Develop meets a duo of promising young Unity users
[To read Develop's collection of Unity Focus articles, go here]
When Marco Marino and Matt Woolven took time away from university to focus their energy on their microstudio Spiderling, they reasoned that, as they both wanted to work in the games industry, it “couldn’t hurt” to see how far their ambition would take them.
The move demonstrated admirable devotion, and it paid off. By the time Spiderling took its game GLiD to SXSW it was impressive enough to win the Grand Prize at the 2011 ScreenBurn Independent Propeller Awards, bagging the team a $50,000 boost to their development budget.
Back when GLiD, which is pitched as an ‘ambient exploration game’, was just an idea in the collective conscience of Marino and Woolven, the pair were actually using the Blender engine, which offered fine prototyping functionality, but left the team longing for far more beyond that.
“One day over the summer, we noticed Unity was free and gave it a download, and it was love at first sight,” says Marino. “It also works excellently alongside Blender, we could use it to model everything, which was perfect.
In the first couple of weeks with Unity, we decided to make as many tiny projects as we could in order to learn the ropes, and one of those tests was a small red cube with wheels and a big eye in the middle that later became GLiD.”
With both the team members having gained far more experience in artistic endeavours than technical proficiency, as GLiD started to evolve into a more serious project they were faced with the somewhat daunting challenge; mastering the programming and coding elements which were relatively alien to them.
“We find drawing easier than coding,” admits Marino. “As a result we have dreadfully short attention spans, so being able to hit the big ‘Play’ button at the top is definitely our favourite Unity feature. It gives a lot of freedom to experiment and evaluate the results instantly.”
The Spiderling founders also found Unity was particularly suited to their rather spontaneous creative approach, which sees them toy with a multitude of ideas with little planning, adopting a ferocious ‘trial and error’ method.
“If it wasn’t so easy to get from the initial idea to seeing it working in game we would have made something very different,” states Marino. “We were also amazed with the Unity interface; everything made sense and was in just the place you would expect. After only a couple of days using it we were both very comfortable with it. It was just a case of getting better at coding, which happened very naturally.”
Unity also played a substantial role in shaping the look and feel of GLiD, which lets players assume control of an agile arachnid robot. Treating the tech as a virtual sketchpad topped with a Play button, Marino and Woolven were able design much of the game’s stylistic direction in-engine.
“Originally a lot of the environment was made directly in Unity, although later on when things became more intricate we would simply take a screen shot from inside Unity and scribble over it in Gimp on a new layer, and then import the layers back in to Unity to see how it looked in motion,” explains Marino. “This quick back and forth between Unity and Gimp is how we arrived at the look of the game now.”
The end result is a highly distinct indie game that has already wowed judging panels and professionals the world over, and looks set to find favour with the public when it finally sees release later this year.