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Unity

Gamereactor will, on this web page, take a closer look at one of the most important technical requirements for making computer games for all platforms, the game engine. But not all engines are created equal, and some developers take it a lot further, providing not only the engine, but all the tools to the user. Including assets to server solutions, which provide a turn-key solution to anyone with the passion and creative mind needed to make a computer game. That is why Unity fittingly calls it “more than an engine”, as they are responsible for more than 50% of the games you know and love.

Unity, the one-stop-shop for game developers

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Regarded as one of the most accessible platforms for developers and creative minds alike, Unity prides itself on being "more than an engine". But why is this the case? The complete ecosystem offered by Unity ensures that its users are equipped with a range of tools and systems capable of bringing their creative vision into reality. It doesn’t matter if you use Windows, Mac, or Linux, Unity runs on all of them.

Unlike various other software packages that are available, Unity only requires payment for access to the engine itself, and does not come with any revenue sharing strings attached; whatever the engine is used to create belongs entirely to the developer. Moreover, Unity’s capabilities allow the developers to lean into creating 3D content on a multi-platform basis, helping to save precious time and money in bringing a game to each individual platform.

"Building a game can be a considerable undertaking, and that's before even thinking about what platform(s) to deploy to,” said Ralph Hauwert, Senior Vice President of Research & Development at Unity. “What's more, game development can take years to complete, and in that time, platforms change, new consoles can be launched, etc. We want our creators to feel confident knowing that Unity has their back and will make sure that their game is ready for any platform."

The ability to bring a project to as many platforms as possible is a critical competitive advantage that allows developers to reach their audience wherever they are. There are multiple active consoles in both the Xbox and PlayStation families at this instance, and then there’s Nintendo, PC, and even mobile to think about it.

Speaking on the matter, the co-founder and lead designer at Alta VR (the team who delivered A Township Tale), Boramy Unn said, "Unity’s flexibility allowed us to take on the more daunting aspects of creating A Township Tale, that is to port from PC to Quest… We didn’t have to worry about building to what the platform looked like, we knew the basis about APK, but all that was already done by the Engine."

Unity was created with simplicity and extensibility in mind. Visual scripting tools give non-coders or those with minimal understanding of coding the opportunities to breathe life into their creative visions. It will take time to master, but the drag-and-drop graphs that remove the requirement of writing lines of code are a great way to get started with game development.

"We all agree that Unity as an engine provides great core functionality and it's really easy to extend and customize because it's very easy to use the editing features and the plugin tools," said Xun Zhu, Technical Artist Lead at 24 Entertainment, the team behind Naraka: Bladepoint. A simplistic design is ideal for a game engine, as it allows creators and developers to focus on what really matters: the game. The scale of Unity’s capabilities also means that the engine can produce sprawling PC and console projects such as Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, Valheim, or Kerbal Space Program or mobile titles like League of Legends: Wild Rift. The scope of what Unity is capable of is limited only by the creator's ambition.

But what if the creator is a more experienced developer, perhaps someone with the knowledge of coding? Unity offers the C# 8 programming language to ensure that users have the most recent iteration of the code base, to promote functionality and flexibility - and this is even accessible to the masses, as the aforementioned visual tools are able to manipulate the game code in a relatively easy to understand manner.

"The Long Term Support (LTS) release is for creators who value maximum stability and support," added Unity senior VP Hauwert. "It includes improvements to streamline your coding experience, improved testing and profiling, and other enhancements. To achieve more in less time, all with a smoother workflow – then deliver your game to the widest possible audience."

As video games take a lot of time and resources to make, it’s crucial that the project can be saved, synced and shared across a number of users. The Unity ecosystem offers multi-user team support, so that every member of the team, regardless of their role, can access and work on the project. There is even a local cache service known as Accelerator built-in to assist in increasing the download speed of source code and assets.

Speaking of assets, the Unity Asset Store is the one-stop-shop for making games. Whether it's selling code or art, or rather purchasing some from another developer, the Asset Store is simple to use and even features over 6,000 free assets. The tools and art available to purchase can be the ideal way to bring a world to life, and can range from simple decorative rocks, to premade systems for water physics or other gameplay systems. The option to buy entirely premade cities is even there!

"It's a huge resource for developers, we have over 69,000 packages on the store," said Peter O’Reilly, head of the Asset Store. "Over 1.3 million 3D art assets, over 9000 tools …  it has all you need to get started and accelerate your development."

