Unity Focus: Bad Piggies

Unity Focus: Bad Piggies
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

January 23rd 2013 at 5:05PM

Rovio discusses why it used the game engine to develop its new IP

When Rovio braved moving the Angry Bird’s franchise away from the familiar catapult and avian formula, the developer picked Unity to install beneath the bonnet.

The game in question is, of course, Bad Piggies, which reimagines the physics puzzler format that made Angry Birds a true phenomenon of mainstream culture.

This time it’s the swine that hogs the limelight, tasking the player with building various vehicles and contraptions from a toybox of Rube Goldberg clichés, such as springs, bellows and levers.

A QUICK START

And, as is often the case, it was prototyping that first attracted Rovio to Unity.

“We did the prototype in Unity, to try it out,” explained Jaakko Haapasalo, Bad Piggies producer and now head of studio.

“We realised that it was a quite productive platform, in terms of developer productivity and fast cycle time. The resulting prototype was high-quality, so we decided to go straight into production.”

And so it was that another developer had transferred from using Unity as a prototyping tool to adopting the engine for full production. In Rovio’s case, it was the core development environment within Unity that convinced the team the tech was the platform for them to make the piggies the star.

“The integrated development environment is productive, and it’s also scriptable and extendable,” offer Haapasalo.

“So we were able to streamline our process in a couple of places, like sprite management, in exactly the way we wanted. The cross-platform just works; it’s practically push-button deployment.”

Push-button deployment it may be, but of a quality enough to give Haapasalo and his team the flexibility to build a game they are particularly proud of.

“I think the interaction between the different gadgets is so rich that players are already creating a lot more different types of contraptions than we ever imagined,” states Haapasalo of the element he is most proud of in Bad Piggies. “The richness in what you can imagine and put together is just amazing.”

TOUGH PIGGIES

Of course, the making of Bad Piggies wasn’t without challenge, as Haapasalo explains.

“The production timetable was quite tight,” he says. “We also had to find a balance between emergent physics and all the complexity that can bring. It could easily have been way too difficult, or too restrictive, and we had to strike a balance. I think we got the perfect balance in the end. You want as much freedom as you can give, but without the complexity that usually follows.”

Fortunately for Haapasalo and his colleagues, Unity rose to those challenges, enabling rapid tweaking for game balancing.

“The cycle time in developing new gadgets and tweaking the physics was very short, so we could do a lot of iterations in a very short period of time,” explains Haapasalo.

“That meant we could do a lot of gadgets in a short period of time, and once that was locked, we could work on the levels and it made it much easier, so we didn’t have to revisit it too many times.”

Unity also allowed the Rovio team to easily capture the immediately recognisable style of Angry Birds, thanks in part to the engine’s readily scriptable editor and pipeline.

Rovio’s development team uses in-house atlas management tools, so needed to undertake a little rewriting on top of Unity, but the team report they found the process minimally disruptive to their workflow.

And Unity’s influence on the game has been substantial. In fact, one of the core in-game items came to be as a direct result of Unity’s influence.

“One example would be the spring, one of the gadgets you can use in the game,” says Haapasalo of Unity’s influence.

“That was something the programmers did in one afternoon, as a fun thing to try out, and because it was so easy to develop and test out, we decided on the spot to put it in. So that would not have happened if we had had a longer cycle time in gadget development.”

The fun revolves around building physics-based contraptions to hurtle through 2D levels. It’s a simple idea that required precise execution. With Bad Piggies out of the sty and into the hearts of the public already, Unity has another great product to add to its release roster and Rovio has once again beguiled the gaming public with the exploits of some long besieged swine.