[B.U.G.] Winter meeting recap

Special guest recap by Ben Wiley, also found on his blog.

Boston Unity Group’s (B.U.G.) third meeting was underway this Tuesday, November 14th, as Alex Schwartz of Owlchemy Labs and Elliott Mitchell of Vermont Digital Arts welcomed everyone to the Microsoft NERD Center in Boston, Massachusetts.  The packed room held a pleasing mix of familiar faces from previous meetings as well as an abundance of fresh, new ones joining the community.

Alex and Elliott set the schedule for the meeting and promptly introduced the evening’s featured speaker, Trevor Stricker, Director of Game Development at Quick Hit in Foxborough, MA.  As the Director of Game Development, Trevor has overseen the development of the company’s powerhouse online game, QUICKHIT Football.  The game represented an interesting topic for the group’s third meeting as it highlighted both the benefits and challenges of developing in Unity for the web as well as a few other quirks along the way.

QUICKHIT, as Trevor explained, was originally developed as a Flash-based football coaching simulation but it was not long before the allure of creating a more vibrant and realistic 3D version could not be resisted.  Developing the Unity version of the game allowed their team to skip some of the more tedious tasks the Flash version required such as rendering animation sprites for every team in the NFL.  Trevor’s talk also highlighted some of the challenges that Unity game development for the web faces.  QUICKHIT Football follows a free-to-play model and therefore draws some of its revenue from advertising.  Some Flash-based ads pose a problem, however, as a Flash element cannot be projected over the graphics-accelerated Unity game.  The other major hurdle which is not exclusive to QUICKHIT is that the Unity plugin must be installed to play unless the user has it installed from a previous adventure.  Much like Flash a decade ago, many people are unfamiliar with Unity and getting a new user to install something they’ve never heard of before can be a daunting task.

QUICKHIT Football, Unity client

This topic launched into a great open discussion amongst the group about whether the plugin hurdle was due to the installation being too technical, too time consuming, or simply a matter of being a lesser known plugin.  Some members present spoke about different ways to cut down the amount of time installation might take in order to reduce the number of users that might be lost in the process. The discussion had to be cut short, however, in the interest of allowing time for the members to showcase their projects.

The first member up in the showcase was Mark Sullivan, a graduate student from the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab.  Mark had presented his work back in August at the last BUG meeting, showing the group how he was integrating a softbody physics library into Unity.  The group was impressed with the new ways that he was able to mix soft and rigidbodied physics in Unity, even though this particular demonstration did not include deflating an enormous mushroom as his previous one had.

Following Mark was Fredrik Kaupang of Kaupang Studios who shared his current Unity project Subvivor, a submarine simulation game featuring numerous levels, submarine upgrades, and lots of big fish.  Fredrik had been demonstrating Subvivor at the Powered Up event in Boston last month and it was great to see how much progress he had made since then.

A platformer level designed using the Defective Studios level-building tool.

After Fredrik came Jono Forbes and Matt Schoen of Defective Studios.  Members who had attended the August meeting would have recalled the level-building tool and platforming game they had shared with the group.  Although that project has come a long way since August, they were excited instead to talk to the group about their Asset Cloud tool they have been building for Unity.  Since Unity only offers their Asset Server at an additional charge with Unity Pro, Defective developed their own resource server to use.  Already an impressive project, they encouraged members wrestling with asset and resource management for a Unity team to talk to them.

Vermont Digital Arts’ Spin Spell

The organizers of the Boston Unity Group were the last to share their projects in the meeting’s showcase.  Elliott, of Vermont Digital Arts, demonstrated their latest Unity project, a game called Spin Spell.  Spin Spell is a physics-based learning game designed to help children learn while using a labyrinth-style game to keep them engaged and improve hand/eye coordination at the same time.  Alex shared the most recent version of Owlchemy Lab‘s Smuggle Truck which had originated at Boston Game Jams’ Immigation Jam some months back.  The newest version boasts many new levels, high-flying cargo, and a slick level-building tool.  He mentioned that Owlchemy may be hosting some level building challenges in the future, so keep your eyes out for that!

Owlchemy Labs’ Smuggle Truck

Although the official meeting wrapped up shortly after nine in the evening, many of the members adjourned to the Cambridge Brewing Company for food, drink, and continued conversation.  The latter part of the evening saw some great discussions, further sharing of projects, and the triumphant return of our friend Yilmaz Kiymaz to Boston to a thunderous round of applause (even from the other patrons)!

A big thanks goes out to Alex and Elliott for coordinating another great meetup and for all of the community’s members, both old and new, for making it such a successful event.  Stay tuned here, at Boston Post Mortem, or at subscribe to the BUG mailing list at Boston Unity Group‘s website for information on the next meeting!

— Thanks Ben for the great recap!

Update: Friend of the community Richard Brown has put up a post about the B.U.G. meeting and has included video footage! Check it out on Richard’s blog. We thank you for taping another event :)

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