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We need talk about Unity, the game engine

Unity Game Engine

Last week brought a lot of big and wild news. Unity Game Engine announced pricing changes that upset and confused many developers. For those that were camping off the grid for a week here’s the scoop.

While Unity themselves have already announced that they are walking back this policy change, they have yet to identify how. And what remains is broken trust.

Unity Editor's note: We have heard you. We apologize for the confusion and angst the runtime fee policy caused

So if you’re a game developer working solo or with a team and use Unity you likely have already considered a new game engine. We agree that’s a shrewd consideration.

We also want to remind you that we are vendor agnostic. This means we are not necessarily for or against any particular software or hardware. We use a wide variety of different vendor’s technologies and consult you on the best fit for your goals. We tend to prefer free open source software because it is free as in freedom. This means you have control over your tech and executive boards cannot make broad changes on a whim. There are major downsides to this approach including requiring extra support from a community that is often part-time or volunteer.

The Switch, it’s not just Nintendo anymore

We also recognize switching game engines in the middle of development is madness. But you don’t have to take our word for it, just listen to Tom Coxon developer of Cassette Beasts. While you’re at it, if you like creature collector games like Pokemon, you owe it to yourself to play his delightful indie game!

Better off wait for the next project to switch, especially now that Unity themselves may be reversing course on some of the policy changes.

What’s the big deal? How did we get here?

Way back in 2014 when CEO of EA had left to become the new CEO of Unity technologies many people saw this as a warning sign. Riccitiello said about a year ago that mobile game developers who opted not to use Unity’s advertising tools were “some of the biggest f@#$ing idiots.” And he did that while the company was knee deep in laying off 4% of their employees.

Zoom back to a couple weeks ago when you saw executives selling off stocks ahead of this controversial announcement to require developers to pay every time someone downloads a game made with their engine. This is on top of any subscription license fee you are already paying for their software tools.

(Rust game developer) Facepunch Studios would owe [Unity] $410,000 based on the number of installs.

Garry Newman

While it doesn’t appear that any of this is technically illegal, it’s a really bad look for Unity. We have seen reports of people making threats to Unity which is undeniably illegal, wrong, and we do not support such actions. Instead, you do have other options which we will talk about below.

Breach of Trust

On top of new fees, Unity did not do a great job of explaining how they would even measure the amount of fees owed by developers. While there were some forms of exemptions it seems clearly something that would squeeze out a lot of smaller developer studios. It hurts doubly when we remember how Unity started by making a great game engine that was available to learn, use, and pay for all within a small team’s resources.

If you’ve heard our founder say anything you’ve probably heard Alan Youngblood quote the old Russian proverb: “Trust. But verify.” We always work to be open, honest, and understanding so that we can earn the trust of our clients, partners, and community.

What Unity has done whether they reverse it fully or not signals a breach of trust with developers who are their customers. Sadly, there have been some other notable business changes that have at least left people scratching their heads, and at most caused serious damage to their own brand. Or maybe just a reminder that you aren’t getting enough value to resubscribe to a service like Sony’s PSN plus.

I want you back

Things don’t always go over as we expect in life. If you work in the board rooms of a big business or have the ear of someone making these decisions I think there’s a few simple strategies we may suggest:

  • Voluntarily freeze stock trading, especially among executives for a few weeks before and after your major business change. Lots of businesses have technical “soak” time built in to monitor the effects of a major change request, it might help your business and finance teams to do the same.
  • Know what you are known for. In the examples above Unity is known for being accessible and affordable to anyone wanting to make games; RedHat is known for being the first successful business using the open-source model; Twitter is known for having fun quick quips allowing anyone to participate in the conversation; PlayStation Network was known for adding a lot of value with monthly free games and great online play. In each case, those organizations have been perceived as violating those core identities with the people who matter most.
  • We all have to raise our prices some times and it can be painful for all involved. Instead of try to bury the lead look to inform your customers why you see it as necessary. If possible, change the offering of services or products to assure that you are also adding some value to that higher price tag.
  • Treat your employees with respect and your customers will notice. If you really need to raise prices to keep your employees it will undermine your case to be laying people off or showing contradictory actions and policies.

