New tool impressions: Unity

Jan 31, 2012

I just finished up the Vancouver Global Game Jam, and after sleeping for almost an entire day,  I am alive again! I think I coded for over 24 hours straight, which is definitely some kind of record for me. I am going to write up a post mortem on the experience soon, along with a link to the game our team developed, but in the mean time I wanted to write up my thoughts on some new tools I have been checking out, one of which we used at the Jam.

Over the past couple of weeks prior to the Jam, I had been evaluating some new tools that I could use to port some of my titles to mobile (iOS and Android specifically). I checked out quite a few, and narrowed down my search to two: Unity and Monkey.

Unity you may have heard of. It’s a high-end 3d engine that can publish your project to a variety of platforms, including iOS and Android. I’ve liked Unity since the first time I laid eyes on it. It came out of the gate doing everything that I wanted Adobe to do with Flash: supporting 3d and hardware acceleration in the browser, catering to game developers (Adobe was focused on Rich Internet Applications, or RIAs, for a very long time, and seemed content to ignore all of us folks making games with it), and they offered their tool for free, so you could get up to speed and experiment with it without laying down any cash. Not surprisingly, they have attracted a sizable, active community, and it continues to grow.

I played around with Unity quite a bit, putting together some simple prototypes, and running through a few different tutorials. I really like it. The Unity team seems to have really thought through the process of getting a game up and running quickly. In many ways it feels very drag and drop, but once you start digging into the scripting and looking at the coding APIs, you realize that you have an extraordinary amount of power in your hands.

So what’s not to like? Well, it wasn’t that I didn’t like Unity, it was that in a lot of ways it felt like overkill. There are so many options in it that are clearly geared towards high-end games with larger budgets, larger teams, and most importantly, 3d content, which I am currently not planning on working with. If you just want to get some small 2d graphics flying around the screen, using Unity is, as Mr. Tom Grochowiak puts it, “like trimming a bonsai tree with a chainsaw.” Too much power isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there are so many options in Unity and things to wrap my head around that I felt like I was wading through technology I really didn’t need.

Unity is a very nice tool, and I think that in the future if I decide to start building with 3d (or just cave to the urge to start typing ‘eulerAngles’ and ‘spline’ over and over), I will definitely use it. However for the time being, I am leaning towards using a different tool. In my next blog post, I’ll take a look at Monkey, a new programming language that feels much more geared towards my immediate purposes, and the tool we used to build our game at the Vancouver Global Game Jam.


Jan 13, 2012

One of my goals for the New Year is to maintain this site a little bit better. To start with, I am going to be finishing up my weeks with a braindump; a collection of links and thoughts on the stuff I've absorbed, worked on, read, played, whatever. Mostly just little stuff that I wouldn't write a full post on here, but deserving nonetheless. This week:

Two nice articles on Gamasutra this week. First up: 7 things to know about HTML5. Good information for anyone who's looking at developing on this new standard. This article pretty much covers most of the big pros/cons, really missing only one (though several of the commenters caught it): You can't protect your source code or assets in HTML5. I'm undecided on how big a deal this is, but there's certainly some cases when you aren't going to want just anyone wandering in and taking all of your art and code and doing as they like with it. On the other hand, viewable code has worked really well for the web. Second: Choplifter: From 1982 to 2012. Gamasutra has been publishing a lot of these historical interviews lately (their Jordan Mechner one is also excellent). Reading about the good old days of Computer game development always makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside for some reason. I think it's mainly because they were just doing it for fun, because they could. The mega-business reality hadn't settled in. There's something pure about it that just feels good to read about. Monkey! I spent some time this week playing around with the Monkey programming language. Really fun stuff. Back when I was starting with Flash I also seriously considered going with BlitzBasic/BlitzMax instead. In the end, the ease of distribution with Flash won me over, but now it seems that Monkey has the best of both worlds (along with several others). I have a small demo I've built with it here. I intend to post a more thourough impression later on, along with some impressions of Unity, which I've also been tinkering with. 2d in Unity. It turns out there are now several 2d plugins for Unity that offer some pretty streamlined workflows for getting those little sprites moving around. Who knew? Well, I guess a lot of people. Still, news to me! I'm still experimenting with them, so we'll see where it goes. Also props to Tim Miller of Rocket5 studios for his great tutorial Make A 2D Game With Unity3D Using Only Free Tools.  

New website design

Dec 9, 2011

After much humming and hawing and re-copy-pasting-erasing I have finally put up a new design. Well…kind of new. I couldn't give up the nice blue sky. This one should hopefully stick around a little bit longer, and make it easier for me to update and publish new games. It also gives a consistent style across the entire site, from the games section to the blog, which is something I've wanted to have for awhile.

If anything looks wonky or doesn't work right, I apologize. I am still tinkering with the design and it will be a work in progress for a week or two more. The styling also uses some CSS3 voodoo which I have yet to run through the Internet Explorer gauntlet of testing, so if you are still running IE6 this site might look like the apocalypse to you. 

New Game - Tugboat Captain

Aug 31, 2011

New from Rawkins Games: Tugboat Captain. This game is sort of a combination of the classic games Frogger and Snake. You need to haul cargo from the left hand side of the screen to the right hand side, dodging obstacles as you go. The more cargo you haul at once, the higher your score, but you need to be careful not to run into your cargo while driving. Powerups float down the ocean to give you a little help here and there. More instructions are available in-game. Enjoy!