Live Blogging from Unite

by Miguel de Icaza

I am live blogging from Unite, the Unity3D conference, one of the most fun users of Mono.


Next UnityEditor will run on Windows, and its rewritten in C# (it originated on MacOS, and is now moving to Windows).

Unity as of today ships for building games on the iPhone. These are fully legit binaries, no need to crack your iPhone, they are using Mono's batch compilation to generate static binaries with no JITing involved (per Apple licensing requirements).

Side Note

Since I am a Linuxista, you might be wondering why I am so excited about Unity. Of course I am excited because they use Mono, but I am also excited because Novell is working with Unity to bring this to Linux:

erandi$ uname -a
Linux erandi #1 SMP 2008-08-21 00:34:25 +0200 i686 i686 i386 GNU/Linux
erandi$ ls -l unity-linux/build/LinuxPlayer 
-rwxr-xr-x 1 miguel users 45735629 2008-10-12 00:37 unity-linux/build/LinuxPlayer*

We do not have a timeline yet, please do not spam the Unity guys with requests, stay tuned to this blog for updates.

FusionFall pre-mortem

12:17am Joachim explains their strategy with the web plugin and how they will cope with multiple versions of it as time goes by.

12:06am Cartoon Network will drive a lot of the plugin penetration.

11:50am Joachim is showing profiling information (particle, physics, the top scripts, time taken per frame).

The game went from 2gigs to 300megs by using some interesting compressions fo meshes and animations.

All of the features that were added for FusionFall are being folded back into the future Unity 2.5.

Pics: I wish I had brought my USB cable to post pictures from the camera. I will try to spice up this post tonight with the photos.

11:45am Runtime World Streaming: scenes are dynamically loaded and unloaded base on the player position in the world, the world is made up of a 16x16 grid. Scene loading happens when a player approaches a boundary in the world.

11:40am The Unity guys are talkng about the challenge of converting the assets from Gamebryo to Unity, the volume was large (25k files of Gamebryo data, which was constantly changing and growing).

They added support to Unity to interoperate with the Gamebryo and Cartoon Network data and wrote plenty of C# importing scripts and tools.

11:30am FusionFall talk by Joachim Ante.. FusionFall is a project that was done for the Cartoon Network.

It is an MMO with platform game elements.

It has a huge streaming world, so there are no pauses as you navigate the world. The game is targetted at kids (8-14).

The game was produced by Cartoon Network and developed by Grigon Entertainment, a team of 40 developers, 10 of them programmers, and has been under development for 3 years. Originally this was Windows-only standalone executable, developed with Gamebryo.

The cycle at some point included the prototyping done in Unity, shipping the executable to engineering, and engineering reimplementing in Gamebryo. They realized that they could turn the prototype as the actual client and that they could just communicate to their backend server. This allowed them to switch the entire game from Gamebryo to Unity.

Originally the standalone game was 2gb in size (lots of music, voice overs, terrains). This was a problem for kids, since they are not going to wait for 2 gigs to download, this was a big barrier to entry.

Unity's web based distribution and the strong world-streaming features were a good match for this project. This allowed Cartoon Network to give a great experience.

The entire MMO was ported in four months by a team Grigon developers and four Unity engineers working with them. They were on a very tight schedule. Four developers at Grigo ported the game client from C++ to C#.


10:52am Interesting overview of the challenges of the game industry. Where does the game industry go next? A discussion on integrarting games with the web and delivering games as services.

On one end there is the flashy stuff, on the other end lots of talk about the enterprise components of gaming. I had no idea.

Between the low-barrier to entry and the high-barrier to entry markets, there is a large space for gaming and where 3D games on the browser will make a difference.

Phil sees Unity as an agent that will help transform the game industry.

10:31am Phil Harrison president of Atari is now on stage, "First time I have done a presentation in a Planetarium". Atari has no commercial relationship with Unity or investing-wise. He is here because "I wanted to be here, what David and his team are doing is transformational for the industry. I had an Eureka moment early this year, I had just joined Atari, and someone told me `check out', I had heard about it, but never used it. Using the Web player demo was eye opening for me. [...] This is something similar to what I saw at Sony in 1993, when we first got the dinosaur demo on the PS1 [...] The island demo I believe is a game changer in this industry".

