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Unity: Uniting Mac and Windows game developers: While at Casual Connect 2007, we heard rumors of a game development tool for the Mac so stable, so bug free, so easy to use, that Windows game developers were switching to the Mac just so they could use it. We tracked down Tom Higgins, product evangelist of Over The Edge, to ask him about the company’s game development tool that we’d heard so much about, Unity 3D.
Unity is a Mac OS X-based 3D game development tool and game engine that allows development of downloadable and browser-based games for the Mac and Windows. Started as the game engine for the development of a game called GooBall, OTEE (as Over The Edge calls themselves) eventually grew to realize that they really wanted to build a game development tool. And as everyone in the company are Mac users, Unity was built to run on the Mac. However, Unity provides support for game development for Power PC and Intel-based Macs, Windows XP and Vista. Higgins says that Unity 2.0, due out later this summer, will also provide support for the Nintendo Wii.
GooBall was developed using Unity.
One of the few complaints that users of Unity have had is a lack of source control support. Higgins says that is mainly because Unity is targeted at small game development teams that rarely need to utilize source control measures. Also, OTEE’s focus has until now been on game content delivery. However, he hinted that, since recently Unity has been used by increasingly larger development teams, that some measure of source control support will be available in the 2.0 release.
Higgins also says that OTEE provides the majority of their technical support through the forums, and that all of the company participates, even the CEO. The company doesn’t believe in making their clients pay for most tech support, he said. They want to maintain the public community and feel that there is a lot of benefit in public discussion of problems and solutions.
When asked about the future of Unity 3D, Higgins jokingly said he’d have to sidestep the question. But in the true spirit of community, he dropped hints of issues that OTEE was considering dealing with in the future, such as a Windows port of the engine, alternate platforms for game distribution, improvements in rich text rendering, changes in sound control capabilities, and many others.
Congregate at Kongregate: We first heard about Kongregate in a session early in the Casual Connect 2007 conference. A game community site of the Web 2.0 kind, we wondered what makes this game community site different from the others. We sat down with Jim Greer, CEO and co-founder of Kongregate, and asked him what the site was actually all about.
Greer and his sister, Emily, began the site in 2006. Kongregate is a user-generated games community, where game developers upload their browser-based games to the site. The games are then rated by the rest of the community, and those ratings will determine where on the site the games are seen and by whom. Surrounding the games are social features such as online chatting, player profiles, and comments. But other features that players can obtain are trophies in exchange for successful gameplay, such as achievements and challenges.
Game developers can upload Flash or Shockwave formatted games to Kongregate immediately; there is no screening process. However, Greer did specify that games that violated certain policies would be removed immediately, and the holder of the account banned, such as when game content uploaded has been stolen, or the content is pornographic or hateful. When we asked Greer who the final arbiter of appropriate content was, he stated that once content was uploaded, members of the site can flag it, and Kongregate reviews the content to see if it does violate the company’s policies.
Developers own their content and can remove their content at any time, and Kongregate will share advertising revenue with games depending on play time. At the moment, Kongregate is providing incentives for developers to provide exclusive content for the company. They are also providing a process of what Greer calls "second-party development," meaning that Kongregate is seeking to fund certain microtransaction-based game development in exchange for a certain period of exclusivity with the site. However, even if Kongregate funds development, the developer still owns full copyright to the game.
Greer says advertising is handled differently as well. A company can sponsor an achievement or level-up prize, providing certain benefits in exchange for doing well in a game. Greer feels that advertising should happen when a player has achieved something in a game, not when a gamer is waiting to play a game.
Currently in the beta stage, Kongregate is constantly being updated every week, with major updates each month. Greer says that the full release will be less of a launch of a new product, and more like simply removing the beta tag, but could not give us an estimate of a release date, beyond saying that one date might be around the release of one of their premium games.
Next: Closing thoughts