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Unity Has An Image Problem, But It's Mostly Our Fault


Ah, yes… Unity, that free little game engine that has opened up game development to any Tom, Dick and Harry that wants to have shot at making the next Call of Duty. Apparently, Unity has an image problem. Snobbery says I, and hopefully I will prove it. See, I am as much of an internet snob as the next guy. I try not to be, but I am. It is inevitable and unstoppable in a multiplayer setting – but as for Unity? Well there I have no excuse. But before we get to that, a look at how gaming snobbery tends to work.

In reality I am a pretty nice guy. On the internet, I’m a pretty nice guy. But on the Chivalry: Medieval Warfare servers, I am a total dick. I look down on the vanguard class for their tendency to cause copious amounts of collateral damage. I look down on them for their inability to do anything but spam the left mouse button and not care that three of their own team got beheaded in the swing. They’re knobs, the whole bloody lot of them.

Previously, I suspected most players of Team Objective games just wanted to fight a team deathmatch because they wondered like lemmings without any relation to the objective. It made me angry as someone who wanted the match to progress. That was how my snobbery began: a legitimate complaint born of design flaws.

In Chivalry, ignoring the objective carries little consequence. The match is shorter – that’s it. And for those who just want to lmb spam for 10 minutes that isn’t a problem at all, so such people come in droves to the 64 player servers I frequent. Like me, they want the mayhem. But the only 64 player servers are Team Objective servers – so to get their gut-busting kicks they ignore the deathmatch servers and come onto ours, refusing to play the objective. The second part is to see those flailing liabilities as the problem, rather than a lack of space for them to play in. They are a symptom, not a cause. Getting that wrong set me on the path.

I can respect the odd duel in some corner of the map – but they just run at the enemy flailing. There is the third part of developing snobbery: a generalization formed from those design flaws. Were there 64 player deathmatch servers, the initial problem would not have existed, but regardless I then used that to make a sweeping generalization that most players just wanted to hack at each other – which I know isn’t true.

Then that generalization gets extended. From players not wanting to play the objective we then move to lumping others into that. People that are new, for instance. People unfamiliar with the controls. The tutorial leaves much to be desired so those presenting themselves to the mercy of my experienced steel are screwed. I see that they struggle to make progress on the objective. Not because they don’t want to, but because they simply don’t know how. In the simmering anguish caused by disinterested lmb spammers that rational approach takes a back seat to the swaggering extension to my general statement that now rides alongside the original. The next stage was to believe that new players were intentionally bad. Untrue – but it’s difficult not to believe in the heat of battle. Only when someone states that in chat do I even notice my mistake.

Then the exceptions to the generalization become the only notable players. All others are cannon fodder. The good vanguards become gods and all else are noobs who need to be purged and cast back into the Free-For-All sludge from whence they came. I, as someone who did not play as a vanguard, was just better than them. Not because I consistently beat them in points and doing objectives, but because they were intrinsically rubbish and I was great. My journey to the dark side snobbery was complete.

There is a basic pattern there that I often observe:

  • Legitimate complaint about problems
  • See the symptoms as the problems
  • Form general statements from the symptoms
  • Expand those statements to cover everyone in category ‘X’
  • Be a dick

That is the journey. Let’s see how other internet snobbiness has emerged and see if it fits with that timeless staple of digital snobbery. Then it’s back to Unity.

Call of Duty is for losers!

To many, CoD is the FPS genre’s whipping boy. Want to sling an insult at someone owing to their lack of skill and reckless abandonment of the game? Call them a CoD player. It’s a lame insult but one that, to snobs, does the job just fine.

Here’s the journey:

  • CoD is a twitch shooter (ie success is defined more by reflex than skill, spam trigger = victory)
  • Lots of CoD players are bad at other games due to an overreliance on that mechanic
  • CoD players are bad players generally
  • Even new CoD players think they can 360 no-scope their way to victory and experienced ones just spray and pray – they’re all losers
  • Call of Duty is for losers

I think the process checks out. Mistakes everywhere. Ends up at a snobbish attitude.

Unity Engine is Rubbish!

Now that we’ve meandered back to our Unity discussion let us delve into its image problem, because it definitely has one – when the Unity logo comes up some people are suddenly very cautious. It’s partly Unity’s fault, partly developer’s fault, but mostly your fault. I think it’s mostly snobbery.

