The Decision to Use Unity, Part 2

So, what makes Unity better than the other game engines, in our eyes? That’s what I’d like to go over in this post. There are several reasons Matt and I chose Unity as our game engine for Jestermen’s first project, “The Infernicore”.

Its Simplicity

Unity's UI

Relatively simple, but effective!

Unlike quite a few other pieces of software I’ve used, Unity’s interface is exceedingly simple. It is intuitive, easy to use, and allows the user all of the options he or she needs without requiring row upon row of toolbars and menus. In fact, there are only five main panels within Unity: Scene, Game, Hierarchy, Project, and Inspector. The Scene panel displays the game assets during construction; easily navigable using common keyboard/mouse controls (such as holding Alt + dragging with left click to rotate the scene). The Game panel offers a view of the game as the user would see it; in fact, by simply pressing the play button at the top of the interface, one can immediately begin playing the game. The Hierarchy panel lists all assets that are currently in the scene. The Project panel displays every file that is in the Assets folder of the project for quick access to dropping any of them into the scene directly. And the Inspector panel simply waits for you to click on something, at which point it will display all properties associated with the clicked object. Of course, there are other buttons and menus, but the point is that none of them are vital to the core development process, which is why it was a smart move to keep them hidden until they’re needed.

Its Target Platforms

Unity 3D version 3.5 offers a new publishing option which has a potential that is quite difficult to overstate. Its ability to build projects directly into SWF files that automatically run in Adobe Flash Player means developers who want to distribute their content through the web no longer have to worry about whether sites support the Unity Web Player. And now that Flash Player 11 has a new 3D graphics rendering engine, the fact that Unity creates 3D content is also not a problem.

Unity 3D Build Settings

So many options, so few clicks!

Flash Player support isn’t the only upside to Unity’s publishing potential, however. The fact that it can build to so many different platforms without modifying a single line of code, as well as the ability to switch between target platforms with the click of a button (literally, just one button!) should be even further cause for excitement. PC standalone, Mac standalone, Flash Player, Unity Player, Android, iOS, XBox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii build options are all supported.

 

Its Robustness

As if simplicity and distribution potential weren’t enough, Unity comes packed with enough features to make one wonder exactly why the entire program doesn’t require a purchased license in order to use it. For example, its built-in physics engine means developers don’t have to spend time messing with things like gravity and collision detection unless they really want to. Simply use the included script editor to apply a script with an OnCollisionEnter function. If more information is desired, the full documentation for every aspect of Scripting in Unity can be found on Unity’s website. JavaScript, C#, and Boo are the supported scripting languages. For the full list of features, look here.

What’s the downside to all of this? Surely it sounds too good to be true. I thought the same thing myself. And while I’m not exactly an expert Unity developer yet (I’ve only been using it for a couple months at most), I think I’ve seen enough to know that the pros greatly outweigh the cons. But as far as I can tell there is only one major con: the cost. Most features are present in the basic version, but building to anything except PC/Mac standalone and the Web Player will require a fee of some kind. Building to Android or iOS requires a $400 license for each. The Pro license costs $1500. And when version 3.5 comes out of public beta, publishing for the Flash Player will also require a fee. Jestermen encourages anyone to snag the basic version and actually develop something first, though. That’s what we’ve done, and we fell in love with the program. Try it and see!

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