Learning Unity in 2014

I’ve been aware of Unity3D for a long time, even dabbled in a few tutorials to try learn it over the past couple of years or so, though I never made it past the point where it became intuitive enough for use on a project.

There always seemed to be a barrier.. until now.

Recently after making a 2D platform game in Flash called Blind Escape, released on Desura December 2013. I decided my next game dev challenge should be a 3D game.

I started out with the usually YouTube tutorials and Unity learning resources. Downloaded the latest Unity build v4.3 and re-familiarised myself with the IDE interface and basic workflows.
I made progress as expected by building a concept of my previous 2D game ‘Blind Escape’ in 3D – (Playable Here).
Though this experience was fun and I did make something playable even if it was only a concept level, I was happy to of done it all in Unity with the ‘Free’ version.

I did however stumble upon a few restrictions only remedied with either buying the Pro Unity licence or purchasing assets from the Unity store. Something I’m not use to encountering coming from a Flash background.

I’ve always had the opportunity to develop outside the platforms own commercial IDE if I wanted to, for me that was using Eclipse for actionscript, I found Eclipse more than adequate and rarely used Adobe Flash Pro or Flash Builder. But Unity is different as it’s not a pure code environment and relies on the Unity IDE to make stuff.

At the moment I’m reluctant to invest in a Pro licence until I can justify it can make me some money back, so as a temporary measure I did invest in some assets that would increase my workflow in the Free version.

The aim now is to build a few small games to develop my proficiency in using Unity, once happy I can produce something that can return my investment I will buy into the Unity Pro subscription model and build something more commercial.

In the meantime I can only hope to look to return on my Unity assets investment by making small games to list on some Indie Game outlets, all fuelled by getting involved with the One Game A Month challenge and some Game Jams to focus my attention on Game Dev.

Digitally Mugged

UPDATE – 19/01/2014
This issue has now been fully resolved, Director of Support at Unity ‘Graham Dunnett’ has provided adequate assurance to the issues I have raised in a very prompt manner this weekend.

Graham’s acknowledgement that the first time purchasers experience on Unity’s Asset store will be addressed, has reassured me that Unity Technologies will continue to be a great company in providing the tools and services we can trust in.

Thank you Graham.

I’m no stranger to online purchases, having worked on e-commerce websites and of course been an end user myself, I would like to think I have a good grasp on online transactions. Though recently I was confounded at how I ended up unknowingly paying more for online goods than I had originally agreed to.

So here’s what happened and I put it to you for your opinion as whether I was really ‘Digitally Mugged’ or not.

If you made a purchase for two items totalling an informed cost (advertised on the store) of $160 would you be happy to pay $205 after the checkout procedure?

Well that happened to me and here’s how:

  1. I researched a few items I was interested in purchasing.
  2. I proceeded to head to the online store to purchase the items and check their prices.
  3. I confirmed that both items I wanted were available.
  4. I checked the US Dollar advertised price was within my budget by visiting an online currency convertor.
  5. I added the items to the cart knowing the advertised cost was within my budget.
  6. I double checked the cost in the cart was the same as advertised on the store.
  7. I double checked the total cost of both items on the online currency convertor
  8. Happy believing both items was within my budget I proceeded to the checkout.
  9. Checkout without warning added 25% tax (VAT) to the transaction.
  10. Checkout without warning converted the currency from USD to Euros
  11. Only visual evidence of a change in cost was the use of a Euro sign next to the total instead of a a US Dollar sign.
  12. Without any notification cost had changed (increase of 25%) I proceeded to make a credit card payment for the goods.
  13. For a very short time I was happy and excited about my purchase.

Now I know what your thinking, an additional increase of about 25% would be noticeable so why make the final card payment. I would probably say the same but let’s break this down into numbers that I would of seen.

I added ‘160’ US dollars of digital goods to the cart, nothing advertised whether tax was included or not. (So effectively tax was a hidden charge)
In the checkout that was converted to Euro and an additional 25% added on for tax (VAT) ‘WITHOUT ANY WARNING’
That new total in Euro was ‘152’.