Alternative Game Engines

Now for something completely different: good news? Yes, good news! You aren’t totally locked in to a vendor, and while there are concerns when switching tech tools you may find they are worth it. A great way to make the move is to first not make the move. Hear us out, you can get a free version of most of these engines and work on a game jam project over the weekend or in your free time and see if you like it. If not, it’s trivial time investment and then you can try another one from our list or another source.

  • Godot Engine Logo Godot Engine – A great free open source software solution that has cross-platform game engine and tools to make 2D and 3D games. Godot is one of the better options for 2D/retro styled games. If you are targeting release of your game on low-end devices or the web we recommend checking out version 3.5.2 or whatever is marked LTS at the time, otherwise you may want to use the version 4.x. We also recommend you get the “with Mono” version especially if you want to keep using C# like you did in Unity. Here’s a quick start guide coming over from Unity.
  • Epic Games Unreal Engine Unreal Engine – A great proprietary game engine developed by the teams behind Fortnite, and classic games like Gears of War, and Unreal Tournament. Great for making 3D games and content!
  • GameMaker logo GameMaker Studio – Boasts itself as The Ultimate 2D Game Engine and with titles like Hyper Light Drifter, Hotline Miami, and Katana Zero it’s easy to see why! Coming from Unity? Here’s a quick start guide to jump right in!

Version Control Systems

As you are navigating some of these decisions and changes at your developer studio, you may encounter something that’s overwhelming or you just want another opinion.

Our company’s founder Alan Youngblood started out his career in game dev and still does it as a hobbyist. We also are excited to share that we have been helping Mighty Rabbit Studios with their IT infrastructure needs this year.

The company has been through a few changes over the years, and they’ve been staffing up while working on new projects this year. One of the early needs was a version control system (VCS) and we consulted with their in house tech lead to design, build, configure and even in this case host their VCS server.

When we started many on their team had experience with Perforce and we set that up. As they grew they asked for a license quote and decided it was no longer the best fit for their needs. We take a lot of pride in being able to quickly spin up a docker image of GitLab that is now their VCS solution.

Growth Pain Points

Much like Mighty Rabbit Studios’ growing pains big changes can also be uncomfortable. But it’s worth it when you have important new goals to meet. If you are not a game developer and you’ve read all of this, thanks! There are actually many ways some of these trends can apply to your business. Big change happens everywhere and whether it is by seeming edict or necessity of your operations we want to help smooth out your technology.

I came here to make games and chew bubble gum…

And I’m all out of gum!

For the game developers out there if you haven’t already, contact us! Share this article with your friends in the industry. We have over a decade of IT industry experience on top of experience with game dev. We are fluent in your dialect and can quickly help you with any tech challenges you face.

Enjoyed reading our thoughts here? Want to hear more about a new way of thinking in economics for your business? Check out our post about Doughnut Economics to see how re-thinking the economy can serve your goals better and prevent PR and productions disasters like we discussed today.

Inflation Doughnut Economics and iPhones

Pexels Stock Photo of iPhone

Inflation, Doughnut Economics and iPhones: In a world where everywhere you turn there’s inflation, how do we save money? And what do the new Apple iPhones have to do with these larger economic, social, and political trends? What about implications for your own tech and digital security?

Photo by Soulful Pizza on Pexels.com


It seems like everywhere you look prices are going up. We are seeing this in technology as well. Monthly fees for line-of-business software rise. In our hobbies it shows like the recent rate hike announcement from Sony for Playstation Network subscriptions.

For the last year we’ve seen lots of massive layoffs in the tech industry. The social media company and platform formerly known as Twitter has slashed 70% of its workforce. All this happened since changing ownership about a year ago! In my gardening hobby I’ve learned the value of carefully pruning plants to yield better fruits. But there’s a major difference in pruning and the business mantra “cut your way to growth.” Especially when the latter is more of a hatchet job or dismemberment plan.

