Unite Austin 2017 recap

Bear in mind, this is my perspective as an indie looking to invade the mobile gamespace in 2018. I’ve been cyberstalking Unity 3D and lurking around their booths at other game conventions for years and fiddled with the tools, but now it’s wave-or-salute time. From that perspective, this was my first in-person all-Unity event.

tldr; They did well. Not perfect, mind you, and a little smaller than I expected, but one of the better organized and funded game dev conventions that I’ve been to. I think they’re finally ready for me to jump in, and they’re still planning to go lots of cool places.

Training Day

Monday was a hands-on, newbie developer orientation day. The project assets were provided by Cybernetic Walrus (based on their new game Antigraviator) and the training by Unity staff. Although it had more than couple glitches, the demo level provided was full-featured and interesting to play with. The 13 introductory steps (most broken down into several subtasks) took most of the day at the trainers’ planned pace. The training (obviously) glossed over the modeling aspects of 3D game development and focused on the gameplay, camera management with the new version of Cinemachine (very sexy) and the new version of Timeline (very cool). They promised to provide the slideware, a completed (and enhanced) version of the project. I hope to get that next week and fiddle with it some more. [I was pretty happy with how my Surface Book handled the day. I think the i7 and SSD zoomed nicely through the work.]

Keynote & Kickoff

Since I was there for Training Day, it felt weird to have all day Tuesday to myself until the keynote that started at 6 pm, but I guess they’re trying to accommodate everybody else’s busy travel schedule. The keynote was well orchestrated and well rehearsed. There weren’t any significant fumbles, and they did a good job hyping the upcoming sessions for the next two days. Since I’m not the partying sort, I wandered through the kickoff mixer and hiked back to my hotel.

Hotel

My one huge strategic error was not booking a hotel when I first signed up. By the time I talked myself out of driving back and forth from San Antonio to Austin every day, they’d already sold out the low-priced Unity block, and I wound up at the Double Tree a mile and a half away. Needless to say, I got my exercise hiking back and forth, since I’m too cheap to pay for parking downtown Austin. Punishment deserved and delivered.

Sessions

These are the sessions I went to and the number of stars I’d give each:

  • 2D World Building in Unity (4/5)
  • OctaneRender for Unity (4/5)
  • Creative Scripting of Timeline (5/5)
  • Disruptive Virtual Cinematography on a Budget (2/5)
  • Unity Labs Behavioral AI Research (5/5)
  • Get Paid on Mobile (4/5)
  • Expansive Storyworlds (3/5)
  • Cinemachine for Games and Interactive (4/5)
  • Buil the Multiplatform Games of Your Dreams with UWP (1/5)
  • Neill Blomkamp’s Short Film Screening and Q&A (3/5)
  • Testing for Sanity (5/5)
  • Insights to Action (5/5)
  • High Performance C# Scripting With the C# Job System and the Entity Component System (5/5)
  • Massive Battle in Spellsouls Universe with Upcoming Unity Tech (4/5)
  • Trivia! Unity by the Numbers (3/5)
  • S.O.L.I.D. Unity (2/5)

There are several more that I wanted to go to, but there were conflicts. Overall, the presentations by Unity staff were more polished than the guest speakers. I was bummed that the recordings weren’t available to buy on a flash drive like other conferences do, but I’m hoping they’ll get them up on YouTube or something soon.

Outcome

Unity has grown quite a bit since I bought a 4.x version of it almost a decade ago. I’m impressed with how far they’ve come. I’ve made the command decision to try my hand at free-to-play mobile game next year (2018). The convention inspired me to begin writing the design doc and thinking through the gameplay and the freemium monetization model. (Daddy’s got bills to pay!) Since you didn’t ask, I’ll tell you anyway that the game will be set in the Starcrossed universe. Be thinkin’ about where you want to take your own personal starship. . .

Thank you for your support!

I had a lot of fun at GaMExpo this year, making new friends and reconnecting with old ones.

We had two Modernity sessions and two Starcrossed sessions.

If you made it to the Hilton Hill Country Resort, I’m glad you were there.

If you didn’t, we missed you. Catch you at the next convention or playtest game.

 

p.s. Yes, I’m still cranking away on The Raid on Slavers’ Bay. We did more playtesting at GaMExpo. Release date announcement “real soon now.” 🙂

Raid on Slavers' Bay (Fate Edition) Cover 600x900

Child of Light: A pleasant surprise!

Image from Child of Light

I am not normally a fan of turn-based video games. Well, that’s saying it in a very politically sensitive fashion. Unless the game has X-COM in it’s name, I loathe turn-based games. I’m even less fond of platformers. When I saw that Ubisoft made it, I cursed them for not making the something to rival Mass Effect, Deus Ex, or Gears of War. (I could never get into Assassins Creed. Sorry. Great idea, though. Keep trying.)

Child of Light surprised me.

Because my brain was fried from too many hours editing Starcrossed in a desperate attempt to get it out the door in April 2015, I sat down in front of the Xbox One. Which was my first mistake, because nobody has made a game for the Xbox One that I really want to play since Tomb Raider (which incidentally has something in common with Child of Light). I should’ve just turned it off until Battlefront ships in December, but… I was fried.

Child of Light is a family-friendly, adorable, and unexpectedly (to me) fun game. I love the elemental soundtrack the most. Off to buy that next!

In a desperate need for mindless diversion, I picked up Child of Light while it was free for Xbox Live Gold members and unexpectedly fell in love with it. Damn you, Ubisoft! Knowing what I know now, I’d’ve paid full price for it. (I actually did that with Tomb Raider. I got it for free on the Xbox 360 with XBL Gold fully expecting to hate it, finished the game. Then promptly bought it on the Xbox One and finished it again, and then some.)

The game’s watercolor art style isn’t something I would normally be attracted to, even less its mode of play, but the silly-serious writing and the characters drew me in and hooked me. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the world and its story, especially the way that Aurora grows and matures during the story. [I even forgave Ubisoft the annoying JRPG-style press A to read every damn line of dialog. After about level 25.]

Yes, I have all of the achievements. No, I don’t have 100% completion of all the collectibles. Yet. I have to go back to editing Starcrossed first.

Starcrossed will be delayed less than one month.

It is with much regret that I inform you of the unfortunate delay of the release of Starcrossed. I’m sorry!

After a detailed, all-day review of the current state of the product, both art and content, I have decided to slide the release into April 2015 (next month) in order to take the time needed to correct and upgrade some non-trivial elements of the game. I know you’ll be more pleased with the finished product then. And so will I.

If you preordered Starcrossed, I am going to give you a copy of the first scenario, Raid on Slavers’ Bay, for free by way of apology. Raid will be released at the end of May. (Raid’s already mostly done, so that’s a pretty firm date.)

Preorders will still close on 01-April-2015 (UTC -5).