Unity Focus: PlayStation Network games

Unity Focus: PlayStation Network games
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

May 27th 2011 at 8:00AM

We look at the first PSN title built with Unity's popular engine

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

When the team at Finnish studio Recoil Games began work on its platforming shooter Rochard, the development staff were focused on ideas. So much so, in fact, that they hadn’t decided on the platform the game was for.

It was in that context that the Helsinki-based outfit adopted Unity. Recoil knew Unity’s reputation as a rapid prototyping tool, and opted to use the engine.

Little did they know they’d go on to become the first company to create a commercial PSN game using Unity’s ever popular toolset…

“The speed at which you can prototype with Unity 3D is something that really surpassed even our expectations,” admits Rochard’s producer Kalle Kaivola.

“We were able to create a concept, prototype it and put together a polished ten-minute demo for publishers from scratch in two months. And, mind you, this is with a team where nobody had touched the software before.”

Before long, Kaivola and his colleagues found themselves confident enough with Unity to set their sights on Sony’s digital platform, and began work on the full version of the release.

CUSTOMISED SATISFACTION

Emboldened by the power of Unity’s editor, Recoil – which never planned on building a library of custom tools – eventually used the engine to do just that. Having evaluated the manpower needs of their team’s various departments, the Recoil Games staff went to work constructing their own tool sets.

“Rolling out very specific tools turned out to be a huge timesaver that gave us a chance to polish the levels while working with an aggressive schedule,” confirms Kaivola.

“We also have to give credit to the Beast light-mapping solution that made its way into Unity with the 3.0 release,” adds the producer, who is clearly enamoured by Unity’s offering. “We weren’t expecting to be able to use it when we started out, but using it really helped us reach our visual quality bar.”

Recoil also made much use of the ability to harness C# as a managed language on top of the runtime engine; a fact that meant the Rochard programmers, designers and artists could create components with the same language.

The subsequent improvements to workflow were manifold, as a programmer could approach a given designer’s machine, see his levelscript firsthand and submit any changes to either level-specific script or base classes from that very work station.

“This was very useful for us and helped us break down some of our habits of segregating programming from design,” reveals Kaivola.

MECHANIC MASTERS

Recoil was also keen to give Rochard a definite look and feel. The game, which combines traditional run ‘n’ gun action with a wealth of puzzle solving elements, is absolutely a celebration of the classic gameplay beloved by retro-fetishists, but the team were eager to focus on creating unique mechanics from Rochard’s combination of these familiar interactions. It was fundamentally important to make sure the game felt fresh and distinct.

Fortunately for Recoil, Unity allowed them to do just that.

“We don’t think it’s the engine’s place to give the feel or style to a game, but rather remove any limitations from creating your own,” says Kaivola. “The way Unity is made into a very generic game engine allowed us to develop our signature look and mechanics.

“We didn’t have to rip out the engine’s guts to make the game stand out, so to speak. For example, Shaderlab allows you to create customised shaders suited for your graphics style by extending the stock rendering pipeline and not by forcing you to rewrite one.”

Rochard is yet to ship, so Recoil’s energy is absolutely focused on its debut released. Still, the team are already considering taking the IP to new platforms. Clearly they are very satisfied Unity customers.

“We’ve been happy with using Unity,” concludes Kaivola. “I think you’re onto something when people in the team are making hobby projects for fun in their spare time with the same engine.”

www.recoilgames.com