The sane and empathic response requires our hearts to break. But instead the calculating optimization algorithms driving the economy are in charge of these decisions.

Is Capitalism the Problem? What about Communism?

Let’s start this weighty discussion with some humor from the 1980’s with comedian Yakov Smirnoff:

Smirnoff jokes about “In Soviet Russia…” as one of his trademark standup routines. For example: “In America, your job determines your marks. In Soviet Russia, Marx determine your job!”

Before we segue into the more serious part of this post we want to remind you we are aware of who we are, where we are, and why we are. We acknowledge you are in a different place and anything we discuss has nuance and value for you. You are welcomed to disagree based on your personal beliefs or values. That’s okay. You have worth regardless of whether we agree or disagree. We also recognize that the US is a republican democracy with recent leanings towards authoritarianism. Our economy is a mixed economy that trends towards being more free market capitalist in most instances.

It’s the Stupid Economy

Moving right to the big idea: something’s wrong with our economy. I think that’s a rather uncontroversial empirically observable truth. It may be objectionable to those who are currently wealthy enough to benefit from the status quo. But even those of you in that group must see the writing on the wall. If the economy doesn’t work for most of the people in it, it becomes volatile.

The prices of goods and services are rising. The stock market volatility harms your retirement options. Many people experience wage stagnation. Maybe you cannot afford child care. Or medical expenses leave you in debt. The economy is certainly struggling. In the entrepreneurial spirit, these pain points can also be opportunities. We will acknowledge too that this economy itself is doing well by the current metrics. Notice inflation has largely been under control from its peak in the summer of 2022.

How can it possibly be true that the economy is doing well and inflation is down, but I’m still paying more at the gas pump?

Smirnoff’s jokes are referenced because we are thinking that both capitalism and communism are out dated and poorly serve humanity’s needs today.

Regardless, we remain very hopeful and optimistic about our shared human future. We can make changes and better serve people today while succeeding in business. Does that sound good to you too? Then let’s get started!

Doughnut Economics

Kate Raworth quips in her book Doughnut Economics: “These citizens of 2050 are being taught an economic mindset that is rooted in the textbooks of 1950, which in turn are rooted in the theories of of 1850.”

There’s a lot to this new economic theory, but we’ll summarize and link you to the author herself explaining it in less than 8 minutes.

Doughnut Economics

Doughnut Economics comes from the above diagram that is a literal game changer. It invites us to think about the economy and our relationship to it differently in these ways:

  1. Change the goal – from GDP to the Doughnut (above)
  2. See the big picture – instead of self-contained markets we have embedded markets in a larger whole
  3. Nurture human nature – from rational economic man to social adaptable humans
  4. Get savvy with systems – from mechanical equilibrium to dynamic complexity
  5. Design to distribute from growth will even the playing field to distributive by design
  6. Create to regenerate – from growth will clean it up to regenerative by design
  7. Be agnostic about growth – from growth addicted to growth agnostic

There are no externalities as Herman Daly would say, your model is just not big enough.

Inflation Doughnut Economics and New iPhones

Okay, what does any of this talk of inflation and doughnut economics have to do with iPhones? Surprisingly quite a bit.

Earlier this week Apple announced the latest iPhone models in the 15 series.

iPhone 15 New features

There are a number of cool new features on the latest iPhones. They have better cameras, dynamic island on all new iPhones, and our personal favorite a USB-C charging port.

We’ve been following the news that lead to the USB-C port for a while now from the European Union. Cheers mates! This is welcomed news for everyone! Now there’s no more “hey do you have a charger I can use?” Only to get let down with a response like, “oh, sorry I don’t have an iPhone.”

It also means less tech waste or trash. And while we’re on that note there’s an important thing to say about your old phone, actually several. No matter if you’re getting the shiny new titanium iPhone Pro you’ll still want to hear how you can turn your trash into treasure.

