Category Archives: Blog

Unity 3D Is Free, But Is That Enough?

The biggest game development news of the past few days broke at the Unite Conference, a gathering of Unity 3D devs and hopefuls held in San Franciscy this week. The core engine, which previously cost $200, is now FREE. Video Game sexual positions journal Gamasutra dished the news in their article In-Depth: Unity Launches Free Option, Announces Xbox 360 Support.

It’s true: if you go to the Unity 3D site RIGHT NOW, hit their store and ask them if you can pay them any dollars for a copy of Unity, they will say “No, [sir or madam]. Your money is no good here. Please have a copy of our software for FREE.”

Free Tibet

Know what else is free? Tibet, apparently.

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch (or Game Engine)

Of course, to a skeptic like me, nothing is free, and this offer is no different. A free copy of Unity comes with a few stipulations:

  • the extensions that enable you to target the Wii and the iPhone platforms will still cost you – so contrary to what other sites are reporting, you CANNOT deploy to the Wii, WiiWare or the iPhone with your free copy of Unity.
  • All of the fanciest features are reserved, of course, for the Pro license, which will still run you $1500 American clams.
  • Something about your first-born. i dunno. i didn’t read the fine print.


Sorry, Semiazas. Where do i sign?

No Contest

As you know, we bent over backwards trying to win a copy of Unity Indie that the Unity 3D people likely knew damn well was going to become free in the next month. But we did also win a copy of Unity iPhone Basic (a retail value of $399.00). i’m just kinda glad that i didn’t shell out for that extra copy of each for our game developer Jeff (who, as an aside, has LASER HEAT VISION.)

This is, i believe, a very smart move for the Unity folks. The move to free will hopefully have the impact that Unity is gunning for: a slew of developers trying out the engine now that there’s essentially no barrier to entry. And, like Flash in its heyday, to use Unity is to love it. The tool feels instantly friendly, powerful and full of the promise of making that game you always dreamed of – in all three dees, no less, which for some of us two-dee guys is a bit of a thrill.


Can’t I just warm up with two-point-five dees?

Shameless Plugin

But as Unity removes one barrier, a much larger one remains: the plugin problem. In order to play Unity 3D games in your browser, you have to install the Unity plugin. The Unity Web Player weighs in at a very reasonable 3.09 MB, which is not quite twice the size of the Flash Player. The difference between the two is that while Unity is specifically a game engine, Flash content can pull off all kinds of neat tricks. People use Flash to create games, web applications, forms, quizzes, entire websites, website elements like navigation bars, ad banners, and, of course, video players.

Flash’s commitment to video at around version 6 or 7 was where the Flash Player penetration really started to take off, with megasites like YouTube requiring an upgrade with each new version of the Flash player. Until then, it was always a head-scratcher trying to figure out when to target the new player.

Me: Wow! Thanks to some new features, Flash 8 is going to save me weeks and weeks of work on this new game. Can i target Flash Player 8?
My Former Employers: What’s the penetration rate?
Me: 78%.
My Former Employers: Well, that’s a little low …
Me: Seventy-eight percent is a little low? Three quarters of the civilized world has this software installed on their computers.
My Former Employers: Yes, but one quarter does not.
Me: And the people who don’t are either old or retarded.
My Former Employers: Go to your room.
Me: I hate this place! I hate you and your STUPID FACE! You’re not the BOSS of me!
My Former Employers: Er, actually …
Me: SHUT UP!! [tantrum]


Mommy! Somebody’s failing to realize that i’m always right!

That Special Something

Unity faces an uphill battle with its web player penetration. The engine is not nearly as versatile or as accessible as its two-dimensional cousin, and Unity has yet to discover that magic bullet that will make the Web Player a must-have for Joe Public. i don’t think 3D graphics in the browser are enough to compel the average mope to sit through the one-and-a-half-minute plugin download.

So the question becomes “What is Unity’s Silver Bullet?” For Flash, it was video. Macromedia searched far and wide for the video technology that would enable them to play movies snappily, and eventually settled on the on2 Video Codec. That was a game-changer for the technology.

