Saturday, 31 August 2013

Unite 2013 Day 3

*** The following are notes on the sessions I attended and do not represent the full schedule of events at Unite 2013 ***

The final day of Unite :(

Level Up with the Unity Asset Store
This session concentrated on Unity's Asset Store and all the content available on there. The ssest Store does no contain just models, etc., but also contains useful tools like nGUI, shaders, AI, etc., etc. The presenter told us a great story (great for us, not so great for her to go through) on how she was a failed Indie game developer, but how she now has an understanding of what is needed to create games and has developed a passion for game assets as a result.
The presenters also explained that some art assets provided on the Asset Store are created by people working as artists in the games industry, sometime for AAA studios. This is evident in the pure quality of the content itself.
If you want to check out the Asset Store yourself, then it is here.
There were also talks by a couple of people who were selling content on the store. It's funny to hear how one of the speakers built a game, but has made more money from the Asset Store selling a plug-in for Unity that he developed for that game, than he has made off the game itself!

Feedback and Q&A: The Future of 2D and GUI in Unity
This was a bit of a dry session and slow to start. The panel started out by asking the floor for questions, but questions were slow in coming out. The panel then demonstrated some of the 2D and GUI features for Unity and the questions started to flow. There was some confusion on the floor between items in the 2D component and items in the GUI tools. I think this session would have been much better if it had started with a re-cap of the new toolset before starting the Q&A session.
Also, the question of release for the GUI component (the 2D component is coming in 4.3) was raised again but the panel either did not know, or were not allowed to tell (it was hard to determine which) when those release versions or dates would be.

Wrangling OnGUI
This was a great, in-depth, look at the current GUI system built into Unity: OnGUI. Current challenges/bugs were identified and described and a demonstration of OnGUI was also given. Not a very exciting or engaging presentation, but useful nonetheless.

Internal Unity Tips and Tricks
This was the final session I attended and gave some great advice on debugging your Unity game. The PRO version of Unity comes with performance analysis tools built in, but the presenter also recommended:

Visual Studio 2012 Graphics Debuggers
Intel GPA
Pix for Windows (part of the DirectX SDK)

The End

And it really was. I'd saved visiting the exhibitors there until Friday as it was a much slower day and finished at 4pm rather than 6pm. So I thought I'd have 2 hours to go around all the exhibitors during that time. Well, I'm glad I didn't wait until the end to do this as I had planned originally as they were all either packing up or packed up completely.
There were still people at the Hands On Labs, but I think my brain was in overload so I would not have got much out of them.

Anyway, here's a round up of the Exhibitors and my impressions of them:

The Exhibitors of Unite 2013 Vancouver

The Good (in no particular order)
The Foundry - awesome guys and all of them were willing to chat, give live demos, etc. Their passion for Modo was plain to see, and it was great to see that level of passion and excitement about their product.

Game Anlytics - super helpful, easy to talk with and willing to show you anything they could about their product.

Reallusion - In a word: fantastic! Another group excited and passionate about their product and willing to make sure I left with a clear view of what they did and how their product would help me realize my game creating dreams. They also gave me a discount voucher and trial disk, and made me feel valued as a potential customer.

Simplygon - another bunch of guys willing and able to explain the hows and whys of their product. And free t-shirts! :) Great, friendly team!

Nintendo - the representative I spoke to was very friendly and knowledgeable on the Nintendo Store. He took the time to answer my questions, made sure I had all the info they could give me, showed me a development console, the works. I liked what I heard so much that I started the developer reistration process while waiting for my next session to begin.

The Bad
Autodesk - the Autodesk presentation was fantastic, but the booth not so much. The guys there were good to talk to and I think, in all fairness, they may have been "conventioned out". Also it could have been me as the coffee hadn't kicked in yet. But they did answer questions and the guy demonstrating Scale Form was nice enough to give a quick demo. Maybe I'm being harsh on Autodesk, but they weren't that engaging.

The Ugly
NVIDIA - I was excited to see NVIDIA there with the Shield as I've been wanting to get my hads on one of those. Their booth was simply a table with a tiny NVIDIA sign, one guy (maybe 2???) and 2 NVIDIA Shields. When I went over, I got a glance and the guy ignored me and talked to someone else. It was hard to tell if the other person was an attendee or just a friend or fellow exhibitor as he occupied the seat next to the guy. It would have been nice for some engagement there, or just something and not left to just stand there like an idiot!

There were other exhibitors there that I just did not get to talk to:

Unity Asset Store
Unity Studios
Leonardo 3D
Oculus VR (the queue was massive for them and people seemed blown away)
Photon Server

All in all I had a great time and hope they repeat their world tour next year. Thank you Unity!

