Tom, product evangelist for Unity, discusses upcoming updates for the Unity product
You can download the podcast here…
Or listen to it here…
Interviewer: I’m here today at Casual Connect in Seattle, and with me today is a special guest. How about you introduce yourself?
Tom: Hi, I’m Tom Higgins, the Product Evangelist for Unity. And I’m happy to be here once again talking to you.
Interviewer: Yeah. Great. What’s new with Unity now?
Tom: Well, we’ve been a lot on the go this year. It’s been pretty exciting, but, you know, the single biggest thing that we have right now is that Unity 3.0 is right around the corner. We’ve been saying end of summer as a release date, and folks are checking their calendar right now. They realize that means we’ve got about four to eight weeks left, and we think we’re going to hit that.
It’s a major update to our Desktop Web and iPhone product, killer new features, deferred rendering, occlusion culling across the board. Beast Lightmapping is being included, all kinds of new audio features and just countless editor updates, documentation updates. I mean, it’s really, really an exciting release.
Interviewer: And speaking of iPhone IOS, can you talk about that some more and some of the concerns that some people have about whether Unity will even be allowed on the platform?
Tom: Yeah, sure. As folks know, earlier this year Apple put out some changes to its terms of service around IOS 4, in particular. And there are a couple sections in there that seem to have Unity on the outs in terms of being a supported technology. But the reality is that so far life for Unity developers hasn’t changed one bit.
A Unity app continues to be accepted at the App Store. Unity applications and games continue to be top sellers and continue to be used in Apple’s own marketing materials. So, do we have a confirmed yes or no approved or not status? No, we don’t and this isn’t unique to us. This is kind of across the board that Apple’s taking a very cautious path.
But, if you look at the day to day activity, life has not changed for Unity developers, and so we’re going to continue along. We don’t have our head in the sand ignoring it. We did announce a battle plan that if they do put the squeeze on us as a technology, we’re going to implement C++ scripting as a backup solution so that we’ll continue to have a viable solution.
As of today, life is the same as it always was for Unity developers, and so keep making kick ass games for the iPhone.
Interviewer: Great. Can you talk about any of the games made in Unity for iPhone that have been promoted by Apple and stuff like that?
Tom: Well, I mean, for example, there was recently an email campaign for Apple developers that went around Europe. And it was basically to try and promote the mobile effort in IOS, whether it’s iPhone or iPad or iPod Touch, and it was trying to convince people this was a great place to take your content. And they showed a developer holding up an iPhone with a game that was OMG Pirates which is made by Mika Mobile and done in Unity.
So, we continue to see cases like this where, again, in major pushes by Apple’s own internal teams. They’re using Unity content as a focal point for convincing people why they should use that as a platform for their content. And it goes on.
We have known there are things in the works where there’s other Unity content that is going to be a part of major ad campaigns. We’ve seen our apps continue to be among the top sellers, whether it’s games or applications. So, kind of across the board, every department seems to be willing to talk about Unity on their platform, except for the most cautious department which apparently is Legal.
Interviewer: And you talked about applications. Can you discuss how people would use Unity for applications rather than games? Is that something that’s seems like an emergent use case then?
Tom: Well, it is. I’ll just take a step back from iPhone in particular. We recently did a bit of a survey in kind of a scan of our user base. The numbers are that something on the order of 60 percent of those using Unity use it for non-game content development, at least, part of the time.
So, look, the features and functionality that game developers want, they want a super high fidelity experience, top quality graphics, fast performance and high degrees of inner activity.
What’s different about that than somebody that wants to do a medical visualization app or an architecture walk-through or data visualization? The features just translate over extremely well. As a matter of getting people’s mind set to realize that our internal marketing campaign is, “It’s not just for games any more.”
The fact is that those that are savvy and understand it are just starting to pick it up and use it. On the web there’s a project called a Visible Body, and it’s a medical visualization where you can peel back different layers of the entire human body. And it’s all done in Unity where there’s a NYU heart visualization app on the iPhone that’s already being done.
So, these kinds of things are starting to come up, and as folks realize it’s not just a game technology, it’s an interactive content technology that offers this high fidelity experience. We’re hoping to see more and more because as big as the games industry is, you look at training and simulation, architecture visualization. These are markets that are ten, a hundred, a thousand times the size of the games industry, a massive potential there waiting for us to tap into.