For Unity 3D, perhaps it will be a killer app like Facebook that drives people to install the plugin? Or perhaps some sneaky egghead will cook up a neat tech voodoo trick to make the Flash Player install the Unity Web Player? Who KNOWS what the future holds? (Sandwiches that you can eat straight through your belly-button, i hope.)

Further Reading

If the move to free has pushed you over the edge and you’re curious to learn more about the platform, remember that the first Toronto and Montreal Unity Users Groups kick off this month.

And keep your eye on our Unity Nuub feature, wherein i try to add an extra dee to my technological toolbelt, and document the road blocks i encounter along the way.

The Unity Users Group Hits Toronto and Montreal

Unite 09, a conference devoted to the Unity 3D game engine, runs this week in San Francisco. While i would have loved to have attended, the home fires currently command my complete attention. The good news is that Unity is taking the show on the road, with a little help from Unity 3D distributor dimeRocker.

dimeRocker is seeding a number of Unity 3D user groups across Canada, including one in Toronto and one in Montreal. The Toronto and Montreal events are both evening user group meetings, with hands-on workshops the following day. Here’s what the schedule looks like:

Toronto November 10th – 11th

November 10th: Social Networking Event

  • 5:30pm – 6:30pm Reception, drinks & appetizers at the Gladstone Hotel
  • 6:30pm – 7:30pm Keynote followed by Q&A with Unity Team
  • 7:30pm – 9:00pm Networking Social, raffle – Unity 3D License

Speaker: Tony Garcia – Business Development

Tony Garcia is a seasoned 26 year industry veteran having held senior positions for such
companies as Electronic Arts, LucasFilm Games, and Microsoft. In 1991, Tony founded the
games division at Microsoft and grew it over a period of six years to establish the company as a
major player in the videogame space. In 1998 Tony was the General Manager for Electronic
Arts Seattle where he oversaw the development of such leading franchises as Need for Speed,
FIFA Soccer, and Motor City Online. Tony has also been responsible for a string of successful
startups and won a diverse set of industry awards for many of the products that he has been
involved with.

November 11th: Course and VIP Sponsor Dinner

  • 12:30pm – 1:00pm Registration & refreshments
  • 1:00pm – 3:30pm Unity Skills Workshop
  • 3:30pm – 4:00pm Workshop Q&A
  • 7:00pm – 10:00pm VIP dinner – Unity Team & Premium Sponsors

Speaker: Amir Ebrahimi – Developer and Field Engineer TORONTO WORKSHOP

Amir comes from Naughty Dog, Activision, and Flagship Studios, where he wrote tools, graphics
code and gameplay scripts on Jak II, Jak 3, Jak X, X-Men, Tony Hawk Project 8, and Hellgate:
London. Occasionally Amir writes for Game Developer magazine and teaches at the Art Institute
of California, San Francisco.


November 16th: Social Networking Event

  • 5:30pm – 6:30pm Reception, drinks and appetizers
  • 6:30pm – 7:30pm Key Note followed by Q&A with UT
  • 7:30pm – 9:00pm+ Networking Social raffle off Unity 3D License

November 17th: Course and VIP Sponsor Dinner

  • 12:30pm – 1:00pm Registration
  • 1:00pm – 3:30pm Unity Skills Workshop
  • 3:30pm – 4:00pm Workshop Q&A
  • 7:00pm – 10:00pm VIP dinner – Unity Team & Premium Sponsors

Speaker: David Helgason – CEO

An entrepreneur, visionary, and ex-programmer, David’s job is to lead the team to stardom,
while making sure that each step is taken with love and care.
In the past David founded and participated in startups in fields such as news & community
integration, music distribution, and consulting. David serves on the boards of several games and
technology startups.


Strategic partners include:


George Brown’s participation is interesting. The school is planning to use Unity in the third and fourth year of its Game Development program, where most Ontario schools are using Unreal Engine 3. Interestingly, Joystiq suggested last week that a consumer-grade version of the Unreal Engine 3 was in the works, as a direct competitor to Unity.

Unreal Evangelist

Melvin Spriggs, Unreal Engine evangelist, humbly suggests you give his company’s product a shot instead.

