So why did we choose Unity as the platform for BioBeasts? Given how different the platforms are, this is actually a great question. Until recently, Artix Entertainment had developed 100% of its products with Adobe Flash. Flash was an excellent platform; in fact, a few years ago, Adobe boasted that the “Adobe Flash Player is the world’s most pervasive software platform, used by over 2 million professionals, and reaching 99% of internet-enabled desktops in mature markets.” Wonderful! But wait, something is missing from this statement. Flash with its Vector-based graphics engine came with an inherent problem for the growing mobile device market.
Vector-art, (art that can be scaled mathematically to any size with no loss in quality), has many advantages. It can be easily be scaled up or down to work across resolutions, the graphics appear crisp at most sizes, and content creation times are reduced because assets only need to be created once. Unfortunately, Vector-art has its fair share of drawbacks. Since the artwork is rendered using mathematical curves, this places a significant calculation burden of the CPU. On a desktop machine this isn’t a problem, but on a mobile device where battery life is paramount, this can be quite crippling. As you probably already know, CPU-intensive tasks on a mobile device can crush your battery, and while there are improvements being made in mobile CPUs and improved battery life, there is a better solution available.
We’ve selected Unity Unity3D as the development platform for BioBeasts. Our choice to use Unity is a complete departure from the Vector-based art world of Adobe Flash. Unity in 2D games uses rasterized (or fixed pixel dimension) spritesheets for its graphical engine. So how can this be better given the vast number of device screen sizes and resolutions available on the market today? The primary answer is simple, because the artwork is rasterized, Unity is able to place the display burden onto the device’s GPU instead of the CPU. This reduces the calculation burden and dramatically improves battery life on devices.
This brings up a major challenge in the mobile development world. How do you take a fixed pixel dimension graphic and make it work on multiple screens and resolutions? You can’t simple scale the content uniformly up or down because some devices are much wider or taller than others. Take a look at this simple BioBeasts prototype built out to three devices with wildly different resolutions. At first you might not notice, but if you look closely, you’ll see minor differences in the way the art is spaced and sized on each device. This is achieved using a percentage-based scaling layout with Unity’s new 2D UI toolset. By controlling individual UI elements and scaling them relative to parent containers and panels in our layout, we can precisely control the look of the game on ANY device. We’ve really been impressed with Unity’s power in the 2D gaming space when it comes to UI and we’ll keep sharing our process as development continues.
And just to further illustrate the point that we need to support all kinds of resolutions, we already have data suggesting that the BioBeasts website has been accessed in over 100 countries on over 200 different device types. Here are the top 50 most popular devices that have accessed our site in the past 3 days:
Long gone are the days of fixed-resolution single platform builds. Unity will allow us to build once, and with relatively low effort, distribute our game onto multiple platforms. For now, it is our intention to release BioBeasts on Android and iOS. We’ll investigate other platforms post launch.