Choose your middleware carefully, warn experts

Choose your middleware carefully, warn experts
James Batchelor

By James Batchelor

November 21st 2013 at 12:03PM

Launch Conference 2013: Unity, Autodesk and Epic Games urge new studios to consider which tools they use

Middleware experts have advised start-ups, indies and new studios to think carefully when selecting the tools they wish to use.

Speaking at today’s Launch Conference, representatives of Epic Games, Unity, Autodesk, Pixel Toys and discussed the pitfalls new studios need to be aware of, including their own team’s abilities.

“You need to match the middleware with your team’s skills,” said Pixel Toys’ development and technology head Alex Zoro. “If they have a background with working with specific toolsets or code, it’s more efficient to use that than take the time to learn something brand new.”

Epic Games’ EU territory manager Mike Gamble added: “It’s also important to select a product based on the game you’re developing. You don’t want to use our tech if you’re making a 2D side-scroller.”

In addition to the more comprehensive solutions such as Autodesk and Unity, there is more specific middleware available for certain tasks, such as rendering clouds in games. But Four Door Lemon founder Simon Barratt warned that this may actually be a less efficient option.

“The trick is to keep it as simple as possible, find something that combines multiple solutions,” he said. “And don’t waste too much time choosing your middleware. You can spend a lot of time evaluating the different options rather than making your game, so you need to work out what it is you want, and which products will give it to you.”

However, one attendee warned that middleware can occasionally have flaws that won’t present themselves until well into a game’s development, so studios need to spend a lot of time getting used to their chosen toolset before beginning production in earnest.

Four Door Lemon’s Barratt said his studio has started out working on its own middleware, but the consensus was that doing so is only worth it if your team is skilled enough.

“If you have the right team, it is possible to create proprietary tech,” said Gamble. “But the growth of the industry has come from using source tech because it’s quicker. Developing proprietary tech is never quick.”

Autodesk’s worldwide field marketing manager Nick Manning added: “You have to ask yourself: what do you gain from investing in what’s been done already? Is your time best served focusing on the gameplay and customer feedback?”

However, one panellist did add that since so many companies are using the same tools – be it Unity, Autodesk or another middleware product – it’s important to work hard on differentiating your game from anything else that has the same foundation.

Launch Conference offers advice to game development start-ups. You can find Develop's Start-up Special and its expert guides at www.develop-online.net/startupspecial