The Unity Asset Store is integrated in such a way that everything is fully modular, and can be tweaked and twisted to suit the developer’s personal requirements - and to get an idea to the sorts of quality that is offered in the Asset Store, the assets available are quite commonly used by creators of all sizes from AAA to indie or hobbyists.

Unity is a massive engine with immense creative potential, so while we’ve already explored a lot of what is on offer, we’ll be diving in a little further in the future. Be sure to visit us again in a week’s time, when we’ll be checking out how you can turn creativity into developmental momentum.

For more information on Unity, it’s products and services visit their website.

Unity, supporting and providing a cohesive environment for developers

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For the next stage of our Unity deep dive, we’ll be moving away from the engine and how it encourages more creativity with developers, to rather focus on the specific tools that are designed to give creators more momentum.

We’ll be looking at the handy collaborative tools that make it easier to work as a team, remotely or in an office, as well as the bountiful range of support services to ensure creators always have access to a helping hand. Without further ado, let’s dive into how Unity encourages and aids working as a team.

In a day and age when working remotely is becoming more commonplace, it can be challenging to coordinate development between a team of individuals. Unity offers a handy solution for this problem with the powerful collaboration tool, Plastic SCM, which is capable of juggling thousands of users at a single instance, allowing for not only real-time content creation but also cloud-based remote or local work. So whether a developer is a two-man indie crew working out of a shed, or a multinational, multi-office AAA studio, Unity has the capabilities to support whatever a creator needs to bring their projects to life.

“Plastic SCM is a flagship, version control solution,” said Felix Thè, Vice President, Product Management at Unity.. “It can handle the largest repositories, massive binary file sizes, and thousands of concurrent users, all while supporting distributed and centralised repositories. It also has the most advanced automated branching capabilities, so everything you need to make a real-time content creation workflow - whether in-cloud or on-premises - is supported by Plastic SCM.”

There’s no secret that game development is challenging, regardless of personal skill or the tools at a developer's disposal. This is precisely why having a helping hand isn’t something to shy away from. Unity offers support at the highest level to those who purchase its services, support that will help guide users in the right direction, whenever a snag in progress is met. The support won’t write the code for creators, but it is a great place to find assistance for bug fixing, streamlining, and game auditing, to ensure the best possible product is delivered at the end of it all.

Professional Services gives you access to Unity experts at any stage of production, so you can fully leverage proven best practices from start to finish,” said Thè. “Solutions are tailored to your organization to help you reduce risk and accelerate development. Unity Professional Services conduct an in-depth analysis of your project’s code and assets to identify areas for optimization. We’ll deliver a report with actionable recommendations based on Unity best practices to help you maximize efficiency and performance.”

As game development is often plagued with complications, there are occasions when a creator hits an unforeseen problem that can seem impossible to solve. Unity comes prepared by offering a solution.

“Developers need help in different areas,” said Thè. “It made sense to split our support, to better service our clients in a particular area. Some of these include CAP (Code, Assets, Performance) - a three-day analysis of code and assets to uncover root causes of performance issues and then provide an actionable report with best practice recommendations.”

To build on this, Unity even provides a complete game audit if required.

“Using Unity proprietary game data to benchmark your game, we make recommendations to improve key aspects of retention, monetization, and player experience,” mentioned Thè. “As well as a few more you can find on our website, or through our account managers.”

On that note, to find out more information on Unity, its services, tools, and products, be sure to visit their website Unity.

More Connection

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Multiplayer has grown to be a staple of video games, with a huge proportion of modern titles created solely as a way for people around the world to group up and play with one another. However, supporting a worldwide matchmaking system is not cheap or easy, whether a developer looks to maintain it themselves or have a third party complete the scaling necessary to support matchmaking. Unity is looking to ease that burden, having invested in more than 190 data centres across the globe, which when combined with Unity’s Multiplay game server hosting make matchmaking accessible and financially plausible.

“Your game’s success shouldn’t depend on having infrastructure building skills, or enough servers,” said Felix Thè, Vice President of Product Management at Unity. “Multiplay removes the complexity of creating and operating back-end technology, so you can focus on creating an engaging player experience. With our cloud servers, we will make sure that there is zero downtime so that you don’t have to worry about it. We have a growing network of data centres across 70 regions, and Multiplay Cloud Platform offers worldwide coverage and 24/7 support.”

