Onix Game Development Team at Unite Berlin 2018

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In January 2018, Onix’ team created one of the best games at Global Game Jam Ukraine. The consequences were even more exciting: the team won tickets to Unite Europe 2018. The name speaks for itself: the annual events bring together thousands of Unity developers, artists, publishers, teachers, filmmakers, researchers, business people, storytellers, and other creators and experts across all forms of entertainment. The participants present new creations with 2D, 3D, and VR and AR games and learn about latest Unity products and services. The events are held in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Unite conference 2018 for Europe was scheduled for June 19–21 in Berlin.

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For a Unity developer, a conference like this is an excellent opportunity to see what’s going on in the game, get hands-on experience of upcoming Unity technology, collaborate with fellow creators, learn from them and share the knowledge, rub shoulders with the industry leaders, and meet new partners, customers, and friends. The participants come home with skills, tools, and ideas that will surely boost their creativity. No wonder the guys at Onix had been looking forward to their trip ‘nach Berlin’ so much. We are not less excited to share their experiences and impressions in this blog post!

What Was Going On at Unite Berlin 2018

A few words about the location first. STATION-Berlin is located a few steps away from Potsdamer Platz, in the heart of the modern metropolis. It’s a beautiful old train station turned modern conference and exhibition center. A perfect location for a Unity3D conference where cutting-edge technology, interactive learning, games, and creativity are united. The convention center allows for many company booths, but unfortunately, the tech session spaces often felt overcrowded and stifling. The event managers provided extra chairs and projectors, but some attendees still had to listen from outside.

Regarding the (estimated) 1,500 participants, there were all types present, from amateurs to renowned Unity developers and company owners. The majority of the participating teams intended to showcase their products and services and to find new customers. Fewer were interested in recruiting talent (e.g., Oculus) or attracting investors. Most conversations occurred in English, although occasionally German and Russian could be heard. Regardless, everyone was friendly, open, and eager to answer any questions.

The majority of the speakers naturally represented Unity Technologies. Although intended for different levels, 80% of the sessions’ content was relevant and interesting for most Unity developers. The sessions were mainly focused on development with the game engine, and pretty much on the app optimization. Members of the audience could ask questions right in the room or meet the speaker afterward to have a more in-depth and personal discussion. Curious about the virtual and augmented reality topics, we particularly enjoyed speaking with Lukasz Pasek (Unity Technologies) about Mobile AR optimization and stereo-rendering and with Chris Pruett (Oculus) about the optimization and post-processing effects in Oculus VR.

Here are our favorite sessions of Unite Berlin 2018 (in the alphabetical order):

  • 3D Visual Search on the Unity Asset Store: Instantly Find 3D Assets and Create Prototypes. Shai Ghelberg and Galia Rosen Schwarz presented a cool search plugin developed by Resonai. Powered by machine understanding of geometry and structure, it looks for 3D assets in the Unity market based on visual similarity.
  • Advanced CAD Data Prep and Optimization in Unity. At the AutoTech Summit, which is part of Unite Berlin, Axel Jacquet and Geoffrey Subileau from PiXYZ talked about the way to work with large-scale CAD assemblies in Unity faster and easier for creating real-time interactive and virtual experiences. PiXYZ develops comprehensive software that allows to import and optimize CAD data. Their team is the first to deliver a fast, responsive, and painless solution to the problem.
  • Book of the Dead: Environmental Design, Tools, and Techniques for Photo-Real Worldbuilding. Julien Heijmans (Unity Technologies) disclosed the optimizations and features used in the amazing project, as well as an original approach to the scenes preparation.
  • Editor Scripting the Scene View. Oliver Eberlei, the coding-co-founder of the virtual reality arcade ‘Holocafé,’ showed how a developer could customize the editor.
  • Embrace a Visual Vertical Slice and not die trying: The Nautilus Odyssey. THQ Nordic representatives without any self-promotion but fully and to the point described a pipeline for creating a video with a small team within a short time.
  • Going for Speed: Maximizing Performance on Oculus Go. Chris Pruett (Oculus) demonstrated instruments for testing and application optimization.
  • Magic Leap: Bringing Pixels to the World. Their augmented reality glasses are amazing. So was the story behind the device as told by the spatial computing experts. Aleissia Laidacker and Brian Schwab talked about things they’d learned while designing for mixed realities and showed block mesh technology, head pose, and gestures recognition, all coming together to form an MR experience.
  • Optimizing AR: extend battery life and avoid overheating. Adam Smith (Unity Technologies) introduced simple ways to optimize an AR application.
  • Scaling CPU Experiences: An Introduction to the Entity Component System. Julian Fischer (Intel) and Mike Geig (Global Head of Evangelism Content at Unity) spoke about the new approach to programming, the future of multithreaded projects, and the advantages of the new additions to Unity for current tasks.
  • Unity Training Workshops Taster: Migrating to 2018.1 with Michael Warburton (Unity Technologies). The changes in the new version of the Unity engine are essential to know!

