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Wasteland 2 has been released to great acclaim, earning Game of the Year from PCWorld, and reaching #1 on the Steam sales charts. Now, the Director's Cut comes as a free PC update to all backers as our thanks for making the game happen!
Wasteland 2 has been released to great acclaim, earning Game of the Year from PCWorld, and reaching #1 on the Steam sales charts. Now, the Director's Cut comes as a free PC update to all backers as our thanks for making the game happen!
61,290 backers pledged $2,933,252 to help bring this project to life.

Unity Chosen to Drive Wasteland 2

We recently announced the choice of Unity as the game engine for Wasteland 2 development.  Many of our supporters are curious about why we chose Unity over multiple other options, and whether Unity is able to meet the requirements of the project.  In this post I will talk about the factors leading to our decision and how Unity addresses the needs of Wasteland 2.

Background

Before diving into specifics I’d like to take a step back and talk about inXile’s approach to game development.  We are decidedly not a technology development company.  We are a game development company.  We pursue game ideas first and then decide what technology to use to best realize our ambitions for the game design and our business goals.  Consequently we have used several different game engines and multiple third party tools and solutions over the past decade.*  There is inevitably some engine-level work that we do to tune the engine for the particular game we are making, but we try to make initial choices that minimize that risk factor.

From a lead programmer perspective, my goal is always to enable the designers to most directly implement their vision by providing tools that keep me out of their way.   That requires analyzing the game design up front, and with budget and time in mind, deciding what technology I should license and what I should write.  I want to license enough and develop enough that the designers have all the tools they need, but without wasting money on overkill solutions, whether licensed or developed.

Wasteland 2

So along comes Wasteland 2 and we began the familiar yet always unique process of identifying the requirements so we can evaluate game engines and tools that will get the job done most efficiently.  The original Wasteland was party-based and turn-based with a top-down POV that relied heavily on text-based story and drama achieved through deep connections and consequences between story and character.  

For Wasteland 2, with the help of our Wasteland fans we decided to keep the focus on story and character, retaining the party-based and turn-based mechanics.  The top down POV would remain as well but we would go with a full 3D render to bring it into the modern graphics era.   During our Kickstarter we also promised to deliver on Windows, Mac and Linux platforms, and to provide support for the modding community.

With those broad strokes on requirements, we began evaluating engines and tools.  

The Influx of Support

It’s been a great pleasure to feel all the support from fans of the game during Kickstarter, and that has continued during our engine and tools evaluation.  Multiple vendors who also supported the Kickstarter came forth with their products, not just to hawk their wares, but to offer genuine encouragement and generous offers of custom support.  Among them were prominent engine vendors as well as specialized tool vendors.  We necessarily must decline some generous offers as we let the game requirements drive us to single solutions in each category, but we do so with great appreciation for the genuine good will expressed in the offers.

There was a broad enough offering just from the vendors that came to us that we prioritized our evaluations to these products first, hoping to find our solution amongst the ones making generous offers and hence help devote more resources to the game.

Development Requirements

Besides the items mentioned above, high on our list of requirements for an engine was ease of use by the artists and level designers for getting assets into the game and editing levels.   We are a small team and must be able to work very efficiently.   This became a first-pass filter when evaluating engines.  Also very important was ease of development for the promised target platforms.   Following a close third was amount of support from the vendor and general availability of expertise for crowd-sourcing, contracting or hiring.  Putting it all together we came up with a list of engine requirements that looked like this:

1.       Ease of use by artists and designers

2.       Targets Windows, Mac and Linux

3.       Support and expertise available from vendor and in community

4.       Adaptability for player modding

5.       3D rendering, pathing, AI, physics, character animation tools

The 3D rendering and other game systems at the bottom of the list are very important as we plan to make a great looking game with physics and effects.  But these things, at the level we need them, are commonly provided by full-fledged engines, so they end up lower on the list in terms of differentiating factors.