End of Lifecycle Tips

All good things in life must come to an end at some point. So for a smartphone, a wise person will evaluate the full lifecycle of the phone.

Pricing has a lot of catches to look out. Some of us joke about the “Apple tax” because they charge more for their products than competitors. They also tend to provide better long term value.

Here’s my personal example: I have an iPhone Xr I purchased 5 years ago. There’s a slight bit of battery degradation due to normal use. Otherwise it’s in good condition.

It was $800 when I purchased it. So simple math says that $800/5 years = $160 per year.

While it’s hard to do a direct comparison with Android. There’s a lot of options and variables so we’ll compare to Google’s Pixel 3 from 2018. Google does featured support for 3 years, which is also better than other Android device makers.

At the same price of $800/3 years = $267 per year. Expect worse with Android makers that don’t support their devices as well as Google does.

There’s a very similar prospect with Windows PC’s (especially laptops) compared to Apple MacBooks which last much longer on average.

Trade-in Tips

Here’s where your proverbial trash becomes treasure, but there’s a few warnings to be aware.

You’ve likely also seen those cellular company commercials with antiques roadshow themes talking about trading in your old device. This is generally a good idea if you do not plan to use them anymore. If you want to sell them to another person online like on craigslist or ebay, that’s a good option to get more money.

Tech trash is a big problem in our industry. One way we can help make a better 21st century is thinking like a Doughnut Economist. My grandparents grew up during the Great Depression which ingrained the idea wear it out, use it up, or do without. But they also became low-key hoarders due to their lack of having stuff in formative years.

We can combine the good of the Depression Era wisdom with our modern needs and sensibilities for a better perspective. We should first recognize our needs and values better. Then look at the bigger picture to move towards sustainable and ultimately regenerative practices in our economy. So certainly use up your resources if you can’t find some that are regenerative. But while you are doing it ask yourself if you can make them last longer. You might be surprised by your own ingenuity!

Smartphone Trade-in Considerations

What to look for in your trade-in deal:

  • What year/model current phone do you have?
  • Do you plan on using it for anything after you get a new one?
  • Do you think anyone else might want to use it? (Check sites like eBay to see what people are paying for it)
  • What condition is your phone in? Scratches, blemishes and broken parts will decrease the trade-in value. Consider getting a new phone you can hold easily without dropping, maybe invest in a case or screen protector?
  • What cellular service company do you use? Are you happy with them? Many times you’ll need to be in a contract with them for a while to get the deal.
  • Where does the trade-in valuation take place? Many deals offer you the convenience of mailing in your old device after getting a new one. But this means you have to trust them fully to value it accurately. Find a trade-in offer in person that way it should be readily apparent to everyone why your phone got devalued.

My estimate is $350 credit with a 3 years plan. This brings a new iPhone 15’s price down from $800 to $450. Then if you average that over the next 5 years you get $90 per year. That’s looking really affordable. Like most adults I use my smartphone for lots of things from running my business to planning my social life.

Save Money and Improve Your Product Lifecycles

At large companies, there are often people who specialize in parts of the supply chain. But as individuals and small businesses the thought might be new. Give yourself some time to mull it over. You will find lots of great new ways to save money, improve value, and eliminate waste.

Do you have a drawer of old technology you don’t know what to do with?

Does your company have a supply closet overflowing with technology?

Do you use out of date technology that connects online but lacks crucial security updates?

Would you like to get more out of your technology investments?

Safely repurposing, recycling or disposing technology equipment and data is also important to your security posture. Make sure that you are not literally dumping a device with access to your bank account. A hacker could find it and have access to your treasure in bank accounts just by combing through your trash!

Be creative; you’ll find lots of ways to get more out of your technology or reuse it. But if you need help anywhere along the way, we’re happy to advise you. You can surprise us, but you won’t stump us. Contact us to see how we can improve your tech lifecycle!