[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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[B.U.G.] Winter meetup announced

We’ve just recently set up the Eventbrite signup page for the next BUG meetup, coming up very soon. Please see below for info:

Boston Unity Group – Winter Showdown
http://bugwinter.eventbrite.com/

Event Date – November 30th
Event Time – 7pm – 9pm
Event Location – Microsoft New England R&D Center, One Memorial Drive,
Cambridge, MA 02142
Event Audience – Developers, artists, Unity experts and newbies alike
Event Description – B.U.G.’s third meetup!

This month we’re delighted to have representatives from QUICKHIT come to speak about their experiences bringing their NFL game ‘QUICKHIT Football’ to the Unity web platform.

Next on the agenda, we will run through the Unity demo showcase, featuring some work in progress and completed Unity games. Email alex@gtproductions.net to reserve a demo slot!

Lastly, we’ll be trying out an informal roundtable format to discuss a hot topic among Unity developers. This month, we will be discussing independent development using Unity – the pros, cons, and tricks of the trade used by developers to make great content on a tight indie budget.

Signup: http://bugwinter.eventbrite.com/

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[B.U.G.] August Unity Showdown

Special guest writeup by level designer Beth Beinke

On August 31st, the Boston Unity Group (B.U.G.) held it’s second meeting. MIT’s New England R&D center  (more fondly known as NERD) graciously hosted the get-together. It was great to see that so many people in the Boston area are either using Unity in their own projects or are Unity aficionados themselves. There were about 40-50 people in attendance. Props to Alex Schwartz and Elliott Mitchell for organizing the event!

The evening started out with everyone’s favorite Turkish developer Yilmaz Kiymaz giving the group a talk about how to use editor scripts within Unity to maximize your workflow.  Essentially, he guided the group through how you can create your own editor scripts to increase productivity in ways like making custom editor windows, changing settings on multiple objects at once, and optimizing lighting tools.

Speaker Yilmaz next to a beer tower at CBC

Yilmaz and a CBC beer tower

After Yilmaz’s rocking talk, the evening moved on to several demos from different individuals and groups. It is always very exciting to see how Unity is being used and tweaked to make new and interesting products. First off was Defective Studios, who gave us a brief look into how they created editor scripts for Unity to make it into a modular world building tool that is being used for their upcoming platformer game, Needlemouse: The Emerald Hill.  Next, Chris from Infrared5 demoed Brass Monkey, an SDK which allows an iPhone/iPod Touch for example to be used as a controller input for web-based Unity games. Specifically, the technology was being shown with the Unity game they developed for the Star Wars website called Star Wars Trench Run.

After Infrared 5, we saw a tech demonstration from Mark Sullivan at MIT who had integrated softbody physics into Unity. We got to see some interesting bouncing (and melting!) mushrooms, which was fun.  Following Mark was Dastardly Banana Productions who demoed their FPS weapons pack, which included numerous types of FPS style weapons and affects. There was even a ‘singularity’ weapon shown.  Next, Mike Carriere shared with us his progress with learning Unity via a quick Connect 4 style game that he had worked on.

Rounding off the demos, event coordinator Alex Schwartz showed us his team’s game from the previous weekend’s “Immigration Jam”:  an iOS game called Smuggle Truck. The game plans to be available on the Apple App Store soon.

Since this B.U.G. meeting was not sponsored, it was assumed that free food would not be provided, so there were plans to stop by Cambridge Brewing Company for beers and dinner after the event. We were happily surprised when the people running an event next door to us graciously offered us their trays of food leftover from their own BBQ party.  Yummy ribs, chicken, and watermelon were consumed while everyone stood around chatting with each other about the possibilities of Unity. Some members split at this point, while some went on to CBC to keep the night going.

Once again, thanks to Alex and Elliott for organizing the event, Yilmaz for giving us an awesome talk, all of the people and companies who demoed their cool Unity projects, and MIT NERD for having us there.  It will definitely be interesting to see what new projects people will be sharing at the next meeting.

Check out the event videos courtesy of ARandomGeezer!

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Boston gamedevs take over IGDA newsletter

If you’re a member of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), you most likely receive a monthly newsletter. June’s IGDA Perspectives newsletter, focused on iPhone/iPod/iPad development, was particularly notable. Without prior planning, FOUR of the articles written for the newsletter were authored by Boston-area indie game developers. As a member of this awesome group of individuals, I take great pride in seeing Boston Indies in the spotlight.