The Team’s Impressions

For Onix’ guys, Unite Berlin has been primarily about games and VR, so they were mainly hanging around relevant booths at the exhibition. Along with games companies, the exhibition featured new products by IBM, Microsoft, Nintendo, PlayStation VR, and others. A special section of the expo floor was dedicated to the parallel Unite Berlin AutoTech Summit.

The platforms’ promotional stands provided immense opportunities for learning and networking. At Oculus, we discussed the application review and some details of the Guidelines of Oculus platforms. The representatives of Nintendo explained how to get a dev kit for the Nintendo Switch platform. At Sony’s, we were most curious about the publishing process, DevKit, Sony Developer account, development cost, and certificates cost.

Microsoft folks were probably the friendliest. We talked about the MR publishing process, DevKit, new Kinect, and a whole lot of other things. We expect some market featuring at Microsoft store as a result.

At Google’s booth, we discussed publications on the Mirage platform, AR, and DevKit shipping. When Onix team member mentioned that he participated in the creation of HoloKit, the Google representatives were pleased because they knew the app and had it featured on Google Play. We met the senior manager and talked about a prospective featuring for HoloKit and Timescope.

At the AutoTech Summit, it was exciting to see how Unity unites gaming and automotive industries. The platform particularly empowers OEM designers to improve design quality. For example, Gravity Sketch that uses Unity was featured both at a session and at the exhibition. The tool enables designers to sketch in VR using an HTC Vive or similar headsets, with the ability to output files in the CAD format. After the session, we approached the speakers to ask about the basic techniques of quick NURBS modeling with the tool and were able to try some. The tool’s handy and the UI is accessible; one can get used to it within a day or two. The developer of Gravity Sketch shared some of the technical details of the project, the product’s potential and evolution.

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The Volkswagen Group is using Unity’s ability to accurately simulate interior HMI, helping the designers refine all aspects of the system’s functions. Recently, they have used VR to improve training for 10,000 production and logistics employees. Torben Volkwein of Innoactive told a story about it, discussed AR and VR, and how Innoactive was working closely with FW for the fast adoption of VR/AR in the applications within the Volkswagen Group. We saw a live demo of VR training to appreciate the graphics quality, interactions, and how they organized the cloud for the applications.

We were also impressed by Quixel Megascans. (It’s the team behind the photogrammetry-scanned real-world objects and textures of the Book of the Dead.) Quixel introduced a plugin for Unity that acts as a bridge for a game assets transmission and configuration. The representatives disclosed their strategy and provided pricing info. Mapbox team explained features of their latest version, showed off a plugin for map generation, and shared their development plans.

Amplify Creations’ gamedev technology booth was good as well. We loved the hand-on Amplify Impostor Editor demonstration and the talk! The guys are currently working on several new plugins and own 3D adventure game. They were eager not only to answer questions regarding their products but also to help fellow developers — a most promising team if you’re into the games’ visual optimization. We also have their business cards now!