Friday, 30 August 2013

Unite 2013 Day 2

*** The following are notes on the sessions I attended and do not represent the full schedule of events at Unite 2013 ***

Enable your apps to see with Qualcomm Vuforia (Qualcomm Vuforia - Sponsored Session)
The Vuforia session was really impressive. The SDK allows you to specify a particular shape in the real world and apply animations around it when it is discovered. For example: say you are developing an application for a soda company and they want a particular animation to play when the application on your mobile device detects one of their soda cans. You would specify the dimensions of the soda can, and it's appearance within Unity (using the plug-in), then create the animation to play in Unity (in this session they modelled a 3D soccer ball rotating around a soda can).
On the show-reel they demonstrated how this technology could be used to scan a real-world item and import it into a game. The example for this was for My Little Pony. A new My Little Pony was purchased and scanned in an app, the character of that Pony was then unlocked as a playable character in a My Little Pony Game.
I've done some Googling and I just can't find this show-reel anywhere, which is a real shame as I don't think I'm doing a very good job of describing it here. Anyway, you can find more information on Vuforia here.

Nurturing Large Projects: How We Structured Hardware: Shipbreakers To Make It Easier To Develop, Test, and Maintain
Blackbird Interactive gave a postmortem of the challenges they had when developing Hardware: Shipbreakers in Unity. The presenters were really engaging and presented well, but rather than break it down (and forget stuff) then I thought I'd just share the link to their presentation. Unfortunately, I lost the link to the page when I was fixing up this post, but I have a copy I'm sharing here. I hope this is OK with the folks at Blackbird, if it's not the please let me know and I'll take it down.

Console to Mobile: Bringing an AAA Console Title to Mobile with Almost Zero Asset Modification
The staff from Owlchemy Labs also gave a well put together presentation and were highly engaging. They took us through the development process for when they converted the console game Shoot Many Robots to a mobile game for the original developers, Demiurge. They talked about how they rapidly prototyped the game in Unity, rejected their own idea, then prototyped again all in a matter of days.
The discussion also centred on assets and how they were able to develop the game so that it was compatible with iPad 1 & iPhone 3GS all the way to iPad 4 and iPhone 5. The way they did this was some scripting on the back end that looked for the hardware type, and then neglected to draw components of the scenes in order to optimize the game.

3D Content Creation on a Budget (The Foundry - Sponsored Session)
The Foundry took this opportunity to show off the amazing power of Modo. I've ranted before about 3D creation and what a pain it is. I love Autodesk (more on them later) and would love to own their Entertainment Suite, but it's not really conducive to easily creating assets for games. That statement may seem out there saying as 3DS Max and Maya have been staples of the Games & Film industries for years and have resulted in many beautiful works of art. And I'm not denying that, but consider this:

Your artist roughs up a Character design in Sketchbook (most likely Photoshop but I wanted to use all Autodesk tools as an example)
The design gets approved, tidied up and made ready for your 3D modeller
The 3D modeller creates the character in 3DSM or Maya
To get the character's skin/feature just right, the modeller then sculpts the model in MudBox
The 3D modeller then hands a copy off to the texture artist who creates the texture also in MudBox
The model then gets handed to your Animator for rigging and animation. The animator then uses SoftImage to start to animate it. Once the animation is roughed in and looking good, the animator then opens it in MotionBuilder to refine the animation and maybe add some effects (dust, etc.)

OK, so I may have exaggerated the process a bit, but in this example there are 6 pieces of software needed to create the character! SIX! Why can't it be one? Why can't you build, sculpt, paint, animate and create effects in one solution? Well, with Modo you can. And it costs around $1500 instead of close to $9000 (if you buy the full Entertainment Suite with 3DSM and Maya).
That was the focus of the demonstration and how you can create amazing 3D content with 1 application. There is currently a 15 day trial available, but I'm not sure how long it is available for.

Talking Characters and Animation for Games (Reallusion - Sponsored Session)
The presentation by Reallusion was fantastic! They demo'ed their application iClone and it is an excellent product and is currently priced at under $200. Their application integrated with the Kinect SDK so you can use the Kinect sensor (only 1 at a time at the moment) to capture raw motion to be applied to characters. They also have lip-synching tools that will lip sync from an audio file. You can also zoom into portions of the face and manipulate it to get the desired emotion to match the lip-synching.
I went to the Reallusion booth the next day and they were very friendly and took the time to give me examples of their product, and then how to get them into Unity.
They also have an "asset store" where you can buy characters and animations.

