Unite2013 - Day 1

I have such a nerd-crush on Unity3D at the moment, but of course that could be because I've just attended the keynote of the Unite2013 conference and I'm all fired up with positive nerd energy.

However, the announcement of Unity3D 4.3's features should be enough to get you excited too. The Unity3G game engine is a very powerful lump of code that allows you to write games for multiple platforms (including Windows App Store apps of course), combined with a good editing system and support for a gazillion file formats. So it's easy to import 3D models, textures, sounds and then combine them all with physics and some C# scripting to make a game. And the game can be a AAA title, or it can be something your kids are writing to learn programming: it does it all. I've tried out many game authoring systems recently, and Unity is one that doesn't feel constraining or limited or.. weird.. It doesn't feel like using a brand new non-native platform, it feels solid and reliable. We're getting married next year.

Anyway, today, Unity announced that they would support 2D games as well, coming in version 4.3 Of course you could always fake a 2D game, but now the editor has a mode which is optimized for 2D and includes a new physics engine makes it easy to write anything from furious porcine clones to retro classics. I'm looking forward to this release (due 'soon') very much. 

The other thing which made me grin was the real-time facial movement capture system which used a Webcam to change a 3D model's face. It would have been science fiction when I was first writing games.

I know it's weird that a big announcement is a reduction in dimensions, but 2D games are still a thriving industry especially on mobile and tablet devices. Version 4.3 also includes optimizations, improved Mono script editing features and more. It's going to be huge.


After the thrill of the keynote, I attended some talks. The first was a more detailed look at the new 2D tools, and new GUI tools (although I'm new to Unity3D, I soon picked up there is a history to the GUI tools used to create menus and so on. The forthcoming updates look very cool).

I got to try out an Oculus Rift 3D headset; the HD prototype. If they had the developer editions at the event I would probably have handed over the $300 there and then - this is very cool technology. I was viewing a space simulation, flying over the surface of the Moon. As I looked around, I could see all the controls in my cockpit, and outside the Earth and stars all moved with parallax through the windows. It was very impressive. The tracking rate was just spot-on.

The talk given by the team by Girls Like Robots game was very interesting. So much activity in the casual games scene! There's just never been a better time to be an indie developer.

The last talk of the day was by Jodon Karlik who has plenty of experience getting Unity3D projects running on Windows Phone, and Windows 8 (App Store). This was vital information, and I'll try to get a link to his website to share. There are currently some issues which may cause your apps to fail the Windows App Store review process, so this is vital stuff. 

It was great to see some colleagues from the Windows Phone side of the company. Microsoft has a good presence at the event, with a Porting Lab to help you to get your projects ready for the App Store. If you are attending the event, it'll be well worth your time to pop by and show them you code.

I rounded off the day with a chat with some of the Unity3D experts who were manning their own hands-on labs. There's plenty more to see tomorrow!