Etter Studio explains how it plans to build on its mobile hit Dreii with a new console and desktop version

Unity Focus: Bridging platforms with Dreii

Minimalist but ambitious puzzle game Dreii began life as a concept title released back in 2013, and this year the unique project returns as a multi-format title with a difference.

The game’s premise is simple: three players must work together to build a tower in a physics simulation that focuses on co-operation. The game translates a selection of carefully chosen words and commands into 19 different languages so that gamers from all over the world can play together.

“The idea of Drei came from [game director] Christian Etter, who had this social experiment in mind to build a
game which unites people from all nations and throws physics-based puzzles at them,” explains lead game maker Mario von Rickenbach. 

“I think he likes the idea of physics being the only truly universal language that everybody understands across cultural differences. He then asked me if I would be interested in building this game together – that was about four years ago.”

Von Rickenbach had already worked on a number of Unity projects before and was familiar with the technology’s workflow, so recommended the game engine to the development team.

Another key factor was the tech’s cross-platform compatibility, enabling Etter to use the same code and assets for different platforms. 

Given the nature of the puzzle game, Unity’s integrated physics engine was instrumental for the development of a game like Dreii, but there were also other elements that von Rickenbach says were also invaluable when developing the title.

“We were also working with the animation system and the new UI tools,” he says. “Recently we switched to the new UNET Networking library because of its cross-platform capabilities.”

For Dreii, ‘cross-platform’ means a lot more than just ports on different devices. Etter has actually managed to develop a game that can be played across the different platforms, enabling Android users to play co-operatively with PS4 and Wii U owners. Sounds implausible, right? Von Rickenbach says accomplishing
such a feat like this was easier than you might think.

“Technically, there are no problems to do this,” he explains. “For some reason, the platform holders are not always happy with it. Sony and Nintendo allowed us to let people play with each other, but Microsoft did not. 

“That’s why we chose not to release Dreii on Xbox until they allow players to play with people using consoles of
other manufacturers.

“With UNET, Unity gives us all the required tools to create a cross-platform multiplayer game. We had to convert the old RakNet-based Networking to UNET to support all the platforms. While UNET is still a bit rough around the edges, it was possible to do it in a reasonable amount of time.”

The finishing touches are still being added to Dreii before its release this autumn, and the Etter team encourage other Unity developers to explore unique and innovative concepts as they have with their upcoming project. But von Rickenbach adds a caveat to those dreaming of making quick money with the engine: the advantages afforded by this toolset are not enough to guarantee success.

He says: “Just because software is easy to use doesn’t mean it’s easy to make a good game."

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