Unity Porting at the Digital Design Studio

April 23, 2014

Dr. Daniel Livingstone, Programme Leader at The Glasgow School of Art’s Digital Design Studio gives us a sneak peek into the recent Unity Porting UK event held in Glasgow.

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It was an early start to a Saturday as app developers from across Scotland and beyond gathered at the Glasgow School of Art’s Digital Design Studio (more commonly known as DDS) for a day-long Unity Porting UK event on Saturday 29th March. Organised by Nokia, Microsoft and Unity, the goal of the day was to help developers get their apps onto the Microsoft Apps for Windows and Windows Phone stores, and beyond meeting this goal, the day had a few bonuses in store besides…

Opening up the day was a series of presentations and talks on the big screen in Lab 1 – a 13m x 8m screen used for immersive virtual reality applications, this gave a cinema like touch to proceedings.

Lee Stott ran through an introduction to the Windows Stores and some words of encouragement, followed by a presentation from Ville Riikkala on AppCampus – a great scheme that offers funding to help turn apps from prototypes to finished and released games. But from the morning I think it’s fair to say that most exciting for attendees was when Andy Touch of Unity gave a live demonstration of some of the upcoming features of Unity 5. It is clear that there are going to be a whole host of improvements across the toolset, particularly in areas such as audio and physics, but the massive improvements to the GUI tools was especially impressive – and looks like it will significantly boost productivity and cut development times whether targeting one platform or many.

But a simple tip available since Unity 2 also caught the eye of a lot of the developers in the room – add a ‘tint’ to the Unity UI when in play mode. This is incredibly useful as it helps prevent the frustration when you edit a game only to discover that you were in play mode and the edits get discarded when you return to edit mode. (Edit -> Preferences -> Colors -> Playmode Tint). It has already saved me more than once.

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Talks over, it was onto the work for the day. Microsoft brought along with them a whole slew of devices for developers to test on, and folk were already porting their apps over to Windows Phone by the time pizza arrived for lunch.

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The developers were from a varied mix of studios. Dave Sapien of Me and the Giants is one of the most productive developers out there, creating playful games and toys for the youngest users for some years now. Young, but established, Dundee based devs Guerilla Tea brought along The Quest – part puzzle, part adventure game, this Rubik’s Cube inspired game has a gorgeous look and finish. And Future Fossil were along with their first game, “High Steaks!”, which is due for release soon. Playable on Windows Phone during the day, this again had a very polished, bright and colourful look and feel. Other titles went for a more subdued look – such as the very atmospheric visuals of Mogworks’ SteamPipes, submitted to the Windows Phone app store just a week later!

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Aside from the buzz of seeing games running on a new platform for the first time, the other treat of the day was getting to show off the immersive VR capabilities of Lab 1. With 3D glasses on, we ran through a short show-case of the DDS’ work in medical and heritage visualisation, a great chance to show off some of the great work my colleagues have done on projects such as the new Bannockburn visitor experience. With position tracking on 3D tracking, the display is updated to present a different view depending on where the viewer is. Not easy to explain the effect, but it changes applications from a 3D cinema-like experience to being able to walk around and inside a virtual space.

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Photos don’t do it justice I’m afraid, so if you want to experience it first hand you’ll have to come along next time…

Image Sources: @lee_stott@3dhaggis@andytouch