Idle Space Navy Devnote XXIX

Hey, Some Good Unity News!

This update is mostly about the Unity runtime fee saga I discussed in Devnote XXVIII, so if you want the small bit of update on ISN itself, skim past this.

Today, Unity released an open letter regarding the blowback from their runtime fee policy, and changes they’ve made. While I’m not sure the trust that has been lost throughout the game development community can be restored through a single open letter, the changes they are enacting are a significant step in the right direction, especially for new and aspiring developers such as myself here at Phoenix Aura.

For one thing, Unity has eliminated the retroactivity of the runtime fee changes – they’re not even going to apply them until the next version launches sometime in 2024. Games that have already shipped and projects being worked on aren’t affected, unless one chooses to upgrade them to this next version. This is a massive step, and one that should have been taken from the off for various reasons I won’t go into – check on the Internet for more details.

Of bigger news for Phoenix Aura is the set of changes to the runtime fee itself. Games built on Unity Personal (which include Idle Space Navy) will remain able to do so until the company attains $200,000 of revenue from the games, at which point an upgrade to Unity Pro would still make sense (and was always planned for Aura in the future). Additionally, games built on Unity Personal are not subject to the runtime fee, and even