The tagline beside our corporate logo currently reads “We Make Flash Games”. This is a temporary tagline. i don’t think it’s wise to put all of your eggs in one basket, particularly when framing a game studio. And in light of Adobe/Macromedia’s handling of its product line (ie forcing a dramatic and difficult shift to Object Oriented Programming while rendering the timeline animation tools largely useless), i feel it’s wise to explore other options for creating games. We’re not finished with Flash quite yet, but we need to start scanning the horizon for new and better technologies.
Enter New and Better Technologies
One of those technologies that you’ve likely heard of is Unity 3D. Unity (for short) is a game creation tool with a similar schtick as Flash – players accept a one-time download of a web player plugin, and from there they can download and display content created for the player. In this case, the content is THREE-DEE, baby. And i’m not talking about Flash 3D, which is like drinking non-alcoholic vodka, or even Papervision 3D and its ilk, which is like trying to turn a car into a plane by stapling cardboard wings to it. i’m talking all three dees, in glorious Technicolor, with … Blast Processing and 64 … i dunno … blytes of processing and render power. (Technical specs are not my strong suit. Could you tell?)
i love this post by Ethical Games, Confessions of a Flash Game Developer, which sums the situation up very nicely.
The Unity 3D Web Player, which i encourage you to download now in anticipation of all the awesome stuff we’ll be building, is currently 3.18MB. That’s only slightly larger than the Flash Player plugin at 1.87 MB. Penetration rate is the the real difference – i heard somewhere that Flash Player, with its various incarnations, is the most installed piece of software of all time. i think penetration is up somewhere around a thousand percent (all numbers approximated).
The Flash Player has a higher penetration rate than this guy.
But What Does It Cost?
From a developer standpoint, price is a big difference. Unity rocks out on multiple platforms including Wii and iPhone, but it also rocks out on different prices. The product appears deceptively inexpensive at first, but when you look at purchasing a real software solution and the accompanying programs it requires, you’ll find yourself wondering which credit union or train you’ll have to rob to afford it. Leave it to penny-pinching me to give you the breakdown:
Product #1 Unity 3D core engine. You must purchase this engine to be able to develop on any other non-PC/Mac platform. (ie you can’t just skip ahead and buy Unity iPhone on its own)
- Unity Indie – $200
- Unity Pro – $1500
Next up is the iPhone license. The Pro version is pretty crucial as it gives you stripping rights, which means that you can disable large chunks of the Unity3D framework that you don’t need, freeing up space and memory for your game. You also don’t have to display the Unity logo in front of your game.
- Unity iPhone Basic – $400
- Unity iPhone Advanced – $1500
Then there’s the Wii license. i see a lot of people mentioning it when they talk about Unity, but they obviously haven’t done their research – otherwise, it wouldn’t be a thought in their minds. You’ll notice from the Unity 3D pricing page that you have to contact the company to ask about Wii license pricing, and that it’s also listed with the source code for their entire app. It’s the same rule as restaurants: if they don’t list the price, you can’t afford it. When i spoke with a Unity 3D rep at the Casual Connect conference in Seattle this year, he intimated that the then-current pricing was $10000.
Suffice it to say, Unity Wii is not part of our current strategy.
But That’s Not All
One of the biggest barriers to entry for us exploring the Unity 3D space is the 3D software we’d need. It’s all fine and dandy to have a great program like Unity with a smooth pipeline that integrates with a number of leading 3D software packages, but you need one of those 3D software packages, don’t you? The enormous cost of these packages has led us to explore various less expensive options – Cheetah3D, Blender, Sketch-Up … but in the end, none of them are as familiar or decent as the package i learned on in college, 3DStudio Max.
3ds Max: for all your miscellaneous chrome object needs.
Here’s the trouble:
- Autodesk 3ds Max – $3495
Ouch. There used to be a lower-priced entry level program called gmax that the company discontinued, because they realized that they weren’t getting 3495 bloody dollars for it.
Putting It All Together
So let’s tally that all up. We have two developers, so we’d want two copies of Unity 3D core . But i figure we only need 1 pro license for deployment (i think?). We’d also only need 1 copy of Unity 3D iPhone, because we only have one Mac (and an Apple computer is required for iPhone deployment). Ideally, we’d buy two copies of 3ds Max, but unless and until the government approves gay marriage and i get hitched to Ritchie Rich, we’re looking at one copy.
Hey big spender … spend a little time with me.
- 1 Unity 3D Core Pro License – $1500
- 1 Unity 3D Indie License – $200
- 1 Unity 3D iPhone Pro License – $1500
- 1 Autodesk 3ds Max seat – 3495 friggin’ simoleans
Grand total: $6695
The Small Favour
i hope this has been an enjoyable learning experience, and a glimpse into the types of things that give a small business owner a grand mal seizure. The last time i spent over $7000 on something, it had a roof and indoor plumbing.
But you can help! The Unity 3D crew did a podcast interview wit the folks at Indie Game Dev Podcast Show. They gave the site a free Unity iPhone license to give away in a contest, which we entered. We very rarely enter contests, but in this case, all you had to do was write up a game idea. Preference will be given to the entrant who is the most likely to finish his project.
Well looky here … who’s got a perfectly AWESOME-LOOKING game in the works called Kahoots, which was modeled enirely in clay and built for the iPhone screen spec? (Answer: us.)
i get annoyed when people say “go here and vote for us!” What if their entry isn’t the best one? In this case, i’ll only say “Go here!” Click the link. Read the entries. And if you like what we have to offer the most, just leave a quick comment to tell the site owners you want to see us bring Kahoots™ to the iPhone.
According to the site, “Winner gets all the Unity tools needed to make an iPhone game using their platform.” i don’t know if this means they’re giving away the core engine along with the iPhone license, and whether they’re giving away pro or indie licenses (i suspect indie), but at the very least, it’ll knock $400 off the cost of our Unity 3D ambitions. And at the very most, it’ll cut the total down by $3000. Wowzers!
So search your heart! And if you find it in yourself to vote for us (we’re entry #8), i thank you very, very kindly. Voting ends today!
- We won … hooray! Thanks for voting.
- A few quick questions to Tom Higgins from the Unity team cleared up some of my questions. Since a single company is not allowed to mix licenses (Pro and Indie), the cost of my software solution jumps up by a big $2400 to $9095. That’s almost ten-large for Unity3D iPhone for two people, and one copy of 3ds Max.
By biting the bullet and learning Blender instead of buying 3ds Max, the price comes down to $5600. That still be one spicy meat-a-ball.