Popular game engine Unity is one of the greatest boons the videogame industry has ever sent. By creating a game in Unity, developers can easily port it to a variety of platforms. Just look at how much the Windows Phone gaming scene has improved since Unity titles started showing up in March of last year.
Unity also has strong Xbox One support. First announced back in November, all members of Microsoft's ID@Xbox program receive a free limited Unity Pro license with Xbox One deployment add-on. It's not unlike today's separate announcement that ID@Xbox users will get free GameMaker: Studio support. The GameMaker offer hasn't started just yet, but the public preview of Unity for Xbox One officially kicked off this week. That's cool and all, but the games are the really exciting part. Read on to find out about some of the most promising Unity games coming to Xbox One.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
Xbox One development made easy
Some core Xbox One development features are included directly inside of Unity. But a great many of the Xbox One-specific functions that developers will need are distributed within an independent package of plugins (the Xbox One deployment add-on).
One of the challenges of Xbox One development is the console's high number of asynchronous APIs. Unity's native plugins make the integration of Microsoft APIs with Unity as much more painless process. Constructs like the EventQueue assist with calling into Unity systems from asynchronous callbacks.
For the folks at home, Wikipedia defines a callback as "a piece of executable code that is passed as an argument to other code, which is expected to call back (execute) the argument at some convenient time." A callback that occurs at a later time instead of immediately is asynchronous. There you go, you're ready to head out and get your computer science degree!
The current version of Unity for Xbox One is based on Unity 4.3. The Unity company does not plan to update the Xbox One release to Unity 4.5 (which debuted in May). Instead, Xbox One support will skip to Unity 5.0 at the appropriate time. Unity plans to continue supporting Unity 4.3 (including XDK upgrades) into 2015. Developers who start working with 4.3 won't be left in the dust.
Upcoming ID@Xbox titles made with Unity
Cuphead from Studio MDHR
One of the games everybody frothed over at E3, Cuphead is strikingly beautiful. The hand-drawn art style emulates that of 1930s cartoons, with large-eyed and expressive characters. Cuphead will be a one- or two-player action platformer – always a fun genre. The cupheaded protagonists must battle huge and interesting monsters by jumping, dodging, and firing blasts from their fingers. We'll have to wait until 2015 to play Cuphead, but it looks to be more than worth the wait.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime from Asteroid Base
The Unity title I'm most looking forward to as a game is Lovers. One or two local players will man a spherical pink spaceship as it flies through procedurally generated star systems. The randomized gameplay means you'll have a different experience every time you play, not unlike popular space sim FTL. If you're not playing in co-op, an AI space dog will take over as your partner. Lovers looks very cute and very different.
Ori and the Blind Forest from Moon Studios
Another E3 highlight, Ori and the Blind Forest also looks rather stunning. Players take on the role of a forest spirit who must discover his purpose within a heavily atmospheric world. Ori and the Blind Forest is a 2D Metroidvania-style game, much like the phenomenal Guacamelee. If Moon Studios can get anywhere near that level of quality (and the inspiration they claim from Zelda: a Link to the Past and Super Metroid certainly can't hurt), then we could be looking at a new genre classic. Ori will launch later this fall.
Roundabout from No Goblin
And now for something completely different! Roundabout has been making the rounds at shows like PAX, where its humorous premise impressed critics and players alike. In this game, you play as a constantly rotating limousine. The goal is to navigate through levels without crashing into too many obstacles while delivering passengers to their destinations. Watch the trailer and you'll see the game's undeniably offbeat potential.
Windows Phone Central has previewed and reviewed a number of ID@Xbox games already, including Worms Battlegrounds, Guacamelee, Another World, and more. Check out our ID@Xbox playlist on YouTube for genuine gameplay footage from each game.
Developers who are interested in joining the ID@Xbox program should visit www.xbox.com/id to sign up. Be warned that according to some reports, non-established developers face a lengthy wait to gain acceptance to the program. We're very interested in how ID@Xbox works… Stay tuned for future investigative coverage.