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Of Unity, childhood and making games

winter shared a few ideas that connected deeply with me:

Unity and Runtime Fees: Reflecting on a Decade Making Games

Going back 30 years in time (insert sound effect of time travel)

As a child from the 90s living in a small city in Mexico, playing video games was something out of this world... from the future.

Having an Arcade machine in the neighborhood, paying a few quarters, and enjoying 15 minutes of the latest game was amazing.

I remember the release of Nintendo 64 with stunning 3D graphics, and having change to play for a few minutes in every store. Also, sound cards and 3D graphic cards were more accessible, so we could play in our family computers.

In 1993, I had the chance to learn GW-Basic and Logo at elementary school, and later QBasic which was installed in the family computer with MS-DOS 6.22.

As you can imagine, that small kid was dreaming of making games, starting a video game studio, and perhaps creating something reaching dozens of countries.

Then as a teenager I switched to Visual Basic 6, then to VB .NET, and C# 3.0.

I made a few games for university, like "Business simulators", with simple graphics on WinForms, and every trick I could find to improve UI and performance.

And more recently, started working full time making games from 2015 to 2021 as producer and Backend dev.

I always liked C#, and when I discovered Unity was using that language, it was smooth to start learning that engine.

And I tried to learn C++, but never found something 'interesting' to make with it, and although I joined a local group of developers it was too hard to even clone a Tetris or a Pong.

So, what happened in the last few years?

What I could summarize from these many years dreaming and working on games is that playing games, making games, making something for a game (art, code, publishing, testing among many activities), doing journalism, teaching about making games, and having a creative studio are completely different things, although from a player perspective it looks 'almost' the same. As public, we don't know the many things happening behind the curtains. And that's OK, it's part of the magic.

Making games for a living has been extremely hard due to many biases I have, and that many creators we have as well.

We mix art with design, hobbies with a work, and the rebellion of creativity with a public paying for our creations.

Dreams join with markets, and we depend on a public to live well enough. Also with 'greedy' investors, and many sensitive topics like Laws, accountancy, and regulations.

I've talked about that, so I won't say more here. I see a few friends having a pretty good life, and some others burned out of living the dream.

Currently, I'm going back to make games as a hobby, since I always have the itch. I always return to what I love. Although, expecting from an audience to support our lifestyle is not for everyone.

About engines

There is always the long discussion of making your own engine: "You are not a real developer if you don't make your own tools"

Ok, but which tools are we going to make?... The 2D/3D engine, the libraries, a language, the electronics.

We have to start somewhere. So I don't see bad to use a tool helping to make your dream a reality, or to join a work force trying to optimize the time to make something.

What happened with Unity is similar to what we've seen on VC supported companies.

"We'll offer this tool for free during 5 years, and then we'll start changing the conditions to get more money from it. Stay or leave."

And here starts a pretty sensitive topic. Not everyone wants to earn money from their creations. It'll take the passion out from it. But the toolmaker doesn't like you since you are not giving them money.

What was before a trust system, now it's a must with invasive analytics.

How Unity Knows how Much My Game sold

And yes, the trust to that company offering a free product has eroded.

Making games professionally is always changing, although by 2023 it's in a really difficult position. It is not comfortable to work on games, and now it's being more difficult than ever, as many journalists and members have analyzed.

Buuut, as I've said, making games for passion, without monetary interests, is simpler than ever. There are a lot of engines, a few of them open sourced. Many resources, free courses and readings. If you have a computer, much time and a few friends, you can make a game. Development kits for consoles are available for indies without need of a huge investment. Creating a game studio is like the equivalent of a 90s Garage band. I won't say it's easy to make "the best game of 2023", but it'll be a game at the end.

So creating for the love of art is possible, and today my inner child is happier than ever.



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