Unity Focus: I Am PlayR

Unity Focus: I Am PlayR
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

February 16th 2012 at 9:30AM

We look at how Unity games can find success on Facebook

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

Footballing lifestyle game I Am PlayR was launched on Facebook back in October, and already boasts an impressive 412,000 monthly active users. The game is growing fast, and developer We R Interactive is turning heads.

Not bad for an original IP that serves as the studio’s first release.

And who has developed the engine powering this soccer-themed Facebook game, with ambitions for Android, iOS and Flash? Unity of course.

“The fact that Unity is so user friendly was one of the key reasons we chose the Unity engine for the development of I Am PlayR,” says We R Interactive executive producer Steve Didd of betting the studio’s creative vision on the engine.

“It’s great that the production team are able to get hands on with building training drills and other game elements. Also, the fact that Unity supports both Android and iOS development was a key consideration in our mobile strategy for I Am PlayR.”

THE BEAUTIFUL GAME

Unity is, of course, most commonly associated with iOS and browser games. But the active community for which the engine outfit is famed for, along with a wealth of online tutorials geared towards developing for social networks, means it is emerging as an increasingly popular tool for Facebook games development.

The We R Interactive team toiling away on  I Am PlayR have certainly been impressed by the engine’s suitability for making games on the ever-alluring social network.

They have been especially awe-struck by its AB testing functionality, which has allowed the studio to optimise the install flow and user uptake that is so vital to making a Facebook game a success.

“Unity lends itself really well to fast iterative development,” says Didd of Unity’s other Facebook-friendly features.

“It’s quick and easy to tweak the scripts and then click ‘play’ to see the effects immediately, without having to wait for the code to compile every time. This speed is essential to I Am PlayR, where we are we constantly creating new game content and responding to feedback from users.”

Equally, Didd and his colleagues were impressed by the prefabs that make Unity such a popular engine.

“The fact that you can utilise prefabs to store a master copy of a game object and then instantiate copies of it at will for quick set up of your scenes is great,” he confirms. “For I Am PlayR we have all the characters, standard player actions and stadiums saved as prefabs – so when it comes to creating a new match chance you don’t have to start from scratch – you just play with the ready-made pieces.

“We also take great advantage of the clear and concise Unity interface, which works really well for our developers and designers. Our developers work on writing the scripts and setting up the game objects and environments, then we pass on the Unity project to our designers who can play around with the public settings to create the variations they want.”

IN THE MIX

It wasn’t all plain sailing for the I Am PlayR team. Merging the filmed sections and 3D gameplay in a way that would not jar the player from the illusion of the game world proved tough, and user testing became an essential part of balancing the blend of typically contrary visual approaches.

“When building something new and untried, it’s important to get user feedback early on in the project,” offers Didd.

“We wanted to test that the game’s on-field parts were fun and engaging, and Unity allowed us to build the 3D elements quickly to get the all important user feedback.

“Through blending live action video and first-person perspective 3D gameplay we’ve created amazingly realistic match experiences. And the level of personalisation we are able to deliver through leveraging the social graph data – such as signing your contract for [the game’s team] River Park FC – is pretty special.”

www.werinteractive.com