[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 :)

1 Comments

Self-hosted Unity Asset Server? Access it from outside your network!

So you want to host your own Unity Asset Server locally but are wondering how to reach your server machine from outside of your network? When you’re in your own home, using the internal IP address of the server machine works fine, but when you’re sitting at Starbucks, or your artist is in Jamaica, how is everyone able to commit their hard work? Read below.

External IP vs Internal IP
When you’re on your computer, behind a router, you have two IP addresses. One is local and one is external. Visiting a website such as http://whatismyip.com will let you know your external IP. This is not actually the IP of your physical machine. It’s the IP of your router, which routes traffic over the internet. Your internal IP is the individual machine’s IP address within your local / ‘home’ network, as opposed to the Internet. That usually looks something like 192.168.1.105, or vaguely close to that, if you haven’t customized your DHCP settings on your router.

Dynamic IP vs Static IP
Most home connections use a dynamic IP, meaning your external IP address will change from time to time. Most ISPs will allow you to pay extra for a static IP, which in my opinion is a waste of money. Thanks to services such as No-Ip.com and Dyndns.com , you can get a permanent free hostname! These services upload your current external IP on a set interval to their website and provide you with a hostname that always points properly to your IP!

Steps

  1. Install Unity Asset Server on Mac/PC/Linux. See Unity’s Manual and the Asset Server Installation page for instructions.
  2. Sign up for No-Ip.com and add a new ‘host’. Choose your own free hostname and set it up as a “DNS Host”. Now, in order to set up auto-updating of IP addresses, set up dynamic DNS through your router, if your router supports it. If your router does not support dynamic DNS updating or you’d like to avoid that method, you can install the free No-Ip daemon on your machine. For information on how to do these this, visit the No-Ip support page.
  3. Forward the proper ports on your router. You should forward TCP port 10733 to your asset server machine so it is accessible from outside of the internal LAN. For info on how to do this, you can google for “<router model> dynamic dns instructions” , or if you happen to be using a Linksys router made in the past 10 years (a good percentage of users I would guess), you can follow these sample instructions on how to forward a port on your router:

Open up a web browser and login to your router’s web-based configuration. By default the IP address for configuration is set to http://192.168.1.1/. Enter the username and password, click on the Advanced Tab. In the advanced section, click on the Forwarding tab. Enter the port you want to foward (10733) in both boxes on the Service Port Range fields and the internal IP address of your asset server machine. Next click apply. Voila!! Port forwarding is setup.

6 Comments

[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/

Comments Off on [B.U.G.] Winter meetup announced Comments

Learning resources for Unity

More and more I’m asked the question: What’s the best way to learn Unity? For those who would like to get up to speed as fast as possible, I’ve aggregated some learning resources to help.

Unity3D Student

Will Goldstone’s collection of videos that cover all the basics of working in the editor starting with the Essentials Module and going up to intermediate difficulty.  I would label this as recommended reading (or watching).

3dBuzz Unity Series

I’m a big fan of 3dBuzz and their tutorial series. Check out their new Unity section :)

TornadoTwins / UnityPrefabs learning resources

TornadoTwins do a good job of showing Unity from a beginner perspective. Check out their Youtube link for some more content.

Unity3d Tutorial section

Tutorials straight from the source – Unity provides some great tutorials right on their website.

Unity3d Example Projects section

More content from Unity’s main website – this time a collection of example projects to pick through and do some self-learning.

Unifycommunity Tutorials

A community gathering of new (and old) tutorials found on the web

Unifycommunity Script Samples

If you’re like me, you’d love to see the code right off the bat and learn by reading code others have written. This is the ultimate resource for sample code.

design3 Unity Tutorials

If you’ve got a couple of bucks, check out design3’s Unity resources, the new official tutorial provider for Unity. Very high quality stuff.

InfiniteAmmo’s Tutorial Series

Alec from InfiniteAmmo has put up some video tutorials going through the basics of Unity. Recently he’s been re-doing them using Unity 3.

Unity Tutorials collection on Reddit

Another great aggregator of Unity tutorial links, this time in Reddit form

Comments Off on Learning resources for Unity Comments

Run two instances of Unity with one easy button

@TornadoTwins had asked publicly how to run two instances of Unity on a single machine. With Unity 3, it’s very simple. All you need to do is run Unity via Terminal. Some users, however, shy away from Terminal and would like a way to launch two (or more) instances without touching a command line. Follow these steps and you will create your own app launcher capable of opening as many instances as you’d like.

  1. Open Automator, located in your Applications folder.
  2. Create a new Workflow and drag the “Run Shell Script” action into your workspace.
  3. Type the following into the text box: /Applications/Unity/Unity.app/Contents/MacOS/Unity
    Note that if you installed Unity to a different location, you will need to edit the text to match. After this step, your view should look like this:
  4. Go to File -> Save As and choose type Application. Choose a name and save to a location on your computer. This step should look like:
  5. Drag this newly created .app into your dock and click away! You should be able to open multiple Unity instances. Note that on my machine, the LaunchUnity application was not quitting itself properly so you may have to quit the LaunchUnity app before clicking on it to launch your second instance.

See updated comments for two alternative ways (using Terminal) to achieve this result.

3 Comments

[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!

1 Comments

Apple blesses the use of Flash / Unity on iOS

Today Apple announced a change to the App Store developer terms of service (TOS) to officially approve the use of third party development environments when publishing to the App Store. This notably sensitive subject began stirring up serious worry back in June.

As noted by John of Daring Fireball on June 8th, Apple modified their terms of service to include a very worrying section. It stated:

“Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).”

After a massive uproar from the iPhone development community and game development community, Steve Jobs publicly responded to an email by stating:

“We’ve been there before, and intermediate layers between the platform and the developer ultimately produces sub-standard apps and hinders the progress of the platform.”

At that time, knowing Apple’s stance on the subject, thousands of small (and large) businesses were in major jeopardy, having put trust in Apple’s development platform before the proverbial rug was pulled out from under them. Users of Unity3D, a cross-platform game development engine, expressed outrage, compiling a list of top App Store games and apps that violate section 3.3.1 of Apple’s TOS, attempting to show what a huge mistake it would be to ban such a lauded tool. The futures of developers using tools such as Unity3D (MONO), MonoTouch (MONO), Corona SDK (LUA), Flash (ActionScript), MIT’s Scratch (Scratch), and GameSalad (?) were ‘uncertain’ at best.

On September 9th (today) Apple backpedaled and released a press release basically amounting to ‘Whoops! We’re sorry!’ and dropping the whole argument regarding compatibility layers. Apple might not realize the impact of this decision, thinking this is a minor concession to make some users happy, but it is my feeling that this choice has extended the viability of the iOS platform by a massive amount.  Users aren’t quite leaving Apple in droves to move to Android as some have been predicting. I bet Adobe is glad they didn’t cut their iOS packager from CS5!

3 Comments

[B.U.G.] Unity Day profiled in UnityCreative Magazine

This May, Thomas Pasieka began shipping UnityCreative; a bi-montly electronic magazine for Unity game developers. Earlier today marked the release of the July-August issue, jam-packed with some great content. I would highly recommend grabbing a copy (only 6 bucks) if you are a Unity user or could be considered Unity-curious ;).

Thanks to Mani of InfiniteUnity3d, Unity Day received a great writeup in this month’s issue! With permission from Tom, here’s the snippet:

You can find out more information and grab the magazine right on the 3dAttack site.

2 Comments

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

3 Comments

[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

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