Darius Kazemi wrote up the ‘Chapter Spotlight: Boston Chapter‘ article (pg. 4), Elliott Mitchell wrote about ‘Going Indie‘ (pg.5), Emily Daniels spoke about ‘Scalability Concerns – Art for the iPhone and iPad‘ (pg. 6), and I wrote an article entitled ‘Technically Speaking – Developing in Unity‘ (pg. 7). To top it off, as Darius pointed out, “there’s even an article from a guy who works for WGBH”!

A huge kudos to all the authors and a tip of the hat to those who are representing the Boston scene. This goes to show that even on an international level, Boston is exceeding expectations in the game industry and eating Cali’s lunch. <Let the flame wars begin>

Check out the June IDGA Perspectives Newsletter (PDF) below:

PDFCover

Also note the 3 (count em, three) separate references to B.U.G. in the newsletter. Thanks for the momentum and support!

Since this is a Unity-focused blog, I’ve also hosted the Unity iPhone article for convenience (and to toot my own horn :P ). You can grab that by clicking the image below:

UnityiPhoneArticle

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[B.U.G.] August meeting and new Google Group

B.U.G. Google Group

In order to be informed of future events and Unity happenings in the area, please subscribe to our Google Group mailing list. All you have to do is:

  1. Enter your email address in the Google Group signup box on the left and hit the shiny button.
    Email signup
  2. Profit.


Next event scheduled!

It’s true. We’ve locked in arrangements for our next B.U.G. meeting. Thanks to the wonderful folks over at Microsoft, our next event will be held at the New England R&D Center (NERD). Wheee!

Keep in mind that our events are open to everyone and anyone.

event details

Register for Boston Unity Group - August Unity Showdown in Cambridge, MA  on Eventbrite

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[B.U.G.] Unity Day – Great Success

Unity Day just came to a close and it was a great success! We had, by my count, about 115 game developers, interactive media gurus, and Unity aficionados visit and network with the community.

Tom Higgins did a wonderful job educating, informing, and entertaining the crowd during his presentation. Thanks to Tom for flying out!

I’ll be adding more to this post over the next few days, with a writeup, more videos, and more content to come! Stay tuned for updates.

Pictures (credit to Elliott Mitchell, Alex Schwartz) Tom and Mani’s to come!

Community Showoff Videos – Sorry to all that presented or spoke but were not captured on video (credit to Mani of InfiniteUnity3d)

Event Videos – Huge thanks to Richard Brown for taping the event! (Credit to a_random_bloke)


Community discussion:

Thanks to everyone for coming out :) Also a huge thanks to our sponsors Demiurge Studios, Vermont Digital Artists, Great Eastern Technology and Northeastern University for making this event possible.

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[B.U.G.] Boston Unity Group – Unity Day!

I’m excited to announce the start of a new bi-monthly game developer meetup in the Boston-area. Elliott Mitchell and I are kicking off a group catered specifically for Unity developers called B.U.G. (Boston Unity Group).

Boston has an amazingly vibrant developer community, many of which have recently gotten involved with this relatively new game engine technology. We aim to bring these developers together to share experience, tips, and war stories as well as provide a venue to learn about the tool and how it can be used to create better interactive experiences.

You may be thinking:

What is Unity?
Unity is a multiplatform 3d game engine where the developer experience and ease of use are paramount. Similar in some ways to Flash, Unity is flexible and can be used in many different ways, from gaming applications to different types of 2d or 3d interactive media. Unity’s deployment pipeline allows users to code once and deploy to multiple targets such as desktop (web, PC, Mac) , mobile (iPhone, iPad), and console (Wii). With support for Android, Xbox360, and PS3 slated for release in the near future, Unity is leading the way in advanced engine technology for anyone from the hobbyist level to the AAA developer. It’s also very affordable and licensed on a per-seat basis when developing for desktop and mobile platforms.

When is the first meeting?
The first meeting of the Unity User Group will be held on June 12th and will be an extra special kick off event. Tom Higgins, community manager at Unity Technologies, will be speaking and holding an all-day workshop dubbed ‘Unity Day’. You can sign up for this *free* event using the signup link below.

Do I need to be a Unity expert to attend the meetings?
No way! Our first meeting will include an introductory workshop intended to teach the ins and outs of Unity to those with medium to low domain knowledge. Bring your laptop!

Check out the event poster below for more info or jump straight to the signup page!

Register for Boston Unity Group presents: Unity Day in Boston, MA  on Eventbrite




Sign me up!

Register for Boston Unity Group presents: Unity Day in Boston, MA  on Eventbrite

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iPad game LineBloom created at DinoJAM

This past Saturday and Sunday I had the fortune of attending the second ever DinoJAM. This event was co-hosted by Emily Daniels and Darren Torpey at the DINO/Sprout space in Davis Square. Right after wrapping up at 3d Stimulus Day, made my way up to Somerville to make some games.

