Unity 3D On Windows: It’s The Real Deal

by Jon Davis 19. March 2009 23:30

As curious as I am about all the exciting MIX09 announcements, I was equally curious if not more curious about the announcement from Unity Technologies that Unity 3D is now available on Windows (no longer beta). This is a major, major cross-platform game engine, world builder, and development IDE all in one, that builds 3D games for both Windows and Mac (PPC and Intel) and on the web as a browser plug-in (Silverlight/Flash style). (The Mac version supports deployment to iPhone as well, but the Windows version doesn’t.) The programming language is C#, using a tweaked out processor-natively compiled implementation of Mono (no this has absolutely NOTHING to do with Moonlight), and processor-natively compiled Javascript.

windows_gui This announcement is big because the development toolset has been available on the Mac for some time, but the reality is that there are far more potential game developers, particularly C# programmers, who prefer Windows over Mac for development. This is not to say that Mac isn’t the superior operating system or that Windows is, I’m just acknowledging the statistical fact that Windows has more users, whether those users are end-users or the MSDN crowd.

I downloaded Unity for Windows and yes, it’s pretty much the same thing as what I saw on the Mac a year or so ago, which was one of the two big motivators to buy a Mac Mini in the first place (this and the iPhone SDK), to dabble and discover.

In the end I ultimately shrugged off my Mac Mini because I mostly thrive on my Vista-based laptop. But now I can do this Unity stuff on my laptop, in the comfort of my living room. So while it still might be too late (I only have so much time in the evenings to screw around with these things) in that I might be just short of having sufficient curiosity to be willing to prioritize Unity over other pet projects, we’ll see. Unity won itself another chance.

A warm CONGRATULATIONS and THANK YOU to Unity Technologies for making the sensible move to support the Windows developer community.

Microsoft’s XNA team should be inspired. I’d love to see Unity-like tools added to the XNA Game Studio.

The one thing that keeps me hesitant to say that Unity is the end-all be-all or “this is the way things should be done” is simply the fact that, like GarageGames’ Torque and Epic Games’ UnrealED, Unity imposes a baseline game engine, an OpenGL-based virtual world engine, which makes things easier to work with but doesn’t give a programmer the opportunity to build a game’s core from scratch. Fortunately, at least Unity 3D’s virtual world engine doesn’t impose a landscape and physics like Torque does. But I just admire XNA’s true open-endedness.

I guess what I’m saying is that with Unity I’d like to see “Cornflower Blue mode”, so to speak. When I think of game development, I don’t think of 3D meshes and media assets and X/Y/Z coordinates so much as I think of ticks, vectors, and graphics programming. I’m a programmer.

And one type of game I keep wanting to get around to making is a Wing Commander / Freespace style space flight sim. Torque didn’t lend itself to that. XNA was fine for that, I suppose, I just didn’t have time, but Unity brings a lot of joy to game production in general, and so now I’m torn. (Meh.)

One other thing I’m curious about is whether there are technical limitations or ramifications of combining Silverlight and the Unity 3D browser plug-in in layers. Unity doesn’t have XAML support, and Silverlight doesn’t have rich 3D and audio support. XNA meanwhile is completely ignoring the web.

Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) + VMWare Fusion + Mono = Bliss

by Jon Davis 17. May 2008 15:13

I have been using my new Mac Mini for less than 24 hours and it already looks like this:

In the screenshot I have VMWare Fusion with Unity enabled so that I have the Windows Vista Start menu (I can toggle off the Start menu's visibility from VMWare itself) and Internet Explorer 7. (I also have Visual Studio 2008 installed in that virtual machine). Next to Internet Explorer on the left is Finder which is showing a bunch of the apps I have installed, including most of the stuff at http://www.opensourcemac.org/. On the right I have MonoDevelop where I can write C# or VB.NET applications for the Mac, for Linux, or for Windows. And of course, down below I have the Dock popped up because that's where my arrow actually is.

I also, obviously, have an Ubuntu VM I can fire up any time I want if I want to test something in Linux. 

Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) comes with native X11, not out of the box but with the installer CD, and it's the first OS X build to do so (previous versions used or required XFree86).

This point in time is a particularly intriguing milestone date for the alignment of the moons and stars for blissful cross-platform development using the Mac as a central hub of all things wonderful:


  • X11 on Mac OS X 10.5
  • MonoDevelop 1.0 is generally gold (released, it's very nice)
  • System.Windows.Forms in Mono is API-complete
  • VMWare Fusion's Unity feature delivers jaw-dropping, seamless windowing integration between Windows XP / Vista and Mac OS X. And to make things even more wonderful, VMWare Fusion 2, which comes with experimental DirectX 9 support, will be a free upgrade.
  • For game developers, the Unity game engine is a really nice cross-platform game engine and development toolset. I have a couple buddies I'll be joining up with to help them make cross-platform games, something I always wanted to do. This as opposed to XNA, which doesn't seem to know entirely what it's doing and comes with a community framework that's chock full of vaporware. (But then, I still greatly admire XNA and hope to tackle XNA projects soon.)
  • The hackable iPhone (which I also got this week, hacked, and SSH'd into with rediculous ease), which when supplemented with the BSD core, is an amazing piece of geek gadgetry that can enable anyone to write mobile applications using open-source tools (I'd like to see Mono running on it). The amount of quality software written for the hacked iPhone is staggering, about as impressive as the amount of open source software written for the Mac itself. Judging by the quantity of cool installable software, I had no idea how commonplace hacked iPhones were.
  • Meanwhile, for legit game development, the Unity 3D game engine now supports the iPhone and iPod Touch (so that's where XNA got the Zune support idea!) and the iPhone SDK is no longer just a bunch of CSS hacks for Safari but actually binary compile tools.


EVE TV: Taking ESPN To Intergalactic Warfare

by Jon Davis 9. March 2008 13:06

Just tuned in for the first time at http://www.eve-online.com/evetv/tunein.asp ...

It's sort of interesting hearing hearing the "sportscasters" talking about the teams as if they were talking about football. They're unshaven geeks, not loud-mouthed announcers with the cheers of a crowd in the background, but it's interesting how they watch the stats and speculate and make observations, etc. They're making EVE Online really feel like a sport.

That said, EVE Online as something to just watch on TV like this would be more intersting, I think, if the game allowed for "Star Trek" style gameplay (allow for multiple players to take different roles on the same ship, rather than massive battleships being manned by only one player) and first-person viewing (like in NASCAR). If EVE TV as a form of "television" entertainment matures, team VOIP on either should also be hearable as alternate audio tracks.

This might be a stupid, geeky post, but this is actually the future of television entertainment, especially with regard to sports. This is made obvious when one considers the elaborate steps that are being made to put the 2008 Olympics in Beijing on Silverlight with an insane amount and depth of user interface features.


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PC Gaming

Xbox-style LOTRO With SwitchBlade

by Jon Davis 11. February 2008 02:11

Before I call it a night I wanted to blog a note that I thought I'd stumbled across mention somewhere that it was possible to play a PC MMORPG with a wired Xbox 360 controller. Sure enough, I found the answer to this at http://www.switchbladegaming.com/. It targets World of Warcraft alone for now, but the controls are customizeable and LOTRO is a WoW look-alike anyway so the mappings pretty much just work. There was a little bit of learning curve, but once I realized that I need to hold the right bumper down to rotate my character I was good to go.

I didn't have time to play it much, but testing it, it seemed promising. An MMORPG is meant to be played with a keyboard handy--those are real people you're playing alongside, after all, so you should be free to chat. But I like the idea of running around as a Hobbit without a mouse when I'm sitting at my sofa.

Tomorrow or sometime this week I hope to try the Xbox controller with my PC flavor of Call of Duty 4. I had the Xbox flavor of the game as well, but I immediately sold it when I realized that the PC copy would suffice.

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Yes, I Game

by Jon Davis 6. January 2008 18:10

I still find it irritating when non-gamers look down on me as someone who needs to "grow up" when I admit I still play PC and Xbox 360 games. But I keep having to tell them, "Games aren't for kids. I'm 30 years old; I'm still roughly the average gamer age."

These statistics are pretty telling:

  • The average game player is 33 years old and has been playing games for 12 years.
  • The average game buyer is 40 years old.
  • 38% percent of all game players are women. In fact, women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (30%) than boys age 17 or younger (23%).
  • In 2005, 25% of Americans over the age of 50 played video games, an increase from nine percent in 1999.
  • 44% percent of game players say they play games online one or more hours per week. In addition, 32% of heads of households play games on a wireless device, such as a cell phone or PDA, up from 20% in 2002.

I can't speak for everyone, but I believe that one of the big reasons why my interest in games never waned is because, frankly, it was my generation that saw the industry develop and blossom in the first place. When I was a little kid, Pac-Man was it. And even my sisters played that; I still have memories of looking over the shoulder -- er, around the waist, rather -- of my oldest sister playing Ms. Pac Man when I was, like, six years old when we visited the skating rink. And as my blog sidebar points out (as of this entry), it was in playing computer games that I knew that I wanted to be a programmer when I grow up, although I knew even at the age of twelve that it wouldn't be games I would program, it would be stuff that makes the economic world turn.

Generation Y (twenty-somethings) and kids these days grew up with the dazzling 3D games my generation could only slobber over. For us, a lot of the fluff is still very new to us. The original Unreal and Tribes and Quake 3 still seem new, so the new stuff like Lord of the Rings Online and Crysis are more jaw-dropping amazing. But for kids, it's mostly boring old school crap; they're a lot more picky and they find the MMORPGs called "Real Life" and "MySpace" just about as fascinating.