Given the top down POV and camera height required to show a party of characters and enemies, it would be overkill to spend too much of our resources on detailed character models and all the cutting-edge rendering and animation techniques associated with that level of detail.

If we plan well, then we can put just the right amount of resources into modeling and animation so that it looks great from our camera POV without wasting effort on detail that will never be seen.  Then we can spend more time working on other enhancing effects that will be noticed from or POV, such as physics for ragdolls and flying debris, and the fire, smoke and particle effects for the gunfire and explosions that cause those ragdolls and flying debris (hopefully for your enemies and not your party of rangers). 

Unity

Unity Technologies, with their Unity 3 game engine, was among the vendors that came to us with congratulations, goodwill and offers of support.   Their engine stood out as an early front-runner on point 1 of our requirements.  The artists loved its support for the native formats of the art tools we already use (3DS Max and Photoshop).   I also like its built-in version control for assets and code.  

At first it seemed to be missing a leg on point 2 (support for Linux platform), but I knew that we could get source code and therefore could provide the Linux port ourselves.  Given that the engine is designed and structured to support multiple platforms, I felt it would not be insurmountable to port it to Linux (or actually hire some outstanding external contractors we’ve used before to do the job).  After talking to Unity about this, we found they’ve already been working on a Linux port, so Unity is supplying inXile the Linux port alpha source code.  InXile will work with Unity in order to port Wasteland 2 to Linux.

Where Unity really bowled us over was on point 3.  Besides generous support available from Unity staff, the Unity Asset Store is a treasure trove of assets (3D models and code) provided by the large and growing community of Unity users.  A recent Unity newsletter announced that the Asset Store customer base has topped 100,000, and the catalog has reached over 3,000 packages!   We’ve been able to find all kinds of useful 3D assets and code in the Asset Store ranging in price from cheap to free!  Having an organized marketplace like the Asset Store for finding assets and expertise fits right in with our desire to leverage and give back to the community.   While we cannot share engine source code changes, we can share script code and components, as well as graphical assets as part of our modding support.

On the Modding front, we always figured we would have to provide custom tools to users, so we didn’t rank modding support high on our list of engine requirements.  We’ve also had generous offers from the Wasteland community of coders to help with developing those tools.  And yet I think the fact that Unity provides their basic engine/editor for free is a big plus as a starting point for providing the tools necessary for supporting modding of Wasteland 2.  And there again, I think the Asset Store will facilitate ongoing collaboration with the community on modding tools that can be offered in the store for free.

Finally, from looking at Unity demos, other games developed with Unity, and conducting our own art and coding tests, we are convinced that Unity delivers on the game system that we need to build Wasteland 2 in style.  This includes advanced 3D rendering, pathing, physics (PhysX), multiple options for scripting language, advanced 3D level editor that is customizable with scripted components, and much more.

Summary

In summary, Unity hits the sweet spot for us defined by the specific requirements of the Wasteland 2 game design, deployment plan, and the unique circumstances of the development effort which includes community involvement on an ongoing basis. 

It has been my experience over decades of game development that no engine or tool is ever perfect for the game you want to build.  Any engine or tool will have points of weaker comparison to other options, but you have to evaluate how the whole offering matches up with your resources and skills to make a good choice for the project at hand.  Unity is an excellent choice that will allow us to deliver the great game we’ve promised in Wasteland 2.

Best Regards,

John Alvarado
Director of Technology
inXile entertainment

*Technology inXile has used:  Snowblind Engine, RadTools, UE3 Engine, Gamebryo Engine, RKEngine, and various smaller third-party tools for game sub systems such as, path-finding, physics, character animation and lip-synching, etc.

Saodhar likes this update.

Comments

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    1. Missing avatar

      Jens Jensen on

      Paul: http://video.unity3d.com/video/4132257/stellar-impact-trailer

      That's the first result from googling "Stellar Impact unity"

    2. Missing avatar

      David Christensson on

      @Paul: You could not have googled that much. Check the Stellar Impact desura page (found by googling Stellar Impact engine and looking at result #5 and 6). It says that the engine used is Unity.

