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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

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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