In December, Unity engineers from all over the world descended on our Seattle office for our first ever Hack Week focused on cloud services. Teams attended from our Austin, Montreal, San Francisco, Seattle, and Helsinki offices.
Hack Week is one of the ways we inspire and promote innovation at Unity. Broadly stated, the purpose is to collaborate across different engineering teams and work on projects outside of our day to day roles. Hack Week gives our engineers time to experiment building out new products and services, to work directly with customers and colleagues from across the company.
Traditionally, our Hack Weeks have focused on the Unity engine, and many of our graphics, audio and physics features evolved from projects created at Hack Week. With our new focus on helping developers create great games, and connecting those games with an audience, the theme of Hack Week this time around was cloud services that would support the development and distribution of games.
We kicked it off Monday with developers pitching their ideas from a huge list of over thirty potential projects. The only rule is that anything goes! Engineers then self organized into teams and work on projects they feel most passionate about. Five long days and four busy nights later, the entire company tunes in to see what has been created.
We were fortunate to be visited during the week by local developers Camouflaj, Refract, Spryfox and V1 Interactive who talked about how they develop their games with Unity, and gave us a sneak preview of what they are working on. It was great to hear about their successes and challenges developing their games and learn how Unity can do more to help on the services side.
At the end of the week, seven projects reached demo stage, and we also got a list of cool projects, features and ideas to share with the Unity community.
Unity Cloud Data – Ever needed to change a variable in your game, but don’t want to make a new build? Are players telling you the game is too easy or hard? Cloud Data lets you store variables and values of your game in Unity Cloud, minimizing development time for quick changes. In the demo, the team tweaked gravity values, spawn rate and fire rate in a game, which automatically updated the variables on launch.
Heatmap Analytics – Numbers and charts can be interesting but a little dry, especially for creative people. This project unlocked player event data from a game to show “heat maps” in our Analytics dashboard. The heat map tracks events in game space so that the developer can identify spatial groupings where important events (point gain, death, kills, etc) occur. It also created incredible visuals. During the week, the project went live with one game, and the designer told us the feedback immediately improved his game!
Unity Devstream – With so much going on around a Unity project, the DevStream is a new type of dashboard where every Unity service can report events to a master API. This gives all devs on a project a high-level view as to what is going on. If you’ve used Slack.com to work together on a project, you know exactly how useful this can be.
VR SceneShot – VR games powered by Unity are appearing everywhere, and a VR project was inevitable at Hack Week. This team created a tool that takes a static 360 degree rendering of a Unity scene and display so it can be viewed on a mobile device with a VR headset. You can take sceneshots directly in the editor, then use the service to view and share them via WebGL and a mobile app. Great for sharing VR ideas with anyone that has a headset.
Mobile analytics dashboard – We’ve already got Unity Cloud Analytics in a Web page, but how about a Unity mobile app that displays analytics for your games? The app can receive API feeds from all Unity Cloud services (Analytics, Build, etc.) to show metrics that developers care about (e.g., current DAU, revenue, build stats, etc.). You can further drill-down into specific stats and see a time-series chart with historical data. Stretch goal: Create a fun game with the charts!
Chat in Unity – Many game dev teams use third party chat clients when working together in Unity. This project added a new chat window directly to the editor, so you could see activity and communicate with other devs working on the same project. It was fun, once everyone quit chatting about Star Wars and got back to coding!
Cloud editor – Ace is a beautiful, high performance code editor for the Web. Wouldn’t it be cool to edit your Unity project code directly from a Web page, and remotely debug? Our devs thought so too, and created a great prototype that did exactly that.
So when can you get these services? It always take time to determine which projects turn into production services, but we are moving ahead with one of these projects already in alpha. We look forward to sharing more of them with our community in 2015.
It was a great week to write code and spend time with our fellow engineers and we can’t wait to do it again. Did you like the ideas above? Which ones would you like to use? Have a better idea for a service you’d like to see developed? Throw us a comment. Want to be a part of Hack Week by joining Unity Technologies? Check out our open positions.