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OverTheEdge's Unity 1.5.1

Develop 3D Windows games on a Mac? You bet! By Paul M. Unterweiser

I'm an independent, serious games developer and, although I've worked with other operating systems in the past, my primary operating system has always been Windows.  Over the last year or so, my studio has spent most of it's time and resources creating prototypes, demos and games for a number of clients and target markets.

Although I don't consider myself a real programmer (a real programmer can write code in C or one of it's many flavors, in my opinion), I have dabbled at some of the easier languages like Actionscript, Lingo, Javascript and Python. Consequently, because of my limited programming skills, any time I have to develop something on my own, I often resort to one of the ?easy to use game engines that are intended for developers like myself.

Although the engines I tried all had certain good qualities, and a few were reasonably easy to use,  the problem I ran into with all of them was that as soon as my game's development reached a certain level of complexity, progress would hit a ?wall.  This ?wall was usually the result of issues in the engine, like  files that wouldn't import properly, shaders that would stop functioning correctly, or games that would crash for no apparent reason.  Sometimes my code was to blame, but many times the source was clearly a bug or undocumented limitation in the engine.  At that point the ?easy label no longer seemed to fit the tool I was using, my energies were diverted from creating a game and focused instead on finding bugs in the engine and figuring a way to work around them.  As a result, game development went from fun and challenging, to difficult and frustrating.  Every time my project hit this ?wall ultimately the only solution was to shop for another engine and start all over again.


This pattern repeated itself for the next six months, and rather than a finished product all I had to show for my efforts were 4 versions of a game demo, created with 4 different game engines, and none of them worked!  If you've spent any significant amount of time trying to develop a ?real game with one of these engines, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about.

About the time I was about to start on my fifth attempt with yet another engine, an associate recommended I take a look at Unity.  I hadn't heard of Unity before, and a quick look at their website explained why:  Unity is a Mac-based game development system. 

?Huh? I thought, ?Why would a Windows developer be interested in this?  But after scanning OverTheEdge's (?OTEE for short, Unity's developer) website ( http://www.unity3d.com/ ) and roaming their forums I learned a few bits that caught my interest:  Not only can Unity create Windows games, but some of it's features suggested it might be an even better Windows development tool than the tools I had already tried.  I also learned that there was a small, dedicated, group of Windows developers, who like myself got frustrated with what was available on a PC, and who were now developing Windows games on a Mac using Unity.  Although this impressed me, what really got my attention (especially after trying to resolve a particularly stubborn bug earlier that day) was how bug free, stable, and productive this same group of users claimed Unity was.

After wasting what seemed like an eternity with other engines and not making any significant progress, I faced a critical decision:  Do I follow the more commonly accepted path I had already traveled and continue to battle the bugs, hick-ups and frustrations?  Or do I take a chance, buy a Mac and follow a new route that only a few Windows developers have followed, but those that did claimed it was the best move they ever made?  As the title of this article suggests, I decided to give Unity a try.  That was over 3 months and several successfully completed projects ago.

Unity 1.5.1
Unity is an OpenGL game development system for Mac OS X that is capable of  producing  games for Mac OS X (PPC and Intel), Windows, Mac ?Dashboard Widgets and the Internet using a web browser plug-in.  In spite of being a relative newcomer to the industry, Unity has already received high marks for it's innovative design, extensive features, product stability and reliable after sales support.

GUI and interface
Unity's interface isn't too different from other development systems I'd used before, but in several ways I found it to be more functional and user friendly.  Unity organizes a game into three primary groups:  assets, scenes and projects.  A project is the overall game organization and a scene is just  as it sounds, a sub-group or level.  In Unity, assets are basically all the bits that make up a game, from models and shaders, to lights, scripts and sounds.

Illustration 1: Unity's user interface

The user interface has six main panels (see illustration 1):  Hierarchy, Time-line, Project, Inspector, Scene view and Game view.  Although Unity comes with several default window layouts, you can also resize and re-arrange the windows any way that suits you and save that arrangement for later use. 

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Related Keywords:Unity 1..5.1 , Mac OS X OpenGL game development system , game developer

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