I spend more than ten hours a week playing games. But I'm not sure if that's hard core. I still can't say what game I'm playing on any given day; I play games either for curiosity of new things (like Call of Duty 4) or for nostolgia (like Team Fortress 2). On the other hand, I did finish Mass Effect not long ago in a pretty short amount of time, what a treat!


by Jon Davis 12. December 2007 11:38


I know everyone saw this by now but I had to say, ..

.. this is surely the first time l33t sp33k ever made it into the standard U.S. English dictionary. What a monumental moment, a day to remember.

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Game Programming Wiki

by Jon Davis 1. September 2007 04:32

Very cool link for anyone wanting to get into game programming: http://gpwiki.org/

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Open Source | Computers and Internet | Software Development | PC Gaming | Linux | Cool Tools | Xbox Gaming

Game Math: Back To Basics

by Jon Davis 14. July 2007 21:13

The two additional books I ordered arrived earlier this week:

The first of the two is everything I anticipated it to be. It's chock full of reference material and sample code for virtually every typical game physics scenario one could think of. And it's totally written for coders, yet can be read by a non-coder who might know the syntax; the sample code is C++ but could just as well be elegant Java or C#. I'm very excited to have this book.

The second book just jumps right in and vomits math formulae all over the place in a game-world applicable fashion. It's a good book, too.

Unfortunately, both books (but especially the latter) are over my head as I hardly even know how to read these math notations much less comprehend them. It's time to dig higher, closer to the surface. I ordered a few more math books, this time hopefully this additional investment will pave the way for me to more appreciate the books I already bought.


Meanwhile, aside from math I snagged or pre-ordered a few more API-related books:

And, not gaming related, I ordered:

Yeah I buy a lot of books. I do this with every major technology cycle and/or career cycle.

Here Begins A Game Dev Log

by Jon Davis 13. July 2007 03:04

I decided I should start posting my notes on my side interests with game development. I have always wanted to be a games programmer, since I was just a kid, but I went straight into Web and Windows application development (general) and never saw my dreams fulfilled. Phooey, it's never too late, I'm delving in now, while I'm still single.

7/13/2007 2:30am(-ish) - TorqueX for Creators Club Members

Downloaded and installed TorqueX which is now free for paying XNA Creators Club members. Don't have time to play with it right now but will.

Started tracking game dev logs. The previous entries (below) are retrospective recollections.


7/12/2007 6:15pm(-ish) - Playing With The Dream, Build, Play Submissions
Got home from work early, played these XNA submissions on my Xbox. My favorite game is the robot badminton game Blazing Birds, highly addictive and revealing that you don't need huge amounts of elements to make a great game, just solid physics, accuracy, a smooth user experience, and some polish. Download Video (here)

Vacuum Ball is a relatively ugly game (relative to above and below) but was still pretty fun and addictive and worth noting.

I thought the most interesting submission, if not quite the most enjoyable but it's certainly unique, well-polished, and technically advanced, was Magic Crystals.

I'm extremely concerned about the load times of these XNA games. I'm not sure who's at fault, the games designers or Microsoft's XNA platform, but it sometimes takes as long as five minutes just to get to the start screen and into the game for some of these games. One thing's for certain: it is incumbent upon the designers to have a loading progress bar. At one point after waiting five minutes or so I killed the Xbox, convinced it was frozen. I don't know if it was frozen or not.

7/12/2007 5:15am (-ish) -
Found and been downloading tens of Dream, Build, Play game submissions and putting them on my Xbox. I don't know why these were so hard to find, it seems like there is only one URL on the entire Internet that I was lucky to find:


7/08/2007 3:05am (-ish) - Game Programming at Phoenix's Desert Code Camp 2007
I signed up to do a couple presentations at the local users group Desert Code Camp 2007. I'm hoping this will help me get my butt in gear and actually make some games for a change. I believe that the best way to learn something is to teach it because it forces you to do homework.

One session I'll present is a quick perusal of several gaming APIs for different platforms. The other focuses on Microsoft XNA. Surprisingly, more people signed up for the former rather than the latter, I guess they're curious and already bombarded with Microsoft XNA materials that are dished out by Microsoft.

7/07/2007 2:55pm (-ish) - Getting Back Into Game Dev

For the past month or so I've been playing with my own little 2D gaming engine running in Windows Forms / GDI+. Right now I just have some balls that bounce around, bump into each other, bounce off barricades, cast 2D shadows, emit location-based stereo bump sounds using DirectSound, can slow down to world friction, and can fall down by world gravity. I also have custom mouse cursor support. I have another sandbox where I'm drawing polygons (right now two triangles) and colliding them with line intersection, but transference of velocity is broken as mass is not properly calculated.

image image

I am awful at math. Ordered a couple new books: Real-Time Collision Detection and Physics for Game Developers.

Played with something targeting the XNA engine called Farseer. Maybe I should shrug off this whole GDI+ experiment, or fork off and do something in parallel in XNA, since I bought the XNA Creators Club subscription and it's a waste to not use it.

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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of jondavis.net have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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