This is what I came up with (made in Unity):

It definitely translates well to the iPad touch screen. Just draw lines and they appear. It feels pretty fluid, but the low framerate video capture doesn’t convey that very well.

Thanks to Lawrence Lee for the epic music – Berkeley musicians make some good stuff quick! Props to the game jam musicians out there.

Congrats to the other attendees for making some seriously cool stuff. Great games/projects all around , and thanks for live-tweeting (@demiurgestudios @acosmos @jdemond @emdaniels @darrentorpey @davidludwig @boodooperson)

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3d Stimulus Day

I recently presented a talk at the second annual 3D Stimulus Day entitled “Problem Solving: A day in the life of a Technical Artist”. The session went very well and I received some great Q&A at the end. Thanks to Heidi and Brad for setting up the event, Eric Chadwick for editing and suggestions, and to the other presenters for making it a great day. Also thanks to Eric for working with me to rig the First Act guitar give-away. Kidding!

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MIT BiG – Postmortem

Yesterday was quite a crazy and eventful day. As day one of my 4-day birthday weekend, I attended the MIT Business in Gaming Conference. That’s right, my idea of a fun and relaxing day off involves attending a business conference.

I signed up for BiG with moderate expectations. Having been an alum of last year’s event, I knew partially what to expect from this conference. MIT’s Sloan E51 building set a formal jacket and slacks mood, but the 2010 rendition gave a much better networking environment with it being hosted at the Microsoft NERD Center. Also, when compared to last year, the session content was much more varied and applicable to my own interests as a game developer and (future?) entrepreneur, though the value for me ended up being the time nestled between sessions and after the closing keynote. I’m pretty sure most long time conference goers would agree with me on that one in most cases.

A *LOT* of talk, both in-session and out, revolved around social games, Facebook, and free-to-play monetization. This isn’t surprising considering many people believe these trends are ‘the next big thing’ in gaming. I’ll leave my commentary on the social game phenomenon for another post.

The sessions were structured in four separate time blocks, with two concurrent sessions during each block, not including keynotes. I attended only 2.5 out of four session blocks, as I ended up in a circle of people chatting feverishly about Unity for the length of an entire session. We were getting so rowdy that we were asked to move out of the main booth area due to our disruption. Sorry guys! It is worth mentioning, however, that those glass-doored rooms could use better soundproofing. During one of the sessions, all I could hear was the repeating slide whistle sound effect from the robotic demonstration.

As far as session highlights, searching twitter for the #mitbig hashtag is the best way to soak up the quality one-liners from the conference. One quote that comes to mind was from local dev Eitan Glinert who, when asked about VC money, said to a panel of venture capitalists: “I wish I hadn’t wasted my time applying for VC funding. I could have watched a good movie. Chewing gum is a better use of your time than meeting with VC’s”. Alexander Sliwinski summed that session’s vibe with his tweet “MITBig’s How to Build & Launch a Gaming Startup is good, mostly ’cause Eitan Glinert (Fire Hose Games) isn’t afraid to drop truth hammers.” Well said, brother.

Between sessions, I talked with many old friends and met some interesting new ones. Strengthening loose contacts always feels great, especially when you remember arcane details of a previous conversation with said person (from the depths of your dusty mind) and surprise them with this knowledge, or vice-versa. Lots of talk about games, business, life, apartments… which reminds me: I invited so many people over to my new apartment in Watertown (once I’m completely moved in) that I almost don’t remember who I extended a dinner offer to! If you’re reading this, you’re officially invited over for a wonderful night of fine dining, games, and a heaping helping of hospitality. No really, creepy stalker dude, you’re invited too… just don’t get all handsy.

After the ending keynote by eastcoaster now westcoaster Steve Meretzky, the regular conference came to a close, after announcing the raffle winners. I was lucky enough to win a Roboni programmable robot in the BiG raffle and am still trying to figure out how to put this bad boy to use.

Roboni

Roboni

From there, most of the attendees shot up to the 11th floor to attend the NE Games SIG’s conference reception (partay). Jon Radoff gave a well-presented speech / pep talk to the Boston game dev community to kick off the night. A bunch of non-conference attendees showed up to the after-party and great food was provided. Plus one for the NERD center for being one of the only venues where drink selection ranges from beer to chocolate milk. After a few hours, Scott started to rally a few people to head over to CBC to grab a drink. I’m not quite sure why, but whenever someone suggests heading to CBC I’m always initially reluctant but once I arrive and get into it, I have a great time.

The beer tower

Beer tower at CBC

Hats off to the BiG organizers and Microsoft for getting this thing off the ground. They put up some conference pics over on their Facebook page. I had a great time all around. Time to sort these business cards.

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