The Temptation of Unity

I started my first year as an independent developer with a big focus on Flash. Flash was easy to use, had a solid community and the portals were a great way to get your game out there.

Over the past few months, the alluring song of Unity3d has been tempting me and every day, the temptation grows.

Developing in Unity always been sexy for it’s ease of use, incredible in-browser performance and ease of releasing on multiple platforms. At OrcaJam a few weeks ago, Alec Holowka showed me just a few of the incredible things Unity can do and presented a strong case for switching.

I always knew that development in Unity was fast, but it’s REALLY fast, getting a simple prototype up and running is a matter of a few hours, as opposed to a few days in Flash. That’s a HUGE difference and one that’s hard to ignore.

In addition to the time savings, Unity makes it dead easy to deploy on browser, PC/Mac Download, iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Android support is coming soon.

I’ve had more than a few friends ask me if they can play Ray Ardent on iPhone, but it’s not that simple. Even though Flash export to iOS, the performance is very disappointing. A high performance game like Ray Ardent with collision, parallax scrolling and enemy AI slows down to a crawl when exported through the Flash exporter for iPhone.

It’s possible that Adobe will improve this, but it’s likely Ray won’t be making an appearance on iPhone for a long time.

With all of this going for it, why the hell haven’t I made the switch?

It’s really simple – Flash has a massive reach. In modern computers, Flash’s install base is over 90%. It’s quite simply the best way in the world to reach people. There are over 30,000 Flash game portals in the world, reaching tens of millions of players.

That’s hard to beat.

In Unity’s favor, is BigPoint. BigPoint is a game company that has had a lot of success with their Unity game portal in Europe and they are moving into North America. They also have a great micro-transaction that anyone can implement.

For the time being, I’m holding the course on Flash, but Unity will always be out there – tempting me…

Edit: After posting, I read this interview with the Unity team that has some very interesting stats:
– Unity web-player has an install base of 35 million and is growing by about 2 million every month.
– Unity web-player bounce-rate is only 30%. This means that 7/10 people prompted to install the Unity plug-in do so. I thought it would have been lower.

Both of these are great bits of news for Unity – and only increase my temptation.

5 Replies to “The Temptation of Unity”

  1. BigPoint’s registered users stands at 140M. Sure, not all of them play or pay, but that’s a hell of a lot of potential customers.

    We did Gravitos, our VFS final, in Unity. The team had literally zero experience with any game engines, next-to-nothing for scripting, and practically no feasible art pipeline. We had to do a ton of .JS to .CS conversion, using mostly found and hacked code from the web. All things considered, it turned out fine and the key point was one you mentioned: we managed to prove out our core mechanics in the first week of production.

    You can check it out here if you like:

    Personally, if I were to consider a second development platform aside from Unity, I’d be far more interested in HTML5 than Flash. 😉

  2. Alec – Google’s support of Unity is awesome and I’m super psyched on it.

    HTML 5 is sexy too, but it lacks the portal network and compatibility is still a problem, but I still believe that it’s the future of mass market browser gaming and the portals are coming around. Noel Berry’s HTML 5 stuff is looking cool!

  3. Shane, why not finish up Ray Ardent in Flash, then port to iPhone using Cocos2D? It’s a great 2D engine with many similarities in structure to AS3’s display list model and has great perf and community support.


  4. I evaluated Unity 3 Beta for a couple of days and while I’d love to make a game with it one day it’s really most suitable for 3D games.

    If you’re having a 2D game with 2D assets (animated sprites) Unity doesn’t really fit. Another potential problem-area seems to be the design of appealing user-interfaces. Menus or HUDs that are responsive (mouse over) and animated could be a lot harder to do then in Flash.

    Lastly as a programmer I feel constrained by the IDE (even though the Editor is great and the component system flexible) just like I hate to use Flash IDE for anything more complex then a Logo-Animation or skinned UI elements. But that’s personal preference I guess.

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