If you’ve read the other pages on this site, you’ve probably reached this one asking: “why Unity?”
There are a lot of good reasons for the choice, which we will look at presently…but we should also not be blind to the potential downsides of using the Unity engine either. We should certainly understand one thing in particular: using Unity not going to be a walk in the park, and the early days of creating this framework are probably going to be the hardest ones.
Why? Primarily, it is because while there are existing assets and systems available through Unity and its Asset Store that could help us get a head start, in many respects we will be starting from scratch. We won’t have the vast quantity of pre-made content that a pre-existing game engine/toolkit would include “out of the box” available to us at the outset. A lot of systems will have to be coded from scratch, and a lot of art will need to be created as well.
Still, while the early days of the framework will likely be long and difficult, it will be worthwhile in the long run and would enable, more than ever before, the creation of fan projects.
So why should be Strive for Unity ?
- No cost. The basic version of the engine is free, allowing any developer to just “jump in”.
- The Asset Store. While Unity is free it also has its assets store which could prove useful for projects. There is a strong argument to be made that it is better for a project team to spend $100 now on a large collection of terrain and building assets that would work for their project, rather than struggling for a year or more to find a 3D artist to make each asset anew in his spare time. To say nothing of the fact that the Asset Store does have collections of free assets available as well…and that many asset packs are regularly discounted at different times of the year.
- No game purchases required. By using Unity, project teams free fans from the need to buy a dated game they won’t care about and/or will struggle to find or make work on modern operating systems. Instead, fans will be able to just download the finished project and play it directly.
- Cross-platform. Out of the box, Unity allows for projects to be released on PC, OS X and Linux. Porting fan projects to mobile is also a possibility.
- Modernity. Dungeon Siege and Morrowind are ancient. Neverwinter Nights 2 is getting long in the tooth as well. Most of these games are not being updated anymore. Unity is future proof: it’s constantly being improved and updated, lessening the risks of spending years on a game that most modern computers will have issues running because of a dated engine.
- Versatility. Unity allows for the creation of all kind of RPGs, from simple 2D adventures to complex, fully-3D worlds. Our framework will allow collaborative efforts between different projects even though aim to create different kinds of Ultima experience. With existing toolsets, fan projects were limited and had to compromise, at every turn. With Unity, the fan community will be able to create the perfect Ultima game maker.
- Shroud of the Avatar. With Richard Garriott himself using the Unity engine for his spiritual successor to the Ultima series, a fan development community with an Ultima-minded vision is already forming around the engine. And while Ultima and SotA are different properties, they share more than enough of a common fanbase that this framework should appeal to both. Indeed, it would need to. And by using Unity — the technology underpinning SotA — our framework serves in pursuit of this goal, especially since Portalarium have already begun releasing Shroud of the Avatar assets to their Developer-level backers (for free), and to the wider Unity community (for purchase).
- Portalarium. Lord British is on the record as saying that a Unity-based Ultima framework for fan projects is a “brilliant idea”, and is excited at the prospect of sharing SotA assets or systems that the community could use in their projects.
- Community. Even outside of SotA, Unity has an already strong existing community of talented developers.
We know this sounds like — and is — a crazy and enormous endeavor. But we are at a crossroads, some might say…an historic time for our community. With SotA reawakening the passions and Ultima memories of so many, the Ultima and Shroud of the Avatar communities are now presented with a chance of growing still larger, and fostering anew a spirit of creativity that in recent years has been dwindling.
It will be long. It will be difficult. But in the end, this is an endeavor that will help many projects bloom, and many more stories and adventures to be told, in both the Ultima and Shroud of the Avatar universes.