Now can you see how that does not look like a significant increase in cost? New price immediately looks like $8 dollars cheaper, remember that there was no notification of currency change or added tax.

Surely I can’t be the only one that finds that borders the edges of fraudulent activity. By changing currency without warning they have hidden the cost of tax during the checkout process, so the end user is unaware they have paid about 25% more for the goods than they originally thought they would.

Note: Whilst I admit that the Euro sign was on the checkout amount, no warning had be given to the end user that would highlight it as something important to check, so easily browsed over and missed.

So was I ‘Digitally Mugged’? SHould the store of been more transparent in warning the end user of the changes in cost during the checkout?

In the meantime I’m communicating with the company in question about the experience, I will update this post if I get any new information. Their view so far is the additional cost was it was tax.. no opinion on whether changing currency or adding tax without warning was appropriate or not.. I have responded to them and awaiting to hear back on a more detailed response that can justify their checkout process.

You can leave a comment or tweet/email/FB me you opinions, I’d be interested in hearing your views.

Something to note, the cost of the items I purchased now reflect the new cost with tax on the store ie from $65 pre purchase to the new $81.25. If I log out of my account for the store it shows $65 again.
No mention on either that the amount has tax included or not.

Just received a second response from the company in question and since they deem to see no fault I have no reservations in naming the company as Unity3d.
Their latest response to my checkout experience was:

Hi There,

Thanks for the e-mail.

You was charged €152.00 which translates to round about £126.39.

You are the only current user who is stating that the checkout process does not display the truth about what is being charged. I’m not sure how to say what we are going to do about an issue we cannot reproduce.

If you wish to be refunded than please let me know.

The email they responded to had the following attachments which clearly highlight different prices in the same currency for the same item.
Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 11.45.25Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 11.45.51

At no point has Unity accept that adding vat without notification is inappropriate.
At no point has Unity accepted changing currency mid transaction is inappropriate.
Unity accepts that since I am the only one to have noticed this that they deem in insignificant to act on to ensure their future customers are informed appropriately.

I have no issue about the fact I had to pay 25% tax on my purchase, I accept that and I’m pleased with the products. What I have issues with is the lack of acceptance that Unity has a responsibility to inform it’s users appropriately throughout their checkout process. Furthermore I have an issue that my experience is deemed unimportant to act on because I’m the only one to highlight it as a concern.

Seriously, if any of my clients had one of their customers report this as an experience on an e-commerce site I’d built, I would be rolled over hot coals and made to investigate and correct any issues immediately. Even if it was just one customer reporting it..

You know what Unity.. I expected better from a company that is leading the field in cross platform interactive media.

Dear Fan-Boi

Dear technology X fan-boi.. sit the F*@k down and shut up!

I like checking out peoples code experiments, it’s interesting and fun to see how people tackle problems and implement solutions, the point here is they are experiments.. not real world solutions.

What annoys me is when the fan-boi parade comes to town and starts telling everyone how great a solution is because it used X technology instead of Y or Z.

To make things even more irritating is when an ‘experiment’ is claimed as a great implementation to replace an existing practice when in fact the solution is simply X amount more complex to implement or just simply unstable.

For example, the use of many divs with css transforms, animation and z-indexing to mask and manipulate visual content all to get a result that could be more easily implemented in a couple of lines of js and a canvas element.. less mark-up.. less scripting.. plus more importantly faster real world application.

I’m not saying making Pong or generating animated images from pure CSS is wrong or building web widgets with way to many transformed/animated/masked html divs and JS is a waste of time. What I am saying is it’s fun to experiment and showcase someones creative ability, especially when it pushes the limits of a technology as we all know this helps to progress and improved on said technology. In real world terms though an experiment is unlikely to be practical as a solution and no amount of fan-boi fanfare and bandwagon chasing is going to make it anything more than an interesting/fun experiment.

Yes one day technology X may replace Y and Z but today it’s still X and if X is more practical, stable and faster to implement, then choosing an alternative is dumb!

So back to my opening statement..

Dear technology X fan-boi, cool-aid make you look dumb! #justSaying