Unity Focus: Flash in a Flash

Unity Focus: Flash in a Flash
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

April 19th 2012 at 10:00AM

Unity's development contest shows off what studios can achieve with its new Flash player

[For our full list of Unity Focus features, you can see all the previous stories here]

In December, Unity launched its $20,000 Flash in a Flash contest as the engine vendor opened the public beta of its 3.5 update.

The latest version includes the long-awaited and highly anticipated Adobe Flash Player deployment add-on; allowing developers to publish their games on Flash, potentially opening up titles and their creators to a much wider audience, and consequently larger revenues.

The competition, which ran for two weeks and offered developers the chance to create games in Unity and export them to Flash, saw more than 500 entrants participate in the contest, and was won by indie Cameron Owen for his 3D arcade racer Tail Drift.

The three runners-up were named as ‘falling game’ aAaAaa..! For the Awesome by Owlchemy Labs and Dejobaan Games, Brendan Watts’ Ski Safari, where players must outrun an avalanche, and 3D puzzle title Six Sides of the World by Emilio José Lopera Joyera.

Each of these games show how Unity can be used to create varying styles of gameplay and offer unique graphical visuals to a wide range of titles.

The runners-up received an award of $1,000, a Unity Pro and iOS Pro License, and an iPad 2, whilst six additional participants were also awarded with the Unity licenses.

In a Flash

Alex Schwartz, who holds the unusual titles of ‘chief scientist’ at aAaAaa..! For the Awesome studio Owlchemy Labs, says that Unity’s Flash support is great news for games developers.

“Unity’s Flash exporter lets us target a boatload more distribution platforms. It’s as simple as that,” says Schwartz.

“From a business standpoint it’s pretty amazing to do almost no work and end up with a Flash build of our game.”

Schwartz says that as well as opening up more platforms to distribute their games to, and the more potential customers that it brings, the development team was able to convert the game to a new system within the space of a week, cutting out the time consuming and costly process of creating a cross-platform title.

That is not to say that the exporter is not without its issues in its early stages. As Schwartz and his competitors worked with the Alpha version of the tool, he says that it still needs to overcome a few teething issues, although recognises that this will likely be overcome in the near future as early problems are ironed out.

“The exporter is still in alpha, so there are a couple of gaping holes that have yet to be filled, mostly relating to supporting more .NET features in Actionscript,” says Schwartz.

“During the development of our Flash in a Flash entry, we had to do some pretty crazy workarounds to get our game to compile. The best analogy would be taking a machete to our codebase and doing unspeakable things to it.

“For the most part, Unity is known for one-button solutions to difficult tech problems, so I expect Unity to smooth out the current bumps within the next months.”

AAaAaa..! was originally developed by Dejobaan Games, conceived after apparently seeing a YouTube video depicting a group of wingsuit jumpers making daring falls off of mountain tops.

This, says Schwartz, inspired them to try to capture the adrenaline-fuelled excitement of such a dangerous feat within a video game.

Going Mobile

After the series was met with success on PC and Mac, Owlchemy Labs approached the studio and pitched the development of a new mobile version, but it would have meant an entire re-write of the game in the Unity engine.

Schwartz says, though, that developing the game through the platform and entering the title into the Flash in a Flash contest was a great opportunity for both developers to get some free money and exposure.

As for the future of Unity, Schwartz believes it looks bright, offering a solid development tool and exporter, which he says will see “Flash developers flocking to Unity, if only for the perks of the tool chain.”

He also says that with Owlchemy Labs’ titles being heavily cross-platform, it is a ‘no-brainer’ that the studio will be taking advantage of the Flash exporter down the line.

As for their $1,000 winnings and Unity Pro license, Schwartz jokes: “We’re re-investing the money back into Owlchemy in order to fund a clone of Dream Heights. Err, I mean, we’ll probably use the winnings for philanthropic means.”

www.owlchemylabs.com/games