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GDC 2010: From concept to Top Paid with Unity iPhone


Unity Technologies hosted the sponsored lunch panel during GDC 2010 today, and their "product evangelist" Tom Higgins gave a quick rundown of the software platform that enables developers to assemble and release games extremely quickly on multiple platforms.

The company was actually founded in Denmark, but has since expanded around the world with just two products: Unity Pro and Unity iPhone Pro. The second product, as you might imagine, allows developers to put together an application that can then be exported out into an Xcode project and released on the App Store. Higgins said that they've had over 90,000 people download the software since it was released for free last fall, and that more than 500 games in the App Store were authored by Unity.

He also ran a short demo of the software at the panel. While some of the coding got a little technical (the system allows you to create and change variables on in-game objects even while the game is running in the engine), the coolest feature was the way they simulated iPhone controls: by using a real iPhone as a remote. They've released a free app on the App Store that will connect via Wi-Fi with a copy of the development tool running on your Mac, and as you touch and turn the iPhone, the editor reacts, and sends the (slightly lower resolution) output to the iPhone's screen. You can also make changes to your code as the game runs in that mode, so you can be playing and coding at the same time.

That was pretty impressive. Of course, Unity won't actually help you be a game developer -- like many of the tools on display at the conference this week, it's a professional tool that can only make your ideas and art come to life, not actually create them for you.

But when you combine Unity's compatibility across platforms (there's even a web player that will play your Unity-created game on any web-compatible computer) with the ease of development (the app just outputs an Xcode project, so you can write an app in Javascript with the tool and output it straight to the App Store, or even edit the Xcode after the output if you want to take advantage of features that Unity doesn't support by default), it's definitely worth a look as an iPhone development tool. I'm not a developer, so I don't have much insight on how the program actually works, but just in terms of creating apps for multiple platforms at the same time ("author once, deploy anywhere," as Higgins said during his talk), Unity seems like a worthwhile solution.

The Unity platform is available as a free download, and the iPhone app either comes in source code with the rest of the platform, or can be downloaded straight from the App Store.

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