"I have become an unpaid evangelist of Unity".

Phil is now going to talk about the game industry, wont blog that.

10:29am Introspection, why we want to do this? Goals: we want people to build games for the web, the iPhone, the Wii, and for everything else.

10:29am Announcing Indie version, 199 dollars, but has some watermark/splashscreen at the beginning.

10:26am Windows Vista logo on screen.

"This is true, I have to admit it", they are demostrating the new Unity3D IDE on Unix. The same Unity3D tool but now running on Windows.

"We are going completely cross platform", every script that you write will run on both platforms (Woohoo! Go CIL! Go!).

10:21am Nicholas is going to talk about "Secret Labs". He talks about "Jus t Press Play", "Buliding for multiple targets" and the script property editor.

They wanted to improved upon th eUnity editor.

They rewrote the Unity editor from zero. Created entirely on top of the Unity APIs themselves - EditorWindows, unityGUI, GameObjects and Components. Unity is built on Unity now. "It is way faster than cocoa".

He is showing Unity 2.5, looks like Unity 2.1; They now use tabs and the various windows can be dragged around, very much like MonoDevelop. He is showing the editor by dragging a lightpost into a paradise island and showing the new GUI tools like snapping, rotation and UIs that are closer to Maya's tools.

He shows "Snap to surface" so you can easily position stuff on the 3D terrain. People like it.

The UI is a lot easier to use. "We have been focused on the tiny details, but we are not shipping this yet". Everything in the IDE can now be scripted.

He shows how a few lines of code a developer can attach a camera view when clicking on a property.

130 new API entry points, Unity developers can now do everything that the Unity3D GUI can do.

10:20am David talks about the pricing; Two pricing: cheap and expensive.

10:13am Joachim Ante is introducing Unity for the iPhone. "With Unity we have always focused on iteration time". He goes into some of the technical details, "With all the new input mechanisms for theiphone, how do we provide a quick feedback system, we wanted to keep the experience of develop, hit run under a second".

They provide a "Unity remote" that runs on the iPhone, you use the iPhone to control the game, but the debugging actually happes on the PC. So you hit "run" and there is no wait at all.

Joachim is explaining how they are using AOT to run native code on the iPhone without having any JIT on the iPhone.

Joachim shows "Build and Run" that does the cross compiler and sends the code to the iPhone. It takes about 10 seconds and he now has the game running on the iPhone and shows how both Javascript and C# code running on the system.

10:10am Some stats: sold out event; 180 attendees; community doubled in the last year (2x employees, 2x posts, 2x users);

Last year they released Unity 2.0.

Unity 2.1 was released, should have been 3.0, but they did not charge more.

They announced Unity for Wii.

Big games using Unity: Sony, Disney. Virtual worlds like Hangout.Net is out (very pretty!) A new online community was created (Blurst). SeriousGames released a new title "Global Conflicts" Latin America.

Hard to keep up with the list of users.

10:04am The Unity founders Joachim, David and Nicholas are on stage to start Unite'08.

They moved us from the room downstairs to the iMax auditorium whihc is packed with game guys. During the moments of panic that ensued after they moved us from the downstairs room into the switched rooms, I ended up in the front row, which in retrospect was a big mistake, you cant take pictures with the standard lens of this massive screen.


9:48am Waiting for the keynote at the Unite conference. There are about two hundred people packed in the Tycho Planetarium. The Blurst guys are all wearing matching shirts and have taken over the first line of the auditorium, From here I can see a them debugging a Sonic-like game that he is prototyping. Then he switched to some game that has an angry minotaur breaking dishes in a museum.

The minotaur looks angry and just scored 3,000 points of some kind.

Everyone in this conference seems to be using a Mac, and I could swear this computer is the only Linux machine in the audience.


Last night I had dinner at the Unity headquarters and got a chance to meet some of the Unity hackers and users before the conference started.

Gained a deeper insight into what we can do to improve Mono's VM for games. Lots of good ideas.

Phil Harrison brought up "the debugger" issue ;-).

Hopefully Rasmus from CellDotNet will show up for the Unity Mingle tonight.

Posted on 22 Oct 2008