Unity: Our AAA push is motivated by users

CEO David Helgason says devs are "hitting the limitations of Unity", new AAA office a response

Unity Technologies' decision to push into AAA development is motivated by the efforts of its community.

In an exclusive interview with, CEO David Helgason explained that, while the Unity development tool is principally associated with smaller projects, the opening of a AAA-focused Stockholm office in June was a response to the activity of its users.

"We've always been really, really good at focusing on low-end platforms and small and medium teams," he said, "but the thing is our customers are becoming more and more ambitious with Unity, and trust Unity more and more."

"At this point, either in the works or launched, there are several projects with team sizes between 40 and 80 people, which is becoming pretty damn big. These people are hitting the limitations of Unity that we started fixing... early this year or late last year."

There are several projects with team sizes between 40 and 80 people, which is becoming pretty damn big. These people are hitting the limitations of Unity

David Helgason, Unity

The Stockholm office is led by Erik Hemming and Erland Körner - both former employees of DICE, with credits including Mirror's Edge, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit and Battlefield 3 - and Helgason explains that both men were all too eager to join the company.

"At that level they want to come and join Unity, because they feel it's a place they can apply their skills in an impactful way. I feel there are a number of people who have been doing AAA game development for a while, and they don't necessarily get tired of it, but feel that it's sort of a treadmill."

Expanding Unity's reach into AAA territory could be seen as a move away from its core principles, but Helgason believes that the pace of progress in mobile technology will soon demand more sophisticated tools.

"Andorid devices and iOS devices are iterating so rapidly that we're seeing multi-core, and loads of RAM, and lots of ability to push complex content. So some of these engine techniques that have traditionally only been useful on gaming PCs and consoles are becoming relevant now on these devices."

"The thing is that in the design process of figuring out how we should implement these features, it turned out that, practically, all of these changes will benefit everyone in Unity, not just high-end, AAA, large teams."

For the full interview, head over to the features section.

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Latest comments (8)

Jeffrey Kesselman CTO, Nphos6 years ago
Unity will never be a truly viable triple A development platform until they release their iron grip on how their customers use their tool:
(1) get rid of ALL class sealing.
(2) make source available at a reasonable price
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Dibyendu Das Engineering Lead, Shoonya Game Technology Pvt Ltd6 years ago
As Jeffrey mentions, if unity has AAA platform ambitions it needs to provide source access at less than "hundreds of thousands of dollars". At that price I'd rather look at UE3.

The problem I see with source licensing is that licensees might easily break compatibility with webplayers installed on millions of machines. That's the only place were you have a player not packaged with the game content, unlike iOS /PS3 /Standalone. Now I'm not sure what cross section of AAA devs are actually interested in a browser based solution anyway, besides browser based MMOs. From Unity's perspective its a divergence from their one platform fits all targets.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dibyendu Das on 15th August 2011 5:02pm

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Tony Burnside Co-founder, Ballistic Studios, LLC6 years ago
Unity just doesn't make itself very clear. You try to do some research on Devs ability to use this engine (Xbox360) and you find so much confusing info. Not only that, I was told by a rep that you have to be a Microsoft Certified Developer in order to use it. Now that tends to be a problem for ANY start up looking to build a game using their engine. Can anyone confirm the Certified part as fact?
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Show all comments (8)
Mike Wuetherick Lead Designer, Super Mega Awesome Games6 years ago
of course you have to be a certified developer to license the tech for the 360 - without being a certified dev, you can't get access to dev kits, the xbox sdk and other rather crucial components of the development pipeline. this isn't anything special or unique among middleware providers. I'm pretty sure that this is dictated from Microsoft - they require the certification so that middleware providers only licenses tech that includes xbox-specific libraries / runtimes etc to 'qualified' developers.

Having said that, it's very much a chicken and the egg scenario - but I think that the objective with something like Unity is that you develop your prototypes on PC and everything should 'just work' on the 360 etc. Of course in practical reality this is unreasonable to expect, but you should be able to get your title developed to a state that it allows you to demonstrate / showcase your game to publishers - which is also a requirement for getting your game onto the 360 in any kind of serious form.

Bottom line:
1) develop game for PC
2) pitch game to publishers for 360 sku
3) publisher helps you get 360 certification (without a publisher microsoft won't give you the time of day)
4) get 360 certification, port game to 360
5) game is on 360

If you can get past step 2, you're doing pretty good ;P
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Manoel Balbino Programmer, Playlore6 years ago
Considering Unity runs almost entirely single-thread, I would be very careful with code complexity in a PC prototype, since it could easily fall apart when ported in the 360.
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The better unity does, the more popped collars this CEO guy rocks.

It all started a couple of years ago with one that would have made Dracula blush, but in this article's thumb he has like 3, one on top of another.

Must be horrible for him... if the company does too well, he could be strangled.
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Adam Yaure Studying MSc Games Programming, University of Hull6 years ago
Yes, you'll need to be in the Sony developer network.
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David Helgason CEO & Co-founder, Unity Technologies6 years ago
@Jeffrey: as noted on another post, we know of 500,000 developers who beg to differ (of which ~50,000 have commercial licenses) – including some very significant ones. I don't think we ever heard anyone complain about sealed classes, since our component based structure suits itself to extending in other ways than by inheriting from our classes. And regarding source code access: we do license our source code to a lot of different studios at terms that I think are quite reasonable for most game developers. But more importantly, few people actually need it.

@Dibyendu & Tony & Facy: Sony and Microsoft and Nintendo indeed require us (and all other game engine and middleware vendors) to only license our PS3 and XBOX360 and Wii export tools to authorized developers. It's sad, but they have their reasons and they decide. They have opened their platforms more than historically though, so it's much easier (and cheaper) to get approved than historically. Alas, we can't really help beyond point our customers-to-be in the right direction. We are already licensing all three "current ten" console versions, and there's titles on all three platforms that already have passed certification. Please contact if you want to find out more.

@Manoel: historically we only ran a few things on a single thread, but in the last years we've been threading the engine more and more. Now physics, mesh skinning, audio playback, and a few other things are already threaded. And we're currently finishing up a multithreaded renderer, plus working on getting more and more tasks offloaded to threads. We've been staffing our engineering team with engineering wizards from DICE, IOI, CryTek, and other AAA studios recently, and we're not letting up anytime soon (you can read the interview above to find out more).

@Jorge: if I have to get strangled for Unity to succeed, I'll accept my fate :)
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