)

      Sometimes yes, sometimes no. There are some games where it's more about things external to the mechanics. In fact, for some games, though the game is otherwise OK, the developers implementing their own mechanics leads to an extremely screwed up game that would have been far better off using a proven engine.

      With that said, I haven't messed with unity3d yet but I'll have to give it a try at least.

    • by Hadlock (143607) on Monday June 03, 2013 @01:23PM (#43897789) Homepage Journal

      You can build a 3d physics sandbox (Kerbal Space Program) or a 2d side scroller in unity, there's not a lot of homogenization going on with Unity.
       
      Unreal is used for FPSes, as well as 2.5d side scrollers like unmechanical. People were building flight sims with the Quake 1 engine (Airquake). Simply having a 3D engine doesn't shoehorn you in to a particular style of play.

    • The underlying technology, however, is the essence of the game. It's what tells us how mario moves compared to sonic or y metroid cant crawl.

      "metroid can't crawl"? Do you think Halo is a "pretty cool guy" [knowyourmeme.com] too? Let's correct that for a bit:

      [The 3D engine technology is] what tells us how Mario moves compared to Sonic or why Samus cant crawl in Metroid.

      In terms of a familiar MVC-style abstraction [wikipedia.org], the 3D engine forms part of the "view" on top of a "model" containing game mechanics. The model generates new positions for the game objects, and the view draws meshes at these positions. The model could be implemented in Python, Lua, JavaScript, or asse

    • Why would metroids crawl? They can float!

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Oh please, the essential mechanics of most genres have been the same for decades. What differentiates a great game from a "lather, rinse, repeat" game is whether it got you engaged by the game or not, running around collecting weapons and ammo to shoot random monsters a hundred FPS games can give you. But if you got no story, no characters to get engaged in, no enemies with any personality I'll guarantee you'll get bored quickly even if the gameplay is fine. It's just a grind to reach the next level of more

      • > But if you got no story, no characters to get engaged in, no enemies with any personality I'll guarantee you'll get bored quickly even if the gameplay is fine.

        Minecraft and the 80's disagree with you.

        Narrative should ALWAYS take a BACK_SEAT to gameplay.

        You can have a fantastic game without narrative, but you can't have good game with narrative without gameplay. Gameplay is necessary, Narrative is sufficient.

        • I suppose that depends on how you define gameplay.

          It is possible to make a game with extremely simple gameplay, if that gameplay is polished and pleasant. With a good and complex narrative however. That is a different formula I think than you are imagining perhaps. I say that it can work. Even a bit of poor gameplay can be made up for by Narrative. I don't remember the Ultima series having amazing stat systems and RPG elements, they were just glossed over. However they were complex enough to metagame.

          Increa

        • by Molt (116343)

          Have a look at "To The Moon". The game mechanics are so sparse that without the narrative it wouldn't compare positively o a lot of Flash games, but when you add the need to see the story through to the end and the result is something pleasingly memorable.

          I'll agree that a good game needs some level of gameplay, but that doesn't mean narrative should take a back seat to it. My personal favourite games tend to be those with very strong narrative even if they don't have exceptional gameplay, games such as

          • To the Moon is definitely a really good reference for "narrative gameplay" and after reading a few other comments here. I think I would include the narrative into the context of gameplay. So it is an additive rather then a separate factor.

    • by chrismcb (983081)

      The underlying technology, however, is the essence of the game. It's what tells us how mario moves compared to sonic or y metroid cant crawl.

      Well not really. Looking at just mario and sonic. What is really different between the two? Ignore the maps, and levels. The biggest difference is that sonic can speed up in certain scenarios. Other than a few other minor difference (super mario can swim, shoot fireballs, and fly in some games) you could achieve both games using the same engine. Yes, you might have to tweak some of the parameters. But it isn't the engine that sets the two apart, it is the game play and the artwork. Setting, graphics, and wr

  • FTFY (Score:5, Funny)

    by rodrigoandrade (713371) on Monday June 03, 2013 @01:18PM (#43897739)

    This has helped developers focus less on creating a video game's underlying technology and more on anti-piracy tecnology, ad-serving technology, nickel and dime technology.

    • It also cleared our schedules to watch a lot more porn.

  • No coding (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dan East (318230) on Monday June 03, 2013 @01:42PM (#43897997) Homepage Journal

    how it's possible to create a game in Unity without actually writing code

    Kinda like how you can build a car out of legos without doing any engineering.

  • Thanks unity!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by higuita (129722) on Monday June 03, 2013 @01:42PM (#43898001) Homepage

    I'm grateful because they now support linux and now we have more games. Humble bundle showed that there is a linux market, only a little smaller than the mac one and with steam also supporting linux there is already some pressure to other engines to also support linux (or risk losing some market share on a highly competitive market). Due to this CryEngine is already being ported to linux (sadly still with unknown release date) and several other companies with in house engines are also testing the linux port.

    Again, thanks for your support, unity

    • It probably has more to do with android, less to do with steam.
    • by polyp2000 (444682)
      To this day I've never seen a unity app running on linux. I heard there is a linux "web player" - i've never seen it in action nor is there hair nor hide of it on the website. The developement tools are OSX and Windows only. Unity supports linux about as well as adobe flash as far as i am concerned. N.
    • As someone who makes native cross platform games, I disagree. Other 3D engines with open source licenses exist, like Ogre3D, Cube2, etc. Unity is marketed heavily. I see their marketing everywhere. Like this damn slashvertizement. They are not needed.

      • by higuita (129722)

        I agree that there are other engines, linux have native games for many years... but as unity is marketed heavily, many companies use it... with linux support, those companies can build for linux with almost no effort.

        It the objective is world domination, we need to conqueror one engine at time, getting 2 big engines ( source and unity) in a few months, with another one (CryEngine) on their way, we all win.

        Of course i would prefer that FLOSS engines would be preferred and optimized, but its natural that when

  • Survivorship bias [youarenotsosmart.com] is around to make very probable you starve to death or lose most of your money as they almost did.
  • i like unity. very simple and nice engine that only gets more complicated as your project gets more complicated however there are a lot of downsides to it. but everytime i ask for support i never get any so i guess they dont support unity just make unity.

  • I see Unity being talked all over the place. I'm not a game dev so I never really used it, but from the videos and tutorials I've seen, it seems to be a quite nice IDE+game engine kit to work with. However, I can't help but to feel that everything good about it is superficial and on a real world application it sucks. Why? Never played or heard of a single good(neither good as "in my opinion" nor good as in "critically acclaimed") game, indie, hobbyist or mainstream, that uses it. There must be a reason for
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Because when a game is released they tend not to plaster "Made with Unity" on it.

      However, if you look at the games list there may be a few on there you'd recognise: http://unity3d.com/gallery/made-with-unity/game-list

      Sure, there's alot of mobile games on there, like Bad Piggies and Temple Run 2, but there's a few really good PC indie games, like Dungeonland, Pid, Guns of Icarus and Endless Space

  • Just a question, is Unity3D connected in any way to Ubuntu's Unity, or do they just happen to share the same name?

  • It's a nice engine for people who want to get going quickly and it's very artist friendly which is ideal as coders shouldn't be fucking around with art related tasks. On PC/Mac, I could definitely look into Unity but for mobile I'll avoid it for another little while as it IS pretty CPU heavy. Their C# like script language (mono) runs on a mono-emulation layer which interprets the byte code at run time which is nice to make it platform agnostic but it will cost you! I'm not sure if this has been upgraded to

"Who cares if it doesn't do anything? It was made with our new Triple-Iso-Bifurcated-Krypton-Gate-MOS process ..."

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