Where do the games grow from. Interview with David Helgason - CEO of Unity

    The text is intended primarily for those who, like the author, are practically unfamiliar with Unity. But I heard - and would like to meet you.
    And also for those who are interested in the creator of Unity as a person.


    Unity is one of the most popular game engines. On it are made, for example, Hitman GO, Rust, Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty, Monument Valley, Lumo, Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf and thousands of other games. These are mainly mobile projects and games from indie studios. Why? Because Unity is a very easy thing to learn, which can be mastered by loners and small studios. At the DevGamm game development conference, the author met with the creator of this engine and CEO of Unity Technologies, David Helgason, and decided that the chance should not be missed. Before us is a man who knows about the game industry almost more than any of their developers!

    David himself was once a game developer - Unity was born precisely as a tool for creating those projects that a young and inexperienced Icelander together with his friends wanted to release. They believed that they could create a great game. But when they finally finished it, they realized that the game came out good, but not great. But the tool for its development turned out to be very attractive - so Unity from the engine for personal purposes has turned into a tool for game developers around the world. Unity differs from the rest of the engines in the first place by its simplicity and cross-platformness - with this software package you can make games even for PC, Mac or consoles, even for iOS or Android. Yes, for almost anything. In general, we decided to ask David a few questions about how games are made and where the game industry is heading.


    Meet: David Helgason


    3dsystem: Hello, David. Most questions will not be about Unity, but about the gaming industry as a whole. For example, which studios inspire you more - small ones, without budgets, but with original ideas, or large ones that can do AAA projects with super-high-quality graphics and a world polished to shine?

    D.Kh .: So, a choice of two options? How many of the two can I choose?

    3dsystem: Ok , got it. Apparently two.

    D.Kh .:In fact, you know the answer. We started as an indie studio, and you yourself understand that it inspires us very much. But we don’t want to be the only provider of programs for indie studios. And we never planned to be that. We just wanted to take all the best - not only in terms of capabilities and platform support, but also in terms of the convenience of the workflow, wrap it all in a small neat package and give it to everyone who needs it. And we always believed that we should be able to support everyone - from a 10-year-old boy to EA, Nival and other publishers or studios of this level. And we, in general, did it - not that perfectly, but, it seems to me, very well.



    And I think it is very important that we support everyone. Unity is becoming a kind of standard language spoken by game developers. And as a result, there is a huge amount of materials that simplify the work - you can find books, lessons, video courses, and in the Unity Asset Store (the store / repository of ready-made modules for Unity. - author's note) people who know how to do something well share with other people - so that they do not have to develop a module from scratch.

    I will give an example. There is a good person who wrote good code to control cameras. He used to work on the Battlefield series and did it there - it turned out, by the way, very cool, and then left - and wrote this code under Unity for his game, which he makes. This is not a higher mathematics or nuclear physics, but it requires some knowledge, skills and time. Let's say it took him three days - by my estimation. And then he spent another month on polishing this code, making it more flexible, writing detailed documentation for it, and so on. And now he sells it on the Asset Store for $ 20 or something.

    People bought this code about 6,000 times - at the moment. This means, firstly, that he, in general, can live on this money - at least pay the bills and continue to calmly work on his game. Which is already good. Secondly, that 6,000 people saved at least 3 days each, without spending them on the development of a similar code. This, by the way, is 50 man-years! For 50 years, people have saved on the fact that he wrote this code for the camera. Including, therefore, we do not want to focus on any of the edges of the industry - we are interested in everything, and most importantly, people from different angles can help each other.


    The Unity Asset Store is full of free stuff that every

    3dsystem can use : It seems you have almost answered our second question - how to make a good game development tool?

    D.Kh .: I still answer in more detail. Firstly, to make a good tool, you will need to work a lot. In fact, writing a game engine is not so difficult. That is, of course, I would never have done it alone, but almost any game company that has existed for at least a few years has most likely written its own engine in one way or another. Is it true that you are so surprised? It really isn’t such a rosyket science: you focus on a specific platform, write everything for a specific task, a specific genre - everything is quite simple, even if you are making a very technologically complex engine.

    But writing a universal tool flexible enough to develop games of different genres on it under numerous different platforms is damn really difficult. And it must also be made so that it is convenient to use not only for beginners, but also for experienced developers. In general, the work is full of mouth ...

    For example, last year we wanted to make two-dimensional mode for Unity. That is, that we have a three-dimensional dvigok, but with a two-dimensional mode. It seems to be easy: just turn the camera at the right angle - and let's go. Difficulties begin when you want to, say, use physics in 2D mode. Or, let's say you want to use three-dimensional objects located between layers. And this is all - a big problem: a lot of people in Unity have spent a lot of time on this. But we did it. And now it works - on all platforms. Come and take it.

    3dsystem:But, let’s say, there is a certain well-beginning game designer. Rather, even someone who wants to become one and at the moment has nothing to do with it. And so he came up with the idea of ​​his first project, mechanics. What are his next steps? What does he need to do to create his first game?

    D.Kh .:Actually, making games, let's say, is not easy. I seem to repeat myself, but, firstly, he needs to work a lot. However, no initial specialized knowledge is needed for this - we often meet just smart people who make games. From scratch. Secondly, he should come to terms with the idea that his idea will not work. Not because it's a bad idea, but because game design is a very complicated thing. But you have to start somewhere, so I would suggest downloading Unity. And if I were in the place of a beginner lone game designer - I would have done so. Let me remind you that the basic version is free for indie developers. So, download - and start to study it. You can study as you like - there is a book that you can read, there are video tutorials. You can just download the examples from the Asset Store and watch how they work - a kind of reverse engineering. There are ready-made modules there,

    This approach does not guarantee that you will make a good game, but that there, most likely you will not do it, but at least you will be able to make games in general. How long will it take? I don’t know - it is up to you. Weeks, maybe months, maybe years. But if you have a really good idea and a serious desire to implement it - most likely you will get a good game. At the same time, Unity allows you to, so to speak, fool around a bit. If you do not want to program, there are ready-made scripts that you can use. Create objects, apply scripts to them - no code. And this, by the way, is quite a working approach. But there are many other approaches. However, be prepared for the fact that if you want to make games, you need to learn the damn cloud of everything - design, maybe 3D modeling, maybe programming, graphic effects and so on. Perhaps you will be more successful than me and still make a good game.

    By the way, Unity is a great programming tutorial. Here you have a little man, you copied a line of code, applied it to a little man - and he went! That is, not something abstract happened, but a completely visual action. And you remember - so, such a code makes people walk. And learn. This is a good way to learn programming.

    3dsystem: Thanks, David. Let’s digress from the sad topic of games of our own design. And how do you feel, for example, about Oculus VR, Project Morpheus and other virtual reality flirts that have become so popular lately?

    D.Kh .:I am a fan of virtual reality! The first time I tried Oculus Rift around two years ago - just before they hit Kickstarter. And when I finally took off my helmet, I could only say: “Wow, this is so cool!” I just could not believe it! How many have they sold their “development kits" now? Something like 30 thousand, or even 50, right? In general, many developers have tried Oculus - and they are doing interesting things for it. And it is used not only for games - for research, but for something else. And then Sony announced Project Morheus - it's completely different, but also completely different. But whether all this will become a really big story - I do not know. That is, I hope that it will find its application - at least in the gaming industry.



    3dsystem:And then what will be the very next big story in the world of games? Where is the industry going?

    D.Kh .:It may be the aforementioned virtual reality - but I'm not sure. Let us mentally go back 10 years - and see what happened then. Then everything revolved around the consoles. All money was invested in the console. Yes, I know that in Russia, consoles never reached such heights - your PC rules the ball, but in the rest of the world everything was just that. But the PC was all bad. Not that computer games completely ceased to exist, but the market did not grow, and if someone was going to develop a really big project, he did it for consoles. It was believed that if you are a large studio, and you are not doing a project for consoles, then most likely you will soon be bent. On the PC, besides the ports from the consoles, only strategies came out. That is, then the consoles were a big story.

    And then Facebook happened - and everyone began to make games for him. And it turned out exactly the same thing - if you are not making a game for Facebook, you probably are about to go broke. But we know that it all ended badly - the bubble burst. Social games turned out to be painfully the same - in terms of gameplay. That is, they were really interesting - but for the most part stamped clones came out.



    And then came the era of mobile games. That is, they were before - but mobile devices in general and games for them in particular were so scary that it was better not to even think about them. At first everyone made simple games - three in a row, Arkanoid and so on, then they found out that for mobile devices you can do something more serious. And in 2010-2011, the standard situation again developed: if you do not make a mobile game, you will not survive. And in general, mobile games still continue to gain momentum - the market is growing, really interesting or just big projects are coming out. How much did the creators of Candy Crush Saga earn there? There are some really cool ideas. Played the Monument Valley? Be sure to try - this is a kind of art project, but it’s really a great game. It’s a pity, there are only about 10 levels.


    Monument Valley. By the way, made on Unity

    Nevertheless, there were always those who survived, even when they did, so to speak, not that. Recently, developers suddenly again drew attention to the PC, on Steam. With this now, perhaps, a golden age for the gaming industry - everything is growing. Great projects come out on both the PC and the consoles, people are experimenting with VR and continue to do unusual things for mobile devices. Now all platforms are important - and therefore it is especially difficult to say what will “shoot” next. And there are games for every taste - both simple, casual, and really hardcore, there are even serious strategies for the iPad or generally amazing things like Minecraft, Rust or Kerbal Space Program. Did you play Agree, they’re crazy at all! And at the same time they bring money. The creator of Minecraft has earned so much money that he just drowns in them. So I can’t say what will be the next “big story". Around is already full of “big stories” - and they are happening right now. So many possibilities!

    3dsystem: The next question, apparently, will be divided into two: which games of the past do you like most - and which games of the present?

    D.Kh .: Speaking about the past, I would even say - about childhood, then I always liked games like Civilization, SimCity. If it's about modern games, then ... perhaps I still like games like Warcraft. In general, those that look more like a board game than a Hollywood movie.


    There are those who remember what it is?

    There are still mobile games - I also play a lot of them. So what am I playing now? There are so many games on my iPhone - you won’t figure it out. For example, Plague Inc. - she's beautiful. And Pottery is not so much a game, but much room for creativity. Here you just make pottery. In fact, there is even some kind of gameplay here and you theoretically need to fulfill some kind of mission there - but you can just make your own pottery. I like it! Not that it worked out for me, but I still send it to my wife and friends - this is my design, I did it! Myself! I also have Subway Surf installed - it's like a Dungeon Runner, only without microtransactions. By the way, almost the only game that I played more than once.

    3dsystem:Well, the last question. Many people think that modern games, as they say, “are no longer a cake”. Here in the 90s there were wonderful and wonderful projects, and now, according to these very many, completely secondary rubbish comes out.

    DH: Are they serious? This is some kind of madness. Even if you like extremely old-fashioned, let’s say, games - they are full now! Let's take some kind of example. Say Smash Hit is such a beautiful game! The idea is an old but modernized version of this idea only got better. Even if you think that the games were good only in the 90s, I don’t see a single reason why you might not like this particular project.


    Smash hit

    Well, by the way, I do not agree that the games were really cool exclusively in the 90s. Here's another example - Limbo. Yes, it's an ordinary arcade! But what a presentation of history, what a cool design, what a strong emotion! And if these strange people mean that now the games have not become hardcore enough, then they have a direct path to Steam - there are a huge number of really hardcore, serious things.


    Limbo

    Perhaps, in general, now games have really become easier than in those days. Yes, this is probably a problem. But on a PC, for example, there are a lot of complex games - truly complex. And if they’re not even completely complex, they’ll find some kind of especially hardcore mode - Nightmare or something like that. In general, just as difficult as in the nineties. In addition, it seems to me that now the simplification of games is gradually fading - yes, more recently, it may have been a serious problem, but now everything is getting better. There are still games in the style of “click this button to kill the boss”, but their share is becoming smaller.

    In addition, perhaps those who are now complaining about simplicity were children in the 90s - it’s a little harder for children to understand mechanics and generally play the game. Have you always been beaten by an older brother? On the other hand, sometimes it’s more difficult for adults to understand something, because they are otherwise educated and think differently from what the game requires ... In general, this is nonsense. Now comes a lot of good and challenging games.

    3dsystem: Thanks, David. We will wait for good and difficult games - and more. Thank you for the conversation.

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