Unity is nice, and free right now for Android and iOS

The Double Fine Kickstarter project made me want to write a game of my own. Not that I expect to end up with a full game, but I do have an idea I want to try. I haven’t done any game related programming for a while, and though my experience is mainly in Direct3D I initially decided to write it using OpenGL, because it’s cross platform and because more experience with it will help my current job. That didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped though (it never does), and I started thinking about using existing engines.

I decided to try Unity. Its free version is rather simple, lacking shadows for example, which I consider a basic feature. Still, I only really wanted to prototype, and I figured that would be enough. I want something simple, and while the Unreal Engine is free (in the form of the UDK) and so is the CryENGINE, I figured something simpler and more lightweight would be better for prototyping.

I have to say I’m impressed with the ease of development using Unity. It took me just a few hours to get something basic working. Nothing game-like at all, but it has objects and camera movement, and I like it. It will take me a lot longer to implement what I really want done, but I like that I can move there step by step. Being able to update scripts and watch their results from within the interactive design environment makes for a very development cycle. Perhaps the other engines would have worked just as well, but for my current needs Unity is very good.

Another benefit of Unity is that if I do decide to make a full game and I’m willing to make do with the limitations of the free version I don’t have to pay anything unless I make over $100,000 a year. If I want the extra features it’s $1,500, but that’s a one time sum, not a percentage of sales that the big engines want. Which is good and bad, but I think in these days of crowd funding it’s more good than bad.

The nice thing is that it’s also easy to make the game run on iOS and Android with Unity. I have the game Shadowgun on my Motorola DEFY, it was created with Unity, and I’m impressed that such a good looking game can run on my lowly phone (most hardcore Android games say they’re incompatible), so that’s nice credentials. The best thing is that the iOS and Android versions are currently free too (they’re normally $400), until the 8th of April.

Will anything come of it? Probably not. But I enjoy trying my idea in Unity and knowing that I’ll be able to try it on my phone also gives me pleasure.

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