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Unity CEO: iPhone 4S' Minor Iteration Is Good For Developers
Unity CEO: iPhone 4S' Minor Iteration Is Good For Developers
October 7, 2011 | By Leigh Alexander

October 7, 2011 | By Leigh Alexander
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    7 comments
More: Social/Online, Smartphone/Tablet, Indie, Production, Business/Marketing



Although consumers might have been disappointed in the paucity of new features in Apple's recently-unveiled iPhone 4S, Unity CEO David Helgason says that iterating on hardware in half-steps instead of in leaps is the best for developers.

This new model is a boon for mobile developers, Helgason tells Gamasutra. The obvious benefit is the increased speed and power -- "you can throw more content at it, high-polygon meshes, more advanced shader effects, more beautiful stuff."

"The less obvious one is that Apple decided to keep the phone the same... it's just faster. The response to the announcement was a bit negative, because people hoped there would be something new in the phone. For developers, though, it's actually a good thing, because they can build the same type of game and sell it to an audience that is much bigger."

Developers don't need to worry about fragmenting their audience when the hardware upgrades are subtle, he adds. "You can put some extra effort into making sure it looks prettier and has some extra coolness running on a 4S, but you don't end up in a situation where you have to build something completely different."

"Consumer journalists will criticize it, but it's perfect for developers,' he adds. "Nobody doubts that the 5G, a mythical beast at this point, will be awesome too, but I think it's smart for Apple to pace themselves."

From Unity's standpoint it takes no effort to extend support to the new device. "It just works, and that's good for us; it allows us to spend energy making Unity better, which we're doing all the time."

Just recently the company unveiled some of the features it plans to implement in upcoming Unity 3.5. Helgason says these upgrades are aimed at making sure bigger teams use Unity and have access to higher-end features.

The engine favored by small teams and indies in particular across the browser, mobile and social spaces must now keep an eye on the quality race that has come to those spaces, and the trend at making higher-end and more core-focused games on those platforms.

"It's something we've been seeing happen for a long time. When we launched six years and a bit ago, Unity wasn't super-capable -- it had great workflows, but we were not that feature-full," says Helgason.

Explosively-rapid adoption quickly gained the company the trust of larger companies, he says.

"Bigger teams are pushing Unity harder... that's been happening for a long time, but it became really clear a year ago that [we should enable] high end technical features because people wanted to use them," Helgason explains.

The company has addressed the trend toward higher-end feature demands by hiring a "large number" of experienced engineers with experience on AAA platform products. That direction for Unity also contextualizes its partnership with Massive Black on high-end assets.

Throughout the process Helgason says Unity's had two major rules: "We must not make Unity a product that's difficult for small teams and indies to use, and it must not become two products.. and that didn't happen," he says. "We could actually make it so all the cool new stuff either wouldn't get in the way, so Unity would still be simple for beginners, or it would actually improve experiences even for beginners and individual developers. We feel we've been very successful at that."


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Comments


Sherman Luong
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I wish the iterations would be like near two years apart. That way I can renew it with my contracts without shelling out 600 for each phone.. But thankfully I set my iphones 1 to 6 month part incase things like this happens.

Arush Rehman
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That slow iterations idea for the 4s is a good one.

www.fingermonkeywire.com

Robert Green
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I'm a little confused as to how this can be considered a minor iteration for developers. For consumers it might seem that way, given the identical body and lack of any new hardware features like LTE or NFC, but from a developer perspective it would seem to be exactly what everyone expected - the A5 processor with the same resolution. Perhaps the amount of RAM (rumoured to be the same 512MB the iphone 4 has) would be the only aspect that developers might have been expecting more from.

Ironically, if they'd have changed the hardware design and perhaps bumped the screen up to 4", I doubt anyone would be expressing disappointment, yet from a developer perspective that wouldn't change anything.

Ian Uniacke
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I think it might be the other way to what you're saying Robert. Upgrading the cpu (just) means choosing the next LOD on a few things, or maybe include that shader that got cut for performance reasons. A larger screen means reexamining how you use that screen real estate, and can be quite an expensive process.

Robert Green
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I can see what you're saying, but a transition from 3.5" to 4" screen probably wouldn't require a lot, if anything, in the way of retooling input (certainly not in the same way that going from a phone to a tablet does), especially if you're also planning to support the older 3.5" screen. Conversely, while a CPU that was just faster doesn't really change how you approach anything, the switch to dual-core potentially changes quite a lot. In the case of a middleware developer, now that the high-end phones on both iOS and Android are dual-core (with quad-core potentially coming next year), it could require rethinking a number of aspects of how your code runs and how you enable your developers to take advantage of parallelism.

Roger Haagensen
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Personally I'd like to see 5 year hardware cycles in pretty much everything (computers/phones/tv etc), this would allow larger technology leaps, lower manufacturing costs (due to larger production runs), and allows developers to really utilize the hardware,

as most hardware would be very similar, so two consumers with different hardware would get the same or very similar experience, lifetime/longevity and the long tail of software wold improve too.

We can clearly see the benefit of "5 year hardware cycles" in consoles for example.

Roger Haagensen
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I also forgot to mention that consumers are more able financially to upgrade in 5 year cycles,

this is important as the consumerism and capitalistic system these days has an enormous focus on buying,

but people do not necessarily have more purchasing ability than say 10 years ago,

there is after all a limited amount of money in the world,

eventually people hit their personal spending saturation point, as has happened with CD music sales for example as personal spending begins to flow towards other areas of interest.


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