So what’s going on?

  • There is nothing to stop asset flips and any amateur can pick up Unity
  • Loads of Unity games are rubbish/asset flips, and end up on Jim Sterling’s channel
  • Therefore some Unity games tend to be rubbish
  • Other game engines don’t have this problem, so it’s a Unity thing
  • Unity Engine is rubbish!

Does that not seem logically coherent to you? Good! And I should hope not. Snobbery is by definition illogical, and breaking down the snobbery into a set of somewhat oversimplified statements allows you to see just how dumb it is. But let’s be honest, with bullets whirring as you race to bomb site B what part of your brain is going ‘umm… Mr CS:GO player sir… could you not be a douche?’. No part of you. That is why it happens, even if you know you’re doing it.

Snobbery will always be a part of multiplayer games. There is too much going on to stop and think, so the brain naturally falls back on stereotype, assumption and generalization. We can’t help it when otherwise occupied. But as for Unity’s image problem the excuses wear thin.

That said, the Unity situation is a bit more complicated. So many good games exist in Unity. Cities: Skylines and Kerbal Space Program to name two of the best to come out this year. It’s an easy engine to get the hang of, if a little daunting at first. But that accessibility has problems. As great as Unity may be, it is also a design flaw – it lets any greedy idiot do an asset flip.

Those asset flips are symptoms not problems, the responsibility lies with those who do them; likewise with the poor quality of games made by amateurs in Unity. If it’s bad, they should stick it on a free site or start again. The problem is that Unity cannot stop inexperienced developers, and it’s not a problem that should exist. But by association with such bad developers Unity becomes as much a part of the problem as asset flippers in spite of the fact that Unity is just a tool. There is false blame placed on Unity because a legitimate complaint (asset flips) gets pinned on the root cause (a lack of ‘no asset flipping!’ clauses and shifty developers) – and that’s fine. But then the causes get expanded to being intrinsic to Unity; guilt by association. So by virtue of being Unity made, something is bad. That makes no sense logically and requires some serious mental gymnastics to understand – but it’s what happens.

Unity does have an image problem but it is not born of Unity. It is born of asset flippers and human penchant for generalizing. The result is snobbery against all of Unity for a flaw in the asset store. So for Unity to overcome its image problem two things need to happen. Firstly, people need to grow up a little, and realize if they are just being snobbish. Secondly, Unity store assets need to contain a little clause forbidding asset flips. It won’t solve the problem of bad developers stitching together assets like some patchwork monster, looking like the scene of a digital homicide if you will. But it will solve the most overt of Unity’s problems: the asset flip. From that point it is purely up to you and me to stop being snobs and realize who is really at fault.

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About James Internet Egoone of us since 2:56 PM on 04.21.2015

Howdy! Welcome to the little corner of the internet that a part of me calls home. Here's some stuff about me.

Occupation: Student

Hobbies: Videogames, Chess, Philosophy

Interests: Law, Philosophy, Gaming

Chores: PC maintenance, Uni prep

Current Thought: Damn you Witcher 3! Damn you Crones to hell!

Favorite Game: KotOR 2 for reasons, but Witcher 3 is now joint first, bloody marvelous game.

Current Game: The Witcher 3

I am a fan of the written word as well as the spoken variety, so you'll find me doing a lot of written stuff. Every couple of days hopefully.

Here is a nifty list of what I think is my best stuff.

Destructoid C-Blogs
How Cities: Skylines Almost Screwed Up My Exam
Why the PR Man Can Lie
On Mods and Money
How Mass Effect Made Me Like Music
Questing For Immersion
An Afternoon With the SWG Emulator
How to Buy a game in 2015
Some Upbeat Thoughts on Bioware
The Pain of Playing Old Games
Why Citybuilders Are Not ABout Building Cities
On Valve's Inability to Follow The Law
Band of Bloggers: KotOR

Some Written Word on Game Design
Ambivalence and Not Caring

Front Paged Things
Bloggers Wanted: KotOR 2

Kotaku UK
The Best Zombie Game Out There

That covers the bio, right?

Oh, right - name. I'm James, in case you couldn't guess.