Unity3D is awesome!
How I learned to stop worrying about plugin penetration and love Unity3D
I started this blog almost 2 years ago with an idea to explore the world of 3D in Flash and learn new stuff on the way. I quickly fell in love with Papervision3D. It offered a whole new world of possibilities for someone like me – bored with buttons & dropdowns and not particularly interested in building Flex-type applications.
Unfortunately the performance limitations of Flash Player prevented me from going far beyond the demos I posted on this blog. Creating a solid piece of 3D in Flash, with a decent frame rate is either impossible or requires an insane amount of code optimization. It often means resorting to low level programming. I think it is dangerous, because it's easy to loose track of the overall picture then. I feel that this is what happened to me the last few months.
I sure heard about Unity3D before, but, as it often happens, I did not have time to take a closer look. I applied for the Unity 2.5 beta test program back in February. I was accepted and got a 30-day copy of the software. What happened next? I opened it only once before the trial expired.
It's just hard to move to another software/platform when you are so completely immersed in Flash. Unity3D ended on my perpetual to-do list alongside with so many other things. I am sure many of you feel the same way.
A new toy
Recently I bought a Macbook Pro. My first Mac ever! A friend suggested that I move all my projects and workspace to the Mac immediately to make the transition fast. Unfortunately I had some difficult and urgent projects to finish, and ultimately I decided to stick with Flash on the PC for a while.
I had to do something with the Mac then… and that's where Unity3D comes in. Additionally, this time I decided to buy a license, thinking that spending those 150 EUR extra will make me even more motivated.
After just a few hours I was amazed. And I mean AMAZED! You can check the Tropical Paradise demo if you haven't seen it yet, download the trial copy and start exploring the 3D Game Tutorial to see what I mean.
It's not only how fast the 3D rendering is. Unity3D has a very intuitive interface organized around a simple and clear concept. I can literally see myself doing 3D games in a matter of weeks from now. Doesn't take long to realize the sad truth that Flash is far behind in almost every aspect.
The myth of high penetration
I do not want to do a list of pros and cons or some Flash vs. Unity3D comparison here. For a person who wants to do 3D for the web Unity3D is the winner by knockout and it makes no sense to elaborate on the subject.
However, there is one common argument against Unity3D. It's the low penetration rate of the web plugin. While Flash Player is at 98%, Unity3D is probably at < 1%. Aye! That sounds bad, doesn't it? I thought so too, but I made some thinking and researched a bit. Now please consider these points:
- Unity3D plugin is only ~4MB and it's installation is seamless. In most cases, it doesn't even require browser restart. Thanks to this it has a high successful-install rate, which means it's share of the market will be quickly growing. You can read a whole article on this topic here.
- Content created with Unity3D can be visually and interactively much superior to anything you can do with Flash. This will convince people that the little extra effort required to install the plugin is worth it.
- Most important argument: people access content from different devices. There are mobile phones, consoles, multi-touch interfaces etc. PC is no longer the king. Unity3D can be published for two of the most successful platforms out there: iPhone and Wii. "Web penetration" has no practical meaning in this case.
So, if you think Unity3D is not worth looking at because of the low penetration of the web plugin, think again!
This blog note may seem emotional. It is! I feel I have discovered the perfect technology, that I have been looking for and I just wanted to share. Now I need to master Unity3D as quickly as possible. On my way I will certainly discover it's flaws… it must have some. Maybe later I will find a more objective way to compare Flash and Unity.
Flash is much more than 3D and there are multiple directions it is evolving in. I am not predicting "the end of Flash" or anything like that – it would be ridiculous. Unity3D on the other hand, with all it's coolness is still the new kid on the block. It might be a huge success but it might as well share the fate of Wild Tangent and Shockwave players (I hope not!).
One thing is sure: if you are into 3D, you can't miss it!