Your next modeling tool... (Autodesk - Sponsored Session)
I said I'd get to Autodesk again :) The previous section on Modo was not meant as an Autodesk bashing rant, not in the slightest. It would be still worth $9000 if Autodesk rolled all their products into one suite. I've always wanted 3DSM or Maya. ALWAYS. And this session made that dream come closer to realization. What was highlighted in this session was MayaLT 2014. Yes, a light version of Maya aimed at Indie developers and with a price tag to match: $795!! MayaLT allows you to create, rig, animate, shade (limited shaders compared to the full version of Maya, but this is a light version afterall) and create effects all in one application! Yay! They also offer a subscription service where you get major release versions, etc., but you don't need to buy a subscription. They also offer a Rental service and a monthly cost of $50/month! Learn more about pricing here.
I was so excited that I downloaded the 15 day trial as soon as I got back to my hotel and installed it. Yes, only 15 days though. That is the trial duration for all the Autodesk tools I've looked at.

Analyzing engagement in F2P games (Game Analytics - Sponsored Session)
The Game Analytics team were very friendly at their booth and gave a great presentation. Their product captures in-game statistics so that you can determine key statistics about how players are playing your game, even down to where they're spending their money.
They recently went live with a Free version of their product which you can checkout on their website here.

Unite 2013 Day 1

Day 1 of Unite 2013 in Vancouver kicked off with  Keynote Speech from David Helgason (CEO) and Joachim Ante (CTO). The Keynote was very exciting and talked about new features in the upcoming version 4.3 of the Unity engine as well as the newly created 2D components and GUI features (the 2D components will be available in 4.3, but the GUI features were later announced as coming in version 4.x of Unity. So that's a little disappointing, but there are GUI solutions available in the Unity asset Store in the mean time.

Also announced was Unity Cloud which is a new Ad Service for in-game advertisements. At the moment they are in beta phase and targets iOS and Android only.

Also mentioned was the new Subscription model that Unity launched earlier this year as well as mentioning that the Android, iOS, etc., tools for the Free version of Unity are also free now (previously each component was $400).

If you want to see the Keynote for yourself (as I know there are some things I have missed here), then the folks at Unity put it online and you can view it here.

*** The following are notes on the sessions I attended and do not represent the full schedule of events at Unite 2013 ***

Introducing 2D in Unity 4.3 & The State of (New) GUI in Unity 4.x
These 2 sessions followed on from the Keynote by further exploring the 2D and GUI features that were announced in the Keynote.
The 2D component was demonstrated live and the toolset fully explored. The Unity Learn Team have put a video on the Unity Blog that describes the new component here.
The new GUI feature was also presented live. The GUI editor allows you to create 3D menu systems such as like in the Unreal and CryTek engines.

Photon : Realtime Multiplayer with Ease (Exit Games - Sponsored Session)
This session by Exit Games addressed the features of Photon and how they are solving the problem of online games for developers large and small. I found it interesting how the went from just developing an SDK that you ran on your own servers, to implementing a full solution hosted by themselves.

Create Game-Ready Characters in seconds with Mixamo and Substance (Mixamo & Allegorithmic - Sponsored Session)
Mixamo are providing fantastic resources for small teams that may only have a 3D modeller who cannot rig, or animate, or for a team that has no 3D artists at all. Mixamo provide 3D Characters (some of which are free and others you purchase with credits (1 credit = $1 so you know how much you're spending, but you can buy packs of credit and the information on that is here) as well as a service (Auto-rigger) that animates your character. Simply upload your (humanoid) character to their site and apply the animation pack you require. Again, some of the animations are free, but most are purchased using credits.
Mixamo also have a product called Face Plus that provides the real-time capture of facial expressions (via your web cam) and maps them to your character for voice-over and animation. Face Plus is a plugin for Unity, however you have to get the All Access Pass to utilize Face Plus and that is (at time of writing) $1499 a year. However, that price gives you access to other features, not just Face Plus. The demo of Face Plus was amazing! As soon as the presenter called up Face Plus it immediately began registering his facial expressions and mouth movement and mapped them to the character.

Rapid Level Creation with Procedural Tools: Introducing Houdini plug-in for Unity (Side Effects - Sponsored Session)
The Houdini session concentrated on their "Houdini Engine" which was quite impressive, however, no date has been announced for the tool so I'm not going to go into too much information here. You can read an article about the Houdini Engine here on their website.

Bringing Unity to Consoles
I really can't remember this session right now (I really wish I'd written these notes on the day). As soon as I remember, then I will update this post.
I do remember that the presenters mentioned the difficulties when you can be approached 2/3 through a project by a hardware manufacturer that demands a version of your game to run on their new platform.