Interviewer: Speaking of mobile then, what about Android?
Tom: Well, yeah. I mentioned the big thing coming is Unity 3.0. Well, the next big thing and only a small notch down in the priority scale, of course, is Unity Android. These are being done in parallel, not necessarily in lock step though. So, Unity 3.0 is going to come out first, and then after that we’re going to introduce Unity Android. It’s going to follow the same license model as our iPhone product is.
So, it’s an add-on to an existing Unity license, but you’re going to be able to create apps for anything running Android OS. Our goal is Android 2.0 or newer, Open GLS 2.0 and forward. This means any of these phones or soon to come out tablets and devices, we’re going to let Unity developers tap into those.
It’s just a really exciting opportunity because the App Store with Apple seems to offer currently the highest profit potential for developers. When we look out in the future, six months to a year, I and our company firmly believe that Android is going to offer even more potential.
You know, Google needs to sort out some issues around piracy and content protection, but the numbers of devices that are going to be running Android will dwarf the number of devices running IOS. I think the numbers are already greater today, but you look a year down the road and we’re talking 5X, 10X.
The different forecasts will give you a different figure. The point is there will be a lot more, and once these piracy issues get sorted out, we think Unity Android is going to be a particularly exciting option. And so, it’s just another step in our mobile agenda. We’re looking forward at possibly Windows Mobile 7, what’s going on on the Nintendo 3DS, Playstation portable, lots of cool stuff coming to our hands and Unity Android’s the next big one for us.
Interviewer: Can people already download some kind of Unity Android test version?
Tom: Well, not for Unity Android for Unity 3.0. We are pre-selling licenses for Unity 3.0. Those that do purchase pre-purchase their 3.0 license can use the current version today, and we’re slowly rolling out beta access to those folks so that as the builds get more stable the audience gets larger.
We’re not doing the same thing around Unity Android. We do have a beta program active, and so we are taking some folks onto that, you know, but it’s not open to the general public just yet. We’ll see if we’re going to open it up to a wider audience like we did with the 3.0 builds, but both of these are slated for an end of summer release.
So, I joked about how we only have four to eight weeks on Unity 3.0. Whatever’s left over, we have left to get Unity Android out. So, even without that, these builds are coming fast. They’re going to be available real soon.
Interviewer: OK. So, Unity Android will probably be out then by the end of the summer.
Tom: Yeah, you know, that’s next September 22nd, if I look on my calendar. That’s starting for everyone in the Southern Hemisphere. We’re talking the Northern Hemisphere somewhere here. September 22nd, that’s the official end of summer, and there’s a certain set that’s been in the Unity community long enough to know that when we’ve said summer releases before, that’s usually meant by our Unite Conference which has happened in October.
This time we mean it. We think we’re going to get these out by the end of summer. So, in the next two months we’re going to have both 3.0 and Unity Android out on the streets, meaning lots and lots of cool stuff for people to play with.
Interviewer: Great. And then, can you talk about any other surprising applications or uses of Unity that you found interesting or intriguing?
Tom: You know, like I said, things like the Visible Body have been some of the more surprising ones because these are just cases where we never really thought about it being used in that context. There are some other efforts. You know, there’s a company called Nouri out of Korea that is creating something in the dance-based MMO. That’s still in the game space, but it’s a pretty intriguing use of a game technology. I’ve seen this crop up, whether it’s in games or non-games.
The fact is we’re putting some tools out there that let people do all kinds of creative stuff, and just about every week somebody shows us a game, shows us a demo of some kind of project that’s in the works. It’s using our tech in ways we never thought folks would do. It’s not that we wanted to put a box around people, but everyone has their own kind of scope of imagination. For us, that’s the cool part about being in the tools business.
You know, we take a hammer or a screwdriver and a paint brush. And do you make a Picasso painting? Do you build the next Sears Tower in Chicago, or are you the next I. M. Pei creating some kind of wild, new building that we never thought would come out? So, it happens all the time. That’s the big buzz for us with these tools vendors, is seeing those new and creative bits.
Interviewer: Great. And where can developers find out more information about Unity?
Tom: As always, Unity3D.com.
Interviewer: Thank you very much.