Unity: an unreal solution to indie game development

Most people know that video games are software, however, what they might not recognize is that they are built within game engines. Game engines provide suites of game development tech and tools needed to create and run a video game. While most game development studios create their own proprietary game engines, other, typically smaller game studios rely on the use of existing game engines. The Unreal game engine has long been seen as the only viable method of developing a console quality game for those without the means to create their own game engine.

Unreal engine 4 graphical quality
Yet there remained a problem with the Unreal engine, while it was made to be powerful enough to compete with triple A titles in terms of quality and performance, it lacked the flexibility and ease of use to allow for it to be adopted by more aspiring developers. For this reason, a large gap was driven between console developers working on larger than life titles and indie developers working in java script making games for the web.

unity enigne.jpg
Simple puzzle development on Unity
Within the last decade another engine has come onto the scene which has provided developers with a middle ground, the Unity engine.  Just as mobile phones and tablets began to contain the hardware capable of running more complex games, the Unity engine became the standard for mobile development.  Seen as an easy-to-use alternative to the Unreal engine, Unity sacrificed some graphical fidelity and performance and made up for it with a streamlined software framework for game development.

Pixel art’s famous champion: MineCraft
However, an important shift came when ambitious indie developers started using the Unity engine to create more than simple mobile games.  Once pixel art began to make a resurgence, with the smash hit MineCraft, the perception of the graphical limitations of Unity could be circumvented by using beautifully rendered low-fidelity graphics.

An example of an intricate game being developed in Unity with a deceptively simple art style
The result has been an explosion of games with superb design being developed on Unity, with developers all along the spectrum from professional to amateur being able to use the same engine. This is a boon not only for the development community in terms of having prospective developers learning game development on the same tool the developers use, but also for the gaming community which has made their opinions known, proving that the push for high definition graphics and over-the-top performance, is not the only benchmark of a game’s success.

Do you believe that the push for hyper-realistic graphics is being countered by the new-found love of pixelart? Do you believe it is important to have games being developed in the middle ground between triple A and casual? What do you think will be the long term effects of tech changes such as the shift from Unreal to Unity? I welcome discussion on this topic, if you liked this article or have something to share, please leave a comment below or write in to playprofessor@gmail.com.

Andrew Mantilla is a ludologist and video game journalist for Play Professor.  You can check out more of his content on FacebookTwitterInstagramand Youtube.

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