Become a User

Here’s where to sign up:

For more articles about Unity 3D, check out our Unity Nuub feature.

Everybody Loves Yannis

The Vortex Competition is a game design contest run by Bill Marshall, one of the minds behind the Toronto International Film Festival, his wife Sari Ruda, and assorted others. The website claims (spuriously) that this is the fifth anniversary of the competition. According to the site itself, the competition has only been run twice before, in 2007 and 2006; the other years focussed on game-related seminars, round tables and panel discussions. The 2007 competition, which i entered while still an employee of a Canadian broadcaster, unfortunately suffered from tremendous disorganization. i didn’t hold out much hope for this year, until He showed up.


That’s right, He – none other than Yannis Mallat, Chief Executive Officer of Ubi Soft Montreal. Yannis, with his lush beard and flowing mane of silky shoulder-length shampoo commercial hair, riding on a cloud against a blinding host of heavenly flood lights, to the blast of a thousand heralding trumpets. Yannis – with an olive branch in his left hand and a Wii controller in his right, a halo of light framing his face. Yannis Mallat, draped in the finest gowns, with sandals of bronze and a crown made of tickles. This is the very saviour who’s bringing his multi-bazillion dollar juggernaut game studio into Toronto some time soon, his way made smooth by a path paved with hundred dollar bills, courtesy of the Ontario Government. Yannis! Angels sing! Yannis! Elderly women lose all bowel control! Yannis! And every game developer in town swoons at the mere mention of his name.


This is actually a picture of Yanni, not Yannis, but it fits my description better.

Stop: Mallat Time

The Vortex Competition landed Yannis Mallat as one of their top-tier judges, and the excitement is palpable. And disturbing. Palpably disturbing.

Since the Vortex “grand” prize of $2500 is nothing to write home about (and indeed, a drop in the bucket of the many thousands of buckets it takes to fund game development these days), many of the people i’ve spoken with about the competition say the same thing “i don’t care about winning – i care about the networking. i get to present my game concept to Yannis Mallat. You know – the Ubi Soft CEO? And if he likes it, well … this could be my big break.”

For serious. Grown men are actually saying this to me. And not just idealistic, adorably naive students – i’m talking grown-up professionals who should know better. There seems to be this sense that Yannis Mallat, who heads a company packed with video game professionals, all of whom have at least ten game ideas that they’re dying to make – that this guy is going to show up to a low-rent competition like Vortex, watch a presentation, and say “This guy. This guy’s our next STAR.”


Seriously – when did the Ontario game industry turn into an episode of Fame?

i wish i could say that i hate to burst everyone’s bubble, because i actually really enjoy bursting bubbles – especially big, ridiculous and implausible bubbles like this one. Yannis Mallat is not judging the Vortex Competition so that he can fill a senior-level game developer position at Ubi Soft. The 2007 competition felt a lot like the first round of American Idol, except that it was filled with people who were too retarded to even make the first round of American Idol.


This desire to “get discovered” betrays sort of a disturbing hidden desire among the game developers in this town. As video games resemble Hollywood more and more, these folks seem to think they can hang out at Schwab’s Pharmacy (Vortex) and look pretty (have a good game idea), when in walks Cecil B. DeMille (Yannis Mallat) who sees that they have that spark – that je ne sais quoi – and he signs them to a multi-million dollar ($80k/year) contract at Paramount Pictures (Ubi Soft).

Of course, we all know how that Hollywood dream really ends up. Some pretty young thing hops a bus from Idaho to Los Angeles in the hopes of being discovered and making it big, and she ends up doing porn.

Here’s where my analogy breaks down. i’m not too sure what the video game industry equivalent of porn is. Gold farming? Interactive bar-top poker games? Something like that.


Does your Mom know the kinds of games you’re making in the big city?

i hate to say all this. i really do. But it just blows my mind that everyone i’ve spoken with who’s entering this competition thinks they’ll be hob-nobbing with Yannis, his buddies, and a couple of loose broads over martinis at the Boom Boom Room after the competition is over. It’s like getting tickets to a Rolling Stones concert and thinking you’re going to go backstage and meet Mick and Keef, and they’re gonna do a few lines with you and listen to your demo and set you up with a sweet record deal. It … holy crap. i can’t express this to you. It boggles my already mostly-boggled mind.

