Without doubt Unity3D became a basic factor in game development, especially in the market of mobile applications. I think it was one of their primary marketing purposes: to cover nearly all platform with the same developer tool, cause it sounds well (on the other hand it is a great feature).
They succeeded and became a strong company with 200+ employees and possibly the most known engine for indie developers. They offer a ‘free/indie’ version of Unity, what is a great idea, too. The ‘free’ version has serious limitations, so it is a must to upgrade later and pay.
As one of their paying customers I think they made a mistake (and I know that I’m not alone with this opinion).
Firstly: it is not a financial mistake at all, their marketing works perfectly and I’m sure that they will grow even bigger. But some of their users – like me – slowly starts to become disappointed.
It is a similar mistake when Apple decided not to support SD cards in their tablets: it was a lack of a feature to earn more money with the less possible investment: forcing the customers to pay extra money for bigger internal storage.
Or when finally they didn’t put the camera to the first iPad, just to give a reason for the customers to buy the next generation a year later.
When I bought Unity several years ago, I was impressed by its quick and friendly work-flow compared to its competitors, even if it was Mac only in those times.
It was definitely slower in handling big, complex scenes compared to my former application, Quest3D, but the work-flow was superior. Easy import, easy asset management, easy shader assignment without the need of writing shaders. It offered the most of the available technologies in those times what made it an easy choice.
The support was great: tutorials, helpful users and a staff who reacted to suggestions: I asked them to implement a gizmo system, sent them a draft GUI for it and they built it in. Perfect way to become successful.
For now – in my opinion – Unity became to the Autodesk of the mobile game development. I think it tells everything.
Serious bugs were not fixed in actual releases, incredible upgrade prices (50% of the new price of the new app), and lack of features, even compared to the free alternatives.
Why is that? – you may ask.
I think the answer could be what I see: Unity started their Asset Store and let the 3rd party developers to do the job instead of their staff. Great business strategy, what makes money for Unity without paying costly developers and support crew.
Of course even this solution would be great if it was implemented in a quality way, but it isn’t.
So let’s see what the matter is with the Unity Asset Store in my opinion
1. Generic problems with the GUI/design/available content details
– It is not informative, it misses even the basic filtering options. As an example after using the ‘Search’ function, we cannot filter the results ‘By Price, By Popularity, etc.
– No advanced ‘Search’ options
– No ‘Open in new tab’ browser function for some of the GUI areas
– Scrolling needed to read the basic details of an item
– It cannot be used on my Android device (I cannot scroll the page). I haven’t checked it on other devices yet and Android is a piece of crap, so I’m not sure if it is their fault.
2. Basic conceptional problems behind the Asset Store
– To rate any asset the user has to be the customer of that asset. In practice it means that you cannot review any items if it was bought by someone else from your team for the very same project, just with using her/his account. One might say that a team should have a shared ‘Asset Store account’, but I think it is not an elegant solution.
– No quality assurance (you can find tons of assets without any manual, online sample, trial, downloadable sample)
OK, I’m sure they should have some kind of quality assurance and guidelines for uploading content to the Asset Store, but it is not enough.
For the same function you can find multiple solutions and you cannot really compare them without detailed presentation guidelines, forced by Asset Store rules.
You cannot be sure if the purchased asset will work with others or not.
Earlier I wrote related to 3DS Max that the newly implemented features mostly look like as if the developers just sticked notes on the screen of our monitor. Well, in case of Unity it is worse: the extensions fall down regularly and they ‘failed to load’. ‘Extensions’ and ‘model assets’ should be handled in a separate way.
– There are no ‘reliable’ reviews from ‘pro’ users. I mean how should I trust in a user who spends her/his first day in game development with Unity and never used it for making money?
Half of the assets/tools I bought from the Asset Store was crap, sometimes the info provided in the ‘details’ section was misleading.
Some of the developers simple do not answer to emails.
3. The biggest problems with outsourcing development to 3rd party developers
Free and cheap (0 – 400 USD) game engine packages offer features like built-in sky system with day/night cycle, weather, high quality shaders with up-to-date technology, cutscene creator, etc. In Unity you have to buy all of these stuff separately without any guarantee that they will work together. I checked some of them: they were not working together even with the built-in (official) Unity functions. Then what about 3rd party tools?
You can easily download a package what related to real-time lighting, but you have to tweak all of your formerly used shaders to work with it. (What the f..k?)
Would you like to speed up lightmapping? Buy a 3rd party tool for network rendering. (Well done!)
You need per object glow? Buy it!
You need a real-time area light? Buy it!
You need fur shader? Buy it!
Let me to be honest: from an app what costs 1500 USD (+ other license costs like 500 bucks for the asset server) I expect to offer all of these functions as built-in features.
I want to get up-to-date quality shaders (separately: 35-50 EUR per package),
texture streaming for using bigger textures than 4K (separately: 350-400 EUR),
image based lighting (separately: 90 EUR),
high-quality shadows (separately: from 45 EUR to 90 EUR),
scattering tool (separately: 45 EUR),
everything what is available in cheaper apps, cause I can continue this list for a while..
As a Unity customer you can easily spend a few thousand dollars for buying the missing – and for 2013 – very basic and expected features.
Maybe one could ask me from Unity Crew after reading this.
– Do you expect us to put all the functions you saw in other tools into Unity? Don’t you think it is a nonsense?
What can I say?
Well, I don’t think that it is a nonsense. Being the first on the market comes with expectations from the customer side.
Of course – as I wrote formerly – I understand the business model behind: good programmers as employees cost a lot for the employer, while the company gets percentage from every sold items in the Asset Store. From every single sky system, from every single shader pack.
Not a difficult choice, considering the income.
‘Autodesk of the mobile game development’ – I said before.
But let me to say something: I remember for the reason when I switched to Unity from Quest3D: they didn’t listen to the needs of their customers. Well, it could happen again.