Unity Focus: Xbox One's first Unity-powered game

Danish studio Press Play reflects on Max, the first Unity-powered game on Xbox One
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Danish studio Press Play reflects on Max, the first Unity-powered game on Xbox One

Why did you choose to use Unity? What did it enable you to do that other game engines couldn’t?
Forest Swartout Large, producer: Press Play has been using Unity for quite a while now, since 2008. It allows us to prototype and iterate quickly, which is essential for how we work and it really allows us to have the playful approach to game development that we always strive for.

What features were most helpful?
Mikkel Martin Pedersen, lead designer: In Unity it is really easy to create your own tools. So you can say that the best feature is the stuff we create ourselves, and the next best one is that the engine lets us create the best features.

Lasse Middlebo Outzen, lead artist: Unity’s component system is really useful for quickly adding functionality and features. There is a very short route from idea to seeing functionality in-game. Also, Unity natively supports many file formats. The native Photoshop support is tremendously useful from an art perspective.

Which features needed improving, and can you explain why?
Large: There are a lot of areas that would be cool to have more support for: audio, animation, rendering, UI, cinematics, console debug tools, memory handling, and I could go on. Better and faster process for compiling and building would be helpful as well. It’s obvious, but worth noting, that every engine is a perpetual work in progress and as developers we will never be satisfied. We were lucky to have had an extremely capable team which made any development hurdles pretty painless.

What was the biggest lesson you learned about using Unity during the development of Max?
Large: There are several lessons worth sharing. As with any game engine, but to a large extent with Unity, good code architecture and file structure are super important. Unity is great for prototyping, but the quicker and dirtier you prototype, the more important rewriting code and refactoring becomes.

Also, because Unity is not as mature or as console-centric as some other engines, it’s important to set aside time for optimisation throughout development (and starting this earlier than one would normally). Researching and planning ahead which plug-ins should be bought and which will be custom is a good thing to do early on. For example, we wish we had just gotten a plug-in for video playback. And lastly, what seems easy might end up being surprisingly hard, so having a plan, and several contingency plans, is always a good thing.

As the first example of Unity on Xbox One, how do you think your game showcases the capabilities of the engine?
Large: I think the graphics are a good example of how we worked successfully with the engine.

Would you recommendUnity to other Xbox One developers, or other studios in general?
Large: I think it depends on a lot of factors. What kind of game is it? Are there other games like it that have already been made/proven in Unity? What are the project goals and team ambitions? What’s the schedule? Will it release on many platforms? Above all, working with Unity this early in the new console cycle requires a high level of experience and skill, so

I would only attempt it with the right team. On the other hand, I just got an email from a friend who was looking for advice on how to get into the games industry, and my advice to her was to download Unity and start making a game.