    3. Paul Smith on

      @alan after much googling i find zero evidence that Stellar Impact is built on unity

    4. Anders Hogdin on

      Quote:
      "Many of our supporters [...] whether Unity is able to meet the requirements of the project. "

      Isn't that a pretty stupid question, what do they expect, that you'll choose an engine you can't really use...?

      Something like:
      "Hey, InXile, this is Philips Whirlpool calling, we have this great energy saving dishwasher, it's engine is really great, maybe you want it for Wasteland 2?"
      InXile: "Oh, yeah, sounds great, send it to us, it's exactly what we need to make Wasteland 2!"

      I expect greatness and I certainly do think you'll give it to us and the only way to do that is by using the right tools, it's hard to screw a shelf to the wall using an angle grinder, thereby I suspect you've done your homework on something as basic as the tools you're using....

    5. Robin Watt on

      I agree, Sirius. I hope and pray this does not become a browser player game.

    6. Missing avatar

      SiriusTexra on

      Nevermind should've read, good, I won't start being worried until "browser player" get's mentioned.

    7. Missing avatar

      SiriusTexra on

      Unity....why not a proper PC engine? Why not Source? AFAIK that's free for developers.

      I hope this isn't to pave the way for mobile device game while PC get's shafted.

    8. Cody Orr on

      Just remember the setting. That's the only thing that'll make or break the game for me.

    9. theAnton on

      Don't forget that the look of a game has a much to do, if not more, with the developer as the choice of engine.

    10. Marek Rabas on

      Unity Engine is great, we were ablea to release several great games on it. I know, they are on iOS/Android, but one of the best games ;)

    11. Alan D Colón on

      @Aura PhysX doesn't require an nVidia card so don't sweat it. Occasionally some games (that got help from nVidia) will put extra effort to make PhysX extremely detailed so that you need an nVidia GPU to run it at max physx detail but that has always been an optional level of detail and it runs everything else on the CPU no problem.

      For instance if you played Metro 2033, you played a PhysX based game.

    12. Aura on

      "we plan to make a great looking game with physics and effects"
      Two things:
      1. Like Piotr Solarczyk, I also hope that these won't suffer from using Unity - I don't know much about these kind of things, but I've yet to be visually impressed by a Unity made game.
      2. And like Alexko, I sure hope that the PhysX mention doesn't mean that we'll need a NVIDIA card - I'd actually like an official clarification on this (though inXile deosn't seem to reply to comments).

    13. Missing avatar

      Brutalizer on

      Great choice. I really dont consider voice over acting in the game as important. I rather prefer voices on some few important NPCs, and text for the rest. I dont mind mostly text.

    14. Missing avatar

      Wim Vander Schelden on

      Great choice. This will also provide a valuable testing ground for Unity's Linux support.

    15. Missing avatar

      Isaul Vargas on

      As long the graphics are good looking enough, I think what matters more is that the storyline surpasses the original and the gameplay is great.

    16. Piotr Stolarczyk on

      I was hopping Unreal Engine 3 would win, but guess without Linux support it dropped out. Just hope the graphical quality, and performance whit physics and particles will not suffer from choosing Unity.

      hopping for the best :)

    17. Alan D Colón on

      I've played games built on the Unity engine and I think it is a great choice. For instance Stellar Impact, a space themed pvp game in the DoTA/LoL style, was made with unity. It features a top down view and very nice graphics with 3D models that look great while not being overly-detailed and yet you can zoom in and still see enough detail to be able to enjoy it if you like. I know some people might be disappointed but you shouldn't pigeon-hole the engine just because you haven't heard of it or because the few games you played that used it looked bad or were on phones and such.

      If anything take a look at Stellar Impact, i've wasted many nights playing it till Diablo 3 came out :P

      So great choice guys, from what i've seen come out of Unity I think it's a great fit also. And for the nay-sayers: go check out Stellar Impact and calm down, the engine does much more than what you might think of as cheap java/flash games.