There were exciting indie projects as well, but often, when we had a question regarding the development, there was no one to talk tech to us. What a shame. Anyway, it was nice to chat with indie developers (some of them our countrymen!) about the analytics, the market, and statistics in a friendly informal setting.

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The afterparty dancing and local museums completed the impression of what happened at the conference of Berlin. It was the first Unite Europe for Onix’ team, but talking to some guys who had been there four and more times, we heard that the 2016 convention had some 3,000 participants and featured the best content so far. The memories of the last years’ show in Amsterdam are still fresh.

We believe that both Unity3D conference and AutoTech conference Berlin were organized and very well conducted with much care. The number of participants, experts, and high-level leaders and entrepreneurs was more than enough. We just wish there had been:

  • at some sessions, more technical content and less self-promotion;
  • a unified format of presenting companies at the exhibition;
  • better communication among the participants;
  • more seats at some of the sessions and better air conditioning in some of the spaces;
  • cold beers and veggie foods from the onset, as well as extra distribution points (NVIDIA-sponsored lunches were delicious, hence the queues).

What Onix Brought Home from Unite Berlin

Lots of new information, knowledge, skills, ideas, industry insights, contacts, inspiration, and motivation! This includes, but was not limited to:

  • new features and upcoming improvements to Unity technology and various applications thereof, especially new tools for the particle systems;
  • first-hand experience in implementing the Entity Component System and the C# Job System;
  • Unity Editor development prospects;
  • original techniques for art data preparation;
  • a better understanding of the concepts, application, and benefits of existing tools that we had overlooked or underrated before;
  • new programs that optimize and speed up the development;
  • 3D creation skills using VR headsets;
  • the dos and don’ts of holding sessions and presenting products at events of this scale…

and much more stuff that we’d like to utilize in new projects and showcase at Unity, VR conferences, mobile dev conferences, or other industry conventions one of these days.

During the Unite conference 2018, Onix game devs met several current and former customers and agreed on a new job on the Microsoft MR platform, an application to be launched on that platform, and possibly another one on Sony VR. There have been potential customers as well. Berlin-based business people discussed with us the development process and the pitfalls of app development with continuous face tracking and recognition.

Wrapping Up

Unite Europe 2018 proved to be a great time for learning and fun, professional networking and human connection, storytelling, and art. Onix is an outsourcing company, so we enjoyed Unite 2018 more than Web Summit, for example. Unite’s greater specialization is better for all: professionals, salespersons, recruiters, and business people.

We definitely would like to attend the next Unity Unite conference, and recommend that all should visit Unite 2018 at other locations. (Unite Los Angeles is scheduled for October 23–25!)

If interested, here are some tips on attending such events, so that they can give you the best experience:

  • Make a list of your priority tech sessions and workshops beforehand, and allocate some time to hands-on demonstrations and booths in the expo area.
  • If the event has a mobile app, install it. It’ll notify you of time or location changes, enable you to chat with other attendees, etc.
  • You are sure to meet lots of great people there, but give priority to those who share your interests or work in your field. Try to arrange some meetings in advance to increase your odds of meeting the right contacts at the convention.
  • If needed, improve your English before a convention.
  • Bring along lots of well-designed business cards!
  • Especially if you are a sponsor, pay attention to your branding before the convention or trade show: we’ve noticed that anonymous booths and lackluster materials attracted little attention.
  • As hectic as a meeting may be, don’t forget about meals, water, and charging your mobile devices.
  • Try to book lodgings near the event location. If you fail, you still can save money traveling by public transport: in Berlin, there are universal group tickets and multi-day tickets. A group of five gets a discount. Bike rentals are popular too: it’s convenient, healthy, helps you get to the event location quickly, and allows for sightseeing or shopping at street fairs on the way.

See you at Unite Berlin 2019 maybe? Good luck, and stay ahead of the game!

(Vielen Dank to Onix’ game/VR/AR developers for the stories and assistance!)

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Onix-Systems provides IT services in website, mobile app and emerging technologies software development. Check our blog -> https://onix-systems.com/blog

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