Unity: First impressions

I had to do some iPhone prototyping recently, and we had a trial copy of Unity to hand. I thought this was a great excuse to try using it. First impressions of the editor/IDE/environment – at least on OS X – are not good.

NB: In general, in terms of what can be done with it etc, I’m a fan of Unity. But I’ve never developed with it directly myself, and I’m now finding it surprisingly painful / steep learning curve.

Need to know basis

None of the built-in tutorials work, flat out, because the startup code has apparently changed substantially since they were written. The tutorials keep talking about things like “create a new project; by default it will X and Y and Z” but Unity no longer does any of those by default. Sadly, the tutorials don’t tell you how to get any of those manually – because, you know, they’re done for you by default, why would you ever need to know how to do them by hand?

File Association Theft

I was also *extremely* unhappy to discover a short while later that Unity has stolen the file association for PHP files. Under OS X (thanks, Apple) managing file associations is a surprisingly irritating business, as bad as with Microsoft Windows (Apple deems users too stupid to be allowed to simply edit associations – but applications are allowed to overwrite each other with absolute trust from Apple, and no user intervention allowed), so this is a pain to fix. In particular, I have an entire *suite* of applications and IDE’s for doing web editing, including a specialized high quality PHP IDE. Not any more; Unity has clobbered that with a crappy text editor that does nothing more than basic syntax hilighting. This is pretty offensive: firstly, don’t steal my files without asking, and secondly – give me back my IDE!

NB: I have no idea how it has done this, but Unity appears to have overridden OS X’s systems for file association management – following the standard procedure (e.g. here) has no effect, and Unity keeps stealing control of the files immediately that you confirm you want to give the assocation to some other app.

At this rate, if I can’t find out what it’s done to my OS and undo it, I’ll be uninstalling and deleting Unity with extreme prejudice in the very near future. Sure, this is partly Apple’s fault for assuming all apps are perfect and all users are not, but at a simpler level I just cannot afford to have a non-functioning development computer just because of one badly behaved application.

10 Replies to “Unity: First impressions”

  1. I’ve read complete and utter horror stories from friends with Unity… most of them are post-prototype stories. A friend of mine made his own engine, hoping to gauge it’s “in browser” ability against Unity, he installed it. Had he not setup a SVN on a separate machine, he would’ve lost his entire engine because of the over-writing and whatnot that Unity does, even on a base level.

    Everybody I know who’s sprung for Unity always ends up saying the same thing:
    Good for Prototyping, but you realize it was a waste of money afterwards.

  2. Urgh. Sounds bad. Is Unity stealing back the file associations every time it starts? (madness)

    On a related note, is there a better UI for editing Objective C than Xcode? Having become acclimatised to Visual Studio (ick) I’m finding it a bit hard to rewire my brain to the necessary keyboard shortcuts. Just a keyboard shortcut editor for Xcode would help.

  3. “escaping Xcode” was one of my reasons for trying Unity. They have an iPhone specific version (completely separate executable, although the GUI is almost the same), but I haven’t had the time to try wading past the user-unfriendliness to try using it yet.

    There’s a 30 day trial, so … maybe give it a go (the iPhone version) and see what it’s like? Can’t be (much) worse than Xcode really, can it? :)

  4. Why do you say managing file associations in Windows is bad? I’ve never been bothered by it – it takes all of about 3 seconds to change the association for any file, and I don’t know of any programs that will auto re-steal it.

  5. It’s been infamously atrocious for more than 10 years – they may finally have fixed it for Vista (I haven’t checked – like many people, I’m still not using Vista :().

    The associations are hidden on a “properties of current folder” menu that doesn’t make sense and is badly organized even wehn you find it. As recently as windows XP the dialog still had a stupid tiny scroll window that was trying to show typically thousands of lines of associations, and there was no search, no index, nothing to help you find the one you wanted bar scrolling manually.

    So, yeah. File associations on windows? Bad.

    That’s not to mention the various bugs that existed in the execution of the related command lines, and the fact that the “Open With” dialog that win2k introduced only works “some” of the time, and other times won’t add items automatically – and you can’t manually add to it. etc etc etc)

  6. The really fun one, adam, is 2k’s default “search inside” behavior only working on a limited subset of file types, you need to start adding strings in the registry to make it search inside other file types.

  7. I am not a fan of the whole standard of making one “uberpowereverything” tool that does everything. Different parts of any game needs different methods of iteration, they might as well have different tool pipelines as well.

  8. Late to the game here, but:

    This post is a bit disheartening as I recently purchased a Unity license (I kept letting my trials expire). However it’s always informative to read an industry veteran’s take on the product.

    I’m hoping Unity improves the quality of the product. Their support has been impressive, and the forum community is helpful and non-elitist.

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