Creating a matchmaking system is more complex than having the necessary data centres. To help developers overcome this, Unity has created a solution called Matchmaker, which ensures that players are matched for the best gameplay experience possible - both in terms of the quality of the connection of the players, but also their respective skill levels.

“Matchmaker is about connecting players based on any given criteria to ensure they have a great online experience,” stated Jeff Collins, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Unity. “This includes ensuring that players from the same region are connecting to a server that will give them the least latency, and also finding players of similar skill so that it provides a balanced play experience for all players on the same server.”

Online gaming brings its own unique set of developmental challenges. Over the past few years alone, we’ve seen incidents where titles have experienced infrastructure scaling issues, which can be attributed to the often high player counts and the expensive price of running game servers. As these systems are frequently idle, but also have the requirement of ensuring short waiting times and the filling of matches, issues are prone to arise.

We see it commonly when popular multiplayer games, such as Destiny 2 and World of Warcraft receive large updates, leading to a spike in the player count, and subsequently lengthy queue times. Unity’s multi-cloud system can help resolve this issue, as Collins explains.

“The cloud scales with demand, able to support even the largest games. Integrated with major public clouds and over 190 data centres, the multi-cloud approach is designed for resilience and performance at scale. Among many features ensuring queues are full and players can get into games quickly is an important part of matchmaking. The key idea is that we give control to the creators to come up with the parameters for how they want their lobbies to be filled and leave the connection to Unity.”

As with any multiplayer game, it’s crucial for players to be able to communicate with one another. Unity can take this task off the user’s hands, by using its Vivox systems to provide a voice and text-based solution.

“Vivox is easy to integrate and, most importantly, completely reliable,” Thè told us. “It is a proven solution that uses minimal internal overhead to get up and running. Vivox is a dedicated VOIP and text-based solution that’s ready for developers to plug into their game. This means more focus on enhanced strategic gameplay with top-quality communications. Vivox is trusted by some of the biggest studios in the industry including, Riot, Ubisoft and PUBG. Big or small Vivox is a solution that helps developers provide a reliable communications channel for their game that works.”

On that note, to find out more information on Unity, its services, tools, and products, be sure to visit their website Unity.

Unity, giving creators the analytical tools to drive engagement and revenue

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In the modern-day, launching a game is only the first of many steps in the life of a successful game. Players and the community expect support post-launch, whether that means new content, or simply game balance and bug fixing. Unity has a selection of services that help in driving player engagement and ensures creators can generate revenue post-launch, which will, in turn, increase the value of the game in the eyes of the player.

Player analytics play two key roles for our users, one being that it helps you better understand how to develop a balanced in-game economy,” said Julie Shumaker, Senior Vice President Revenue at Unity. “Secondly, it’s that there are elements that are player analytics that can be put back into the R&D cycle that fine-tune your game so that as you’re creating new game content you are doing so, more in-line with how gamers are interacting with it.”

Creators who plan on monetising their project, by using in-app purchases or in-app advertising, as examples, can use a simple turn-key solution provided directly by Unity. Designed as an extension of the complex and powerful analytics systems offered by Unity, these identify what a player’s interests are in-game and feed them back to the creator. It is then up to the developer to build their creative vision whilst using this data to reflect the interest of the community to maintain a stable income to be used as funding for the next project they have planned.

UnityAds have two key roles,” Shumaker told us. “The first is being able to monetize the real estate the developers create in their game. The second is being able to leverage that real estate to drive user acquisition.”

Unity has also taken time to consider the multiple storefront options for IAP that are available across the many different active platforms in the modern era of development.

“We unify this within the game, so you don’t need to worry about varied storefronts as this is all taken care of in the backend,” mentioned Shumaker. “Again this is how we allow developers to focus on delivering awesome content to their users, and we handle the logistics of making it possible.”

As games become increasingly popular and more commonplace, the way the community enjoys gaming as a pastime is changing in itself. We’re seeing a shift of when people enjoy playing games, from the weekend to the regular week. Unity not only sees this movement, but it provides creators with this sort of information and the tools necessary to adapt and produce the content that consumers are searching for. Whether it's through analytics or revenue, Unity helps developers not only build the game of their dreams, but it helps them ensure that the title survives post-launch.

On that note, to find out more information on Unity, its services, tools, and products, be sure to visit their website Unity.

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