    18. praguepride
      Superbacker
      on

      I'm actually pretty pumped by the unity engine. It's an ideal "mid-tier" game platform. It can support advanced graphics without needing to be Havok CUTTING EDGE.

      Plus I imagine both the engine and support for it will come much cheaper then the higher AAA engines which means more time and money for actually making the game instead of blowing it all on tools to make the game and then quickly squirting something out before the deadlines :D

    19. CrazedHatter - OO's Lunatic in a Hat on

      I for one am going to trust your judgement and wait to see the finished project.

      Of course, I'm expecting to be blown away by the finished project so.... no pressure or anything. :-D

    20. Michael on

      Unity? Really? You might as well code the game in java or flash. This is pretty disappointing news, especially with the money I put into it.

    21. Missing avatar

      florent on

      When i saw you choose Unity, i'm very sad/hungry/other bad word, because i'm under Linux... But you learn me that unity is porting unity for Linux, and that's enjoy me for many reasons.
      Thanks.

    22. Missing avatar

      Michael Cunningham on

      Great to be exposed to your thinking as the game develops. I had some expertise on R&D and innovation as a government economic policy adviser on drivers of economic growth, I'm delighted to make a modest contribution to a very promising venture. Kickstarter is a great idea.

    23. 4ydx on

      Games are finally starting to come to Linux :) Happy times!

    24. Migizi on

      @Poseydon I've used Unity before and Mono is not required to install the game. It is used when you choose to use the C# language for your scripting. Mono is then used for debugging purposes. You could opt to write the whole thing in javascript if you want.

    25. Missing avatar

      Alejandro E. Moreno on

      "Unity is supplying inXile the Linux port alpha source code. InXile will work with Unity in order to port Wasteland 2 to Linux."

      "... we can share script code and components, as well as graphical assets as part of our modding support."

      You guys are awesome. Kudos to Unity as well.

    26. Poseydon on

      Will Unity require mono as dependency in Linux? I don't want to install it for the ideological reasons :)

    27. Murray Wood on

      While I think it's great that you'll be advancing the Linux port of Unity..... it sounds like the obvious engine choice should be Unigine!
      Unigine is a much more powerful engine, and it already supports all the platforms you're developing for! Won't porting an engine take time out of development?

    28. Missing avatar

      Peter Lyle-Dugas on

      Thanks for giving technical updates! Love seeing behind the scenes.

    29. Glen Proko on

      I'm with Matt: please be super cautious if the engine is as buggy as claimed.

    30. Matt Hargett
      Superbacker
      on

      Big mistake. I've gotten a year into a Unity project and am finally calling it a loss and switching to MonoGame. We were using features that got *removed* between versions with no explanation (Ogg and HW accelerated AAC), we were nickel and dimed to get half-support for basic features like in-app purchases, we had crippling audio issues due to bugs in Unity that we lost Months tying to figure out, and the community and support was simply not helpful. You guys have money to burn, and maybe Unity will support you properly because of your high profile, but I'd warn everyone else to be SUPER cautious.

    31. Alejandro Suárez Mascareño on

      I don't think you should be worried about performance. Crysis runs wonderfully using an old GTS250. I'm pretty sure Wasteland 2 is going to be less demanding than Crysis.

    32. Igor on

      I am interested if you guys are going to put in the game ability to destroy buildings, objects, etc.?? Does this engine allow such thing?

    33. Cassandra S on

      Gillsing: Good points. I've never had a cutting edge computer, so I'm sadly used to having to turn the graphics down all the way on most games I play, and even then put up with some stutter :/
      I'm not a fan of great graphics because my computer probably can't run them, and what I'm left with is a game where the characters make jerky and erratic movements, an annoying result of something that a game developer originally figured would attract people to the game.
      I say: lovely graphics don't have to be hardware intensive (and probably shouldn't, if you want to appeal to everyone).
      Or, if I may be on-topic: Gosh, I hope this game runs truly smoothly on my medium-grade system.

