August 20, 2012 3:29 pm
by Greg Carron
The World of Unity 3D
If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at 3D game creation, Unity 3D may be the tool for you. An integrated authoring tool with over 950K registered developers, Unity offers both an editor and an advanced game engine. With a Free and Pro version, as well as a bevy of tutorials available to newbies, Unity aims to be accessible to everyone. It runs on both Windows and Mac, and its games can be run on the latest gaming consoles Xbox 360, Playstation, Wii, iPad, iPhone, and Android (Linux forthcoming in the 4th release). Unity can also be used to produce interactive browser games via the Mac and Windows supported by the Unity Web Player plugin. Unity games can also be exported to Adobe’s Stage 3D functionality in Flash, albeit with some limitation.
With the rise of mobile gaming, Unity dominates in this field as it integrates seamlessly with the Android and iOS platforms. For example, with the help of Unity, Cyan World was able to bring the crushingly frustrating and CPU intensive Myst to your smartphone. The increased processing power (CPU and GPU), as well as advancements in memory and battery life in today’s latest smartphones have paved the way for mobile game engines to flourish.
These new types of 3D mobile games require extensive hardware requirements and platforms that can handle some complex user interactions, and Unity stands with the best of them. The ability to deploy projects to both iOS and Android (with some setting tweaks) is a valuable feature for software development companies as it wouldn’t require multiple developers or codebases. At BNOTIONS, we develop many of our 3D mobile prototypes and games with Unity and being able to import libraries/frameworks for non-traditional game elements through their extensive native plugin support enables us to concentrate on the user experience, which is the key to a successful project.
Perhaps most excitingly, however, are the Augmented Reality (AR) applications. For example, Random House publishing has partnered with Zerofractal to produce an AR cover for Dean Koontz’s forthcoming novel, Odd Apocalypse. You can read more about the project here: Zerofractal publishes first ever AR book for Dean Koontz
You can see that Unity can leverage some compelling 3D content, by importing a wide range of file types (models, textures etc..) then by adding limitless interactivity to develop some amazing projects. Prototypes and demos that can showcase Unity’s ability to enable developers with the tools to access outside data or media that can be pulled into the application in realtime, makes the platform a viable solution for complex marketing strategies. Staying in the marketing world, being able to merge beautiful 3D content with traditional web content on mobile devices with custom user interactions is a unique solution that deserves some consideration in today’s new media landscape.
However to be fair and look on the other side of the coin, Unity does have a few caveats that require workarounds or attention to. Unity is big, not only in terms of memory it requires to run smoothly but also in the size of its executables. Spending time optimizing for a better performance and keeping file sizes on the low side is strongly suggested. On the visual side of things, Unity doesn’t come with any type of UI builder.
To create and manage your UI elements, external/open source frameworks like UIToolKit can save you hours of frustration. We should also mention that, with Unity, since you’re not dealing with native code, you’re restricted to using scripts to render your on-screen elements. You can always find great scripts online to render the majority of objects, however you’ll be limited to writing your own if you’re not happy and that brings a new set of problems in their own right.
Another area in which Unity excels is browser games. There’s Team Shotgun’s beautiful Puzzle Bloom, Flashbang’s compellingly bizarre Jetpack Brontosaurus, and GameArt Studio’s adventure AI Invasion. Unsurprisingly, big entertainment names are also in the Unity game, such as Universal (Universal Monsters by Bigpoint), Marvel (Marvel Superhero Squad), and the extensive Battlestar Gallactica online. The Unity team has some great demo reels of some of the hottest games built on their platform – check out their YouTube “Made with Unity” channel for more.
In conclusion, Unity 3D is an incredibly powerful game engine that app developers can leverage to produce some unique and interactive apps that can express their brand in new exciting ways. We’ll continue to experiment with this amazing platform and look forward to Unity 4 as it gets released in the fall. Stay tuned for more exciting new Unity & AR projects in the coming months.
We love our AR games here at BNOTIONS, so here are a few projects we’ve recently worked on using the Unity 3D platform. Go ahead, download them and have fun!
CSpire PERCS of the Game, which was produced for the Southern Miss Golden Eagles baseball team in partnership with CSpire Wireless. The app used the camera on the phone to make it appear as though eagles were flying over top of the users. Players had 90 seconds to try to throw baseballs to the birds, by aiming at them with the camera and tapping the screen.
CSpire PERCS Catch, which made it appear as though glowing particles (representing the CSpire wireless network) were circling the user (also using the iPhone camera feed). Users attempted to catch “clusters” in these particles, to receive rewards points from CSpire. In addition, when at a CSpire store, users were able to scan promotional material (by looking at it with the phone camera) using the app in order to unlock greater rewards points that were tied to the user’s account.
Block Academy – (developed independently by Kyle, one of our developers) takes your puzzle games to a new dimension with Block Academy! Using a technology called Augmented Reality, Block Academy lets you build and play on any flat surface you can find! Test your wits in the 16 challenge leves, which will require you to master building with three differently behaving types of blocks to build blueprints projected overtop of the marker card.
The Lindt Perfect Match Tennis Game is the only iPhone app that rewards you with special offers from Lindt Chocolate when you play. Get the highest score by testing your accuracy in this Augmented Reality tennis experience!
Greg Carron | Chief Evangelist | @pixeladdikt
Ann Buechner | Copywriter | @BNOTIONS