Author once, deploy anywhere?
A long held dream in the development world has been the idea of “author once, deploy anywhere”. To explain what is meant by that is simple, it’s the notion of being able to author your content one time, then through the simple click of a button deploy your content on any platform you like, whether that’s on the desktop, the web, gaming consoles or mobile devices. Nobody is quite there yet and there is more work to be done, but with that in mind Unity Technologies is making tremendous progress in making this dream a reality, and Unity is already used by thousands to distribute content across a variety of platforms. While the benefits of this author once deploy anywhere notion might seem clear at first blush, there are a few points worth discussing in particular, so let’s look at those in a bit more detail.
Take Advantage of Diverse Opportunities
First and foremost, the ability to have flexible publishing options allows developers to take full advantage of the opportunities that are available. What I mean by “opportunities” is that the number of viable publishing channels is on the rise, not only can developers host their own web content but they can leverage existing game portal websites, social media sites like Facebook, MySpace and many others, and of course they can look towards the booming mobile gaming market as well. The ability to easily target any or all of those channels gives developers an advantage and will allow them to make the most of each channel’s strengths in order to drive success of their titles and increase their revenue across the board.
Reach Your Users Everywhere
Following along with the above is the fact that the gaming market is shifting quite a bit, and it’s doing so in a way that makes it even more important to have games available to users through as many different channels as possible. The days of users playing games on dedicated platforms like gaming consoles or strictly desktop based aren’t gone, but there is an increasing focus and interest in games that offer portability and many points of access. At our Unite 2009 developer conference, Richard Hilleman from Electronic Arts helped drive the point home that as game developers you’re looking at having to fight for small slices of people’s time on the go more than ever, so offering them easy access to content is paramount. What that means is that your games shouldn’t be web-based or mobile-based, they should be available in as many ways as possible so users can dip in and dip out and enjoy your games wherever and whenever they like. Having easy publishing access to multiple platforms will allow you to meet the changing needs of game players and keep you ahead of the competition.
Just imagine having someone play your game online at work, then again on their smart phone on the train ride home and then yet again on their desktop later that night. Through it all you’re offering a single combined experience through multiple points of entry, letting your users access it when and where they want!
Use a Stable and Consistent Platform
The third important item of note is that it’s key to not only find a tool that allows you to reach a variety of platforms, but to find one that lets you do so efficiently and effectively, while still being able to deliver premiere content that game players will be attracted to. This is where Unity shines above all others, it provides developers with a solid technology base that allows for rapid development on top of providing fantastic performance and high-quality results. The lesson here is that you, the developer, can leverage your design and development expertise to the fullest extent as we will focus on the engine while you focus on your games!
Of course all of this might seem like a dose of marketing hot air without some specific examples, so allow me to point to a few Unity-authored games that are already spanning multiple platforms to help prove the point.
Downhill Bowling is a game from the folks at Game Resort and it’s a title that’s available online as well as on the iPhone and iPod touch via the App Store. The game’s initial launch was done on the web via both addictinggames.com and shockwave.com, but when we released our iPhone support in the fall of 2008 it didn’t take long for the game to make it’s way on to the AppStore.
- Downhill Bowling (addictinggames.com)
- Downhill Bowling (shockwave.com)
- Downhill Bowling Lite (AppStore, Free)
- Downhill Bowling (AppStore, $2.99)
Max & the Magic Marker
This game is a bit different in that it doesn’t explicitly target two platforms for commercial distribution, rather it uses one, WiiWare,for commercial distribution and another, the web, for pre-release and preview plays. The game was created by Press Play and will release as a WiiWare title in Europe today (Friday, January 22, 2009) and in other markets soon. But at the same time there is a web playable demo available on the game’s destination site.
- Max & the Magic Marker (maxandthemagicmarker.com)
The third example I’d like to cite is Tumbledrop, a great little game produced by a single developer that was at first part of the Unity
Awards 2008 as a web game, then rebranded for Cartoon Network for posting on line and now most recently it’s come out on the iPhone.
In all three of the examples above the authoring effort was largely done once and then the Unity engine’s portability was used to easily reach out to secondary platforms. Of course it wasn’t truly an “author once” experience as each of the platforms does need some special handling, notably in terms of input types (keyboard/mouse, multi-touch/accelerometer, WiiMote/Nunchuck) and tweaking of artwork, but the core game logic in each case was able to be reused with relative ease.
Of course there are other examples out there that could have been cited, it’s just that the three above are particularly noteworthy and so I mentioned them here. So it’s not just hype, Unity truly does allow you to quickly, easily and effectively reach out and target multiple platforms thus ensuring a greater chance of success regardless of the type of content you make. Of course our job as a tool vendor is never truly done and so we’ll keep working our way forward until we can in fact offer a 100% “author once, deploy anywhere” experience. The only question is whether you’ll be along for the ride or not, and I of course think you should do yourself a favor and get on board now!
If you’re a developer that is already using Unity to create content that spans multiple platforms then let me know as I’d love to hear from you. You can do that by adding a comment in response to this post, or by contacting me directly by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Otherwise if you’re not already doing that then I encourage you to consider starting to do so as soon as possible.