    34. Duncan McEwen on

      It is awesome to get to hear how you guys are deciding stuff. Thank you for the insight into the development process!

    35. wilbefast on

      Linux support is played in the future? You guys had me worried there for a second o_O It's cool that on top of everything else you'll be advancing the Linux port :P

      I avoid Unity because it's a closed platform, but then my ideology isn't necessarily the best way of getting games finished. I haven't seen many large-ish projects using this technology so the choice is a bit surprising, but then it does allow you to avoid hiring too many grumpy engine programmers.

    36. Gillsing on

      Kevin Bender: "My only real concern with Unity is its often steep system requirements for what you get. It sounds as though you're making optimization a priority, though, so I'll give you guys the benefit of the doubt."

      This is what I worry about. Optimization. And even even they do optimize the fancy 3D graphics, It still sounds as if I'm going to have to buy a new computer just to play the game. I was hoping not to have to do that. I was hoping for nice looking 2D graphics. Oh well. I guess that great looking 3D graphics is the best way to sell the game to non-backers once it's done.

    37. Paul Smith on

      Overall Unity should be great for you, but do be aware...
      a) the built in version control isnt all it claims to be, I have heard people struggling on this point
      b) the performance on most unity games ive seen is generally rather low even with a limited amount of detail, so some performance tweeks may be needed for the engine

    38. Tomas Timko on

      From my point of view Unigine seems like a better choice but..I dont understand it that much.

    39. Missing avatar

      Alexko on

      @Paul Gaffney: What? Just because the game features old-school gameplay doesn't mean it can't look nice. What's the problem?

    40. Godestablishedyou Yiremeyah Escobedo on

      Unity is a good engine, in the right hands it can look really good and play really good, and emphasize more on the art aspect. I really like Unity (I mean worked with it before), importing stuff from 3ds max is really easy.

    41. Dave on

      As someone....nevermind

    42. Declan Grant on

      As someone whose used Source its really dated and very restrictive. It's one of those engines which were tailored for just them but they decided to sell it on the side for a small profit.

    43. Chris Decker on

      As someone who has worked with unity, you guys made a bad choice. If you guys wanted multi platform support, why no look at Source? Valve is not far off from having a working version of source in all 3 platforms.

    44. Missing avatar

      Sean on

      Sounds great, i hope multicore/thread functionality gets added to the unitiy engine though.

    45. Jessie Cook on

      Yeah sounds odd, but There's a big difference between changing/porting and writing an engine from scratch.

    46. Missing avatar

      Michael on

      "Targets Windows, Mac and Linux"

      "We are decidedly not a technology development company."

      "we could get source code and therefore could provide the Linux port ourselves"

      Really?

    47. Missing avatar

      Tobias Paice on

      I noticed a lack of information about audio for part of the decision even though I'm sure it was considered, right? I know the unity engine does use FMOD but not many of the modern controls that you would expect with a fully fledged game engine are exposed for audio. Do you plan on using it vanilla and writing your own tools or maybe plugging in the fully fledged version of FMOD or even Wwise? Looking forward to hearing what you will do on this side.

    48. Sean Riedinger
      Superbacker
      on

      As long as it's fully-functional as a stand-alone program that can work on Windows XP, I have no problem with your choice in engine- Looks like solid stuff.

    49. Missing avatar

      apharmdq on

      My main worry was that the use of Unity would compromise the goal of a native Linux version of the game, resulting in a Linux version through some other medium (Wine, Native Client, or some other workaround). But since Unity is being ported to Linux, I think my concerns are answered. Linux gaming is becoming a big deal, and it will be nice to have support from more developers and engines.

    50. Missing avatar

      Pei-Te Yu on

      I don't have a problem with the choice of the engine, as long as it doesn't require me to play the game in a browser window -- otherwise, my already-cramped screen real-estate will not let me enjoy the game fully.