Paris-based studio Amplitude specialises in the cult 4X genre: a blend of role-playing and strategy centred around the four central pillars of ‘explore, expand, exploit and exterminate’.
Sid Meier’s Civilization series is a prime example, although Amplitude has explored how these mechanics can work in other settings with sci-fi title Endless Space and its more recent fantasy follow-up Endless Legend.
Amplitude’s experience with Unity while developing Endless Space means the company is now able to produce a full 4X title in 15 months with only a small team. Using the same engine for Legend, therefore, was the logical choice, with the team building on everything they learned from Space – even though, as CEO Mathieu Girard points out, they “rewrote almost everything code-wise”.
“The best thing with Unity is that you can get results pretty fast,” he continues. “It is a big bonus when you can plan innovative features, and you want to quickly prototype them.
“The Unity editor is also a great tool to edit content, especially as you can customise the inspectors to adapt them to your specific data.”
The Endless team also used Unity’s animation technology Mecanim to introduce complex animations to the series, as well as particle system Shuriken to improve the look of key effects. The biggest challenge, however, was creating the game’s world.
“We had a specific vision for the terrain – hexagons with seven layers of altitude and nothing you could find on Unity would help us, so we had to develop it from scratch,” Girard explains.
“It has taken approximately 15 months to reach the level of quality we wanted, while still allowing the gameplay to develop in parallel.
“The result uses an instancing technology to minimise memory use and bandwidth – I’m surprised by the amount of geometry we push with Unity.”
Saving on memory is key to developing games with Unity successfully, Girard says, – but there’s a few tricks that will make this easier. Amplitude offered the following advice for new users.
“Unity is a great technology to start a game and even a company,” he says. “It is affordable, has more features than you could hope for and the community is huge.”
“The only caveat we can see is the way memory is managed inside the virtual machine. You are almost blind in that field, and we had quite a few cold sweats during production when we had to optimise the game.
“I would advise new users to be aware of what they do with assets, textures, and allocations to avoid nasty surprises when porting to a platform with a low memory capacity.”