Back to Reality

Here’s what i think is a healthy outlook for the Vortex Competition, and one that a sane person can hinge his hopes on. You’re going to go there, and you’ll have ten minutes to speak. This is a golden opportunity to practice, practice, practice, distill your game idea in a VERY tight presentation, and have it evaluated by someone other than Mom. And keep in mind that you won’t be evaluated solely on the merits of your game concept. Your manner of speaking, your grooming, your preparedness, your graphic design (if you choose to use slides) – in short, your personality and work ethic and branding – will all be judged with far more scrutiny than your game idea.


No, actually. i DON’T want to hear your game idea.

i dare say, your game idea is not what will make you stand out. Your ability to present, your market research and budgeting legwork, your fact-based revenue projections – all of these are part and parcel of an excellent and prize-worthy presentation. Any schmuck can have a game idea – and that’s exactly what you’ll see at the competition: a parade of schmucks with game ideas. The extra preparation, practice and personality you infuse into your presentation will set the doers apart from the dreamers.

And if you put in that required amount of effort – that level of hard work, effort, intelligence and professionality – then maybe at that networking event after the competition, Yannis Mallat will come to you?

But seriously, don’t bet on it.

Create Temporary Game Sound Effects with SFXR

i was reaching the end of a Unity3D tutorial series called Unity JumpStart by TheLorax, when the author casually mentioned a fantastic tool called SFXR.

The Lorax

I am the Lorax – I speak for the three dees

SFXR is a little gizmo that generates 8-bit-style sound effects along a number of common video game-related themes. All the greatest hits are here: Powerup, Jump, Laser/Shoot, Explosion, and more. Clicking on each sound category generates a new, randomized variation on that theme. Essentially, you just keep clicking until you like what SFXR spits out, and then you export the sound to a .wav file.

If you’re a little more of an audio egghead and you understand terms like “phaser sweep” and “hp filter cutoff” (i don’t), you can play with a list of manual settings to tweak your sound.


SFXR: The secret behind the NES-era soundscape

This tool is a thousand percent awesomazing, and is GREAT for devs who want to populate their games and prototypes with temporary sound effects to accompany their temporary art and temporary code. Or, if your game is all pixel-riffic and the shoe fits, you can even use these sounds as final effects.

Big thanks to DrPetter, who created SFXR for the Ludum Dare game competition, and made the source code available under MIT for us all to enjoy and iterate on. Good show! Pew pew pew!

If you make anything using this tool, let us know and we’ll link you here!

AS3 Pitfalls – SOUND_COMPLETE Event is Not Firing


The SOUND_COMPLETE event is not triggered when your sound finishes playing.


There are a few different reasons why this problem may occur, but here’s how it played out in my project:

When you’re listening for a SOUND_COMPLETE event, you work with two Classes: Sound and SoundChannel. The event listener goes on the SoundChannel instance:

var sound:Sound = new Sound("allYouNeedIsLove.mp3");
var soundChannel:SoundChannel =;
soundChannel.addEventListener(Event.SOUND_COMPLETE, soundIsFinished);

In my project, i rigged up a “Pause” button. When the player clicks “Pause”, i stop the sound and take note of the Sound’s position. When the player clicks “Pause” again, i unpause the game and tell the Sound to start playing where we left off.

But whenever you paused and unpaused the game, the SOUND_COMPLETE Event wouldn’t fire any more.

That’s because whenever you tell a Sound object to play, it returns a new SoundChannel instance. The old SoundChannel instance – the one with the event listener on it – is no longer relevant, so the event doesn’t fire. So to get this to work, when the player unpauses the game, you have to add the SOUND_COMPLETE event listener to the new SoundChannel instance that’s returned when you call;


BIG thanks to user WearDark on the Kirupa forums for clearing this up, and for saving me from hours and hours of bug testing trying to figure out what was going on!