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.


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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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