In developing Atmosphir, Minor Studios has delivered one of the most impressive creations yet to be built using the ever-popular Unity engine.
The UGC-focused game is in fact a platform that lets players design and build ambitious interactive worlds themselves in browser. The results of the consumers toil are remarkably impressive; more polished than Minecraft levels, and more professional than many developers would like to admit.
Atmosphir, which lets users share one another’s handiwork through a thriving community, started life at Beta as a software download. However, in 2009, Minor Studios decided to move the project to Unity, having reached a fork in the road of progress where VC money either needed to be dedicated to a team large enough to handle both proprietary tech and game design, or more directly to Atmosphir. The outfit based in both the US and Argentina opted to go with leveraging existing technology.
“Before I’d spent a lot of time with all the big engines, but I’d had very little experience with Unity,” admits Martin Repetto, Minor Studios CEO. “It started with the prototyping, which was amazing. The heart and sole of Atmosphir is the editor; the tool that lets our player build things. We prototyped that in a weekend in Unity. That was fantastic.
“We added multiplayer on Monday, we added normal maps and shaders on Tuesday, and on Wednesday we had a board meeting and decided to go to Unity. Five month’s later we’d ported the full game.”
Game Dev Story
The speed of working with the engine certainly impressed Repetto and creative director Dave Werner, but it was something closer to the core ideals of the Unity methodology that made the engine ideal for building a UGC title.
“Unity CEO David Helgason always talks about the democratisation of game development, and wanting to enable all developers to make their own games,” explains Repetto.
“With Atmosphir what we want to do is do the same thing for any average Joe; we want to let them build their own game. With Atmosphir we’ve taken Unity, which extremely easy to use, and simplified it for our editor. We’re simplifying the tools that are already built in Unity, and making that the game.”
To an extent, Atmosphir is the game that lets you play at being a Unity developer. Quite simply, the engine’s accessible structure translated perfectly into being the foundation of a title that lets the consumer build the game.
UGC Set Free
Unity has also allowed players far greater creative freedom, as Werner explains: “The old Atmosphir editor just had a set grid that let players stack blocks. Unity means players can now rescale, free place and free rotate blocks. To me, the biggest upgrade in moving to Unity was the addition of gravity effects. You really could make a Super Mario Galaxy style level in Atmosphir. People are using that in really amazing and interesting ways.
“Right now we’re really letting players build adventure games inspired by Zelda and Mario, but that’s not to say we won’t want things to be re-skinned in the future.
“We have a lot of ideas about what players can do with the world of Atmosphir in the future, and I think that with Unity it will be easy to do. It’s just a matter of switching assets and a few graphics and it will be ready to go.”