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Unite Europe 2016: Conference Recap

We visited Amsterdam to see what arguably the most influential game engine across the full spectrum of video games has up its sleeve.

  • Text: Kieran Harris
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Earlier this week we had the opportunity to attend Unite Europe in Amsterdam, the fourth in a series of showcase events hosted by the rapidly-expanding 3D game engine company, Unity. The event offered attendees the chance to get their hands on pre-release titles developed using the engine, and to catch presentations held by dozens of experts across the industry.

Starting the event off was a two hour keynote, where important figures within the company took to the stage to discuss topics such as the engine itself, current trends within the gaming industry, and the future of Unity. After commencing with a short compilation of some of the company's latest releases, CEO John Riccitiello stepped out to talk about Unity's overall vision and revealed a timeline of its progression since its inception in 2005.

Riccitiello later handed over to Joachim Ante, who presented a short photo-realistic demo titled Adam, a shining example of what the engine is capable of delivering graphically. First unveiled earlier this year, Adam appears to show a futuristic maximum security prison where the consciousness of inmates has been embedded into robots. While it may be bleak in tone, the short film is undeniably gorgeous and proves that Unity is more than capable of competing with even its toughest of competitors.

A part of the presentation that really grabbed our attention was when Haruhiro Uchida took the stage to explain how his team had used Unity's graphical capabilities to make a short animated film. The short-film titled 'The Gift', looks just like an animated Pixar movie, and possibly signals a change in how CG movies will be produced in the future.

Unity Collaboration was the first of several new features rolled out at the event and was presented by Arisa Scott and Lucas Meijer. Currently in beta stage, Unity Collaboration is a cloud hosted program that strives to make the production process much easier, allowing developers to all work together within the same project. This prevents the tedious task of trying to pool together members of your team's work from multiple sources such as Dropbox and Google Drive.

Chief Marketing Officer, Clive Downie later took over to announce a number of upcoming products and services that Unity will be releasing in the near future. First introduced was a three-tiered subscription program, designed to cater to the needs of a whole spectrum of developers. The first of the new additions is Unity Personal, a free package for those who are perhaps just starting out with game development and have funding or revenues under $100,000 USD. Followed by Unity Plus, a middle-tier package for those who are seeking to release their first official title, which is available at $35 per month with an annual commitment. The final option is Unity Pro, which offers established developers an extensive suite of tools and is priced at $125 per month.

Downie also made the announcement of a new feature, Unity Connect, an online marketplace where you can recruit talented new artists, developers and creators from across the globe to collaborate on your project. It sounds similar in concept to the existing TIGSource forums. This is an exciting prospect, as developers will now be able to connect with other like-minded and talented individuals that they wouldn't have otherwise met in order to help fulfil their artist visions. The feature is currently in pre-beta, and while no official release date was announced, registration for the next beta phase was made open.

Before John Riccitiello returned to conclude the show, Principal Software Engineer Amir Ebrahimi showcased a live demonstration of the capabilities of developing in VR. From inside the game's world he showed how you use motion controls to resize objects, add new ones in, and change around their position. This new method seemed incredibly accessible for newcomers, and an exciting way to approach editing games.

With the keynote concluded attendees were then free to roam around the wondrous Westergasfabriek and check out the wealth of new games and technology that was on display. Around the corner from the main hall stood a room that was filled with upcoming games that had been tirelessly worked on in Unity. These titles really showed the diversity of the engine and ranged from smaller mobile titles such as Hotlap Heroes to massively immersive VR experiences like Cosmic Trip.

One of the highlights that we were able to get our hands on was Hue, a minimalist puzzle-platformer, that is set in a world where nobody can see in colour. Across the game are fragments of colour that you must collect and use in order to solve puzzles. Upon using a selected a colour the whole screen is brightly illuminated, which looks stunning when cast against its dreary backdrop.

Another standout was Aragami: Out of the Shadows, a stealth ninja title with a beautiful cel-shaded art-style. Here you play as an undead assassin and creep through the shadows, until the time is right to ambush your unsuspecting foes. The title draws heavy influence from classic stealth titles such as Thief and Metal Gear Solid, but it is able to sprinkle in its own innovations along the way.

With a thriving atmosphere and a handful of exciting announcements, Unite Europe 2016 certainly proved that Unity's quest for domination shows no signs of faltering. Since it's arrival on the Mac in 2005, Untiy has established itself as a key player in the industry and the showcase stood as a shining example of its success.