Targeting Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 with Unity
This session was presented by an indie developer who had been one of the first to go through the process of making a game for the Windows 8 store. The presentation was engaging as he used content from his game to make the presentation rather than PowerPoint to make the presentation.
It was great hearing about the process from someone who'd been through it, rather than it being a pitch on how great the Windows Store is.

Unite 2013 Training Day

While Day #1 of Unite 2013 kicked off yesterday in Vancouver, Tuesday was the Training Day and it was fantastic! The session was run by two of the guys from the Learn team: Ben Pitt & Will Goldstone. To start you off you were handed a nice 8GB USB key (with the Unity logo on it) that contained the installers for Unity 4.2 (required for the Training Day, which was nice as I had 4.1.5 installed) and then all the content needed to follow along with the tutorial and create a game.

There was A LOT of content covered in the course, so I apologize of parts of this post are vague.

The session started off with an introduction to the Unity Editor which took you through all the components of the Editor and customization options such as changing the colour of the Editor when in Play mode.To do this, follow these steps: 

1. Launch Unity then click on "Edit > Preferences".

2. Click on the "Colors" tab on the left-hand side and you will see the "Playmode tint" option under the "General" heading.

3. Click on the colour bar (in green above) and you will be presented with the colour picker. You can either pick your colour, or type in the RGB code.

4. Once done, click the "X" in the top right hand corner of the box, then click the "Play" button in the Editor to check your change.

After the Editor Refresher came some instruction on Adding Assets and then Level Prototyping. The Level Prototyping took us through how to quickly build up some floor spaces and using the Duplicate tools.The floor space we laid out was the start of a castle that was the game play area for what we were creating.

Then it was on to Editor Scripting. A handy script surrounded the floor with the provided walls and towers and we were good to go. Below is a screenshot of the finished castle that was provided.

Another handy part of the training was that the team provided us with pre-built scenes so if anything went horribly wrong, or we were struggling to keep up, then we could just load the relevant scene.

Once the walls were created we moved on to lighting and using sky boxes before a break.

The session started again with physics and creating a basic 3D capsule that was used as the basis for our main character, with some controls added. Boxes were added to the scene, and also had physics applied so that the player could knock them over.

After this came cameras and we attached a camera to the model to follow around the player. This camera was later replace by a more advance camera that chased the player and had collision detection so that it would avoid walls, etc.

Then we made some Coin objects that the player could pick up, and prefabs were introduced to take care of this. Then a basic GUI was created to display the amount o coins remaining to be collected. The coin collection was then expanded upon by creating a particle effect that would display once the coin was collected.

Once this was complete it was time for lunch!

We returned to talk about Character Animation and the (now integrated) Mecanim features were shown off. It was amazing to see that animations could be imported into Unity, and then applied to models. This is a great time-saver as you do not have to create the same animations on all your characters when you create them, but just import the animation into Unity and then apply the one animation to all your characters. This is backed by State Machines so you can state which animations feed into each other.

You can also layer in animations so that if you want a player to be able to complete 2 actions at one (for example: run and throw) then you can layer the 2 animations so that they can still play at the same time. You do this by selecting which parts of the character you want to exclude from the animation, for example: if you are using a throw animation (like we did) then you will layer the throw action over whatever other animation is playing, but to display both the animations then you would only want to display the parts of the body that are affected by the throw action, such as the head, torso and the arm that is doing the throwing.

Here's more on animation.

Oh, and there's also Blend Trees for animation too!

To complete the animation portion we replaced our sphere with the Ethan character that was provided (this was simple to do) and then apply the animations.

After that it was the introduction of Hazards. The ability to tag components in Unity really comes handy here as you can script your character so that if they come in contact with anything tagged "Hazard" then the character will die. So we added this script and added in a call to the Die animation, then respawn the player.

Then it was on to Enemies and Projectiles and we were done! Phew! As I wrote earlier, it was a LOT of content. There were no hold-ups as everyone in the room kept up (there were also multiple "helpers" around the floor to help people out where needed), but the instructors were rushed to get us finished in time.

We were given a link to the training slides, I wasn't told we couldn't give out that link so here it is! I apologize to the Unity team if we weren't supposed to share it, but let me know and I'll take down the link. Also, for readers I cannot say how long the content will be available.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Easter Seals

We all like to do what we can to help in our communities because without community we lose part of our own identity. At the moment Jennifer has decided to help out the Easter Seals by JUMPING OFF A BUILDING! OK, so that's a bit dramatic! Jennifer will be abseiling down the Sun Life Tower in Downtown Calgary. Please join us in helping this worthy cause by donating at Jennifer's Donation Page.