Unity Focus: Bladeslinger

Unity Focus: Bladeslinger
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

January 18th 2012 at 9:56AM

Developer Luma Arcade on Unity's triple-A potential

[To read Develop's collection of Unity Focus articles, go here]

Madfinger’s shooter Shadowgun quickly became the most famous example of the potential of Unity as a platform for creating triple-A content on mobile.

Now, there’s a new contender on the block for the title of most polished Unity-authored game.

Steampunk western Bladeslinger – by South African headquartered studio Luma Arcade – debuted at this year’s Unite, and was cited directly by Unity as an example of the engine’s potential to deliver experiences once reserved for consoles.

GO WESTERN

“Bladeslinger has been a pet project of our studio for quite a while now,” explains Luma Arcade’s general manager Sam Williams.

“It’s something we wanted to build around a couple of years ago, so we started kicking around the idea back then and thought it would really be something we’d have to make on PC or console, given the graphical quality we wanted to hit and the level of immersive story we wanted to achieve.”

However, the Luma team, which works from bases in Johannesburg, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Portland, quickly began to notice the rise in power of mobile devices, and realised that they could join those spearheading portable devices’ advance on traditional console territory.

“We started to build the game from the ground up for mobile when we entered development,” reveals Williams.

“The touch interface of so many mobile devices seemed like a natural fit so we went for it.”

Committed to working for iOS and Android, the Luma Arcade team quickly set their heart on Unity. That positioned them in a unique spot; they were poised to lead the pack in terms of high-end Unity projects, but they would have to work at the forefront of the engine’s abilities.

“The common concerns about Unity as a triple-A engine are dead on,” admits a frank Thomas Buscaglia, who serves as Luma Arcade’s senior designer.

He adds: “Things like ‘the bigger the project gets the larger the team needs to be’ means you need version control to be able to pull it off.”

“But, with 3.5 Unity is changing things, so it’s no longer a binary format for prefabs and scenes and stuff, which is a huge help because you can actually merge work and allow two people to work on a scene at a time and stuff like that.

“In the same way, you would think that the lack of source access would be a problem, but so far it hasn’t been. And it hasn’t been a problem because of how responsive Unity’s been.

"There are a lot of engine companies out there that don’t provide that level of service. I wholly believe in Unity as a viable triple-A game engine.”

AN EASY DECISION

Luma Arcade has used Unity for numerous previous projects, meaning that adopting the tech for Bladeslinger took little thought.

“We’ve always been happy with Unity,” confirms Williams.

“They have been happy to throw engineers at something if we have an awesome idea that they like. That has really helped with Bladeslinger. They’ll take our ideas and work them into the engine.”

“And Unity’s ability to enable rapid prototyping was really important to us because we weren’t sure exactly how this game was going to work interface-wise,” adds Buscaglia.

“Being able to rapidly iterate was great. That’s one of Unity’s main strengths.”

Take a look at Bladeslinger in motion, and it’s clear that Luma Arcade made the right choice of game engine. The glossy, slick action game absolutely rivals many modern console games, and clearly the Unity team are happy with how the engine has been used too.

“Bladeslinger marks another step forward for mobile platforms,” claimed Unity CTO Joachim Ante.

“What Luma Arcade has managed to do with Unity is amazing. This is one of the best looking mobile games we’ve ever seen and we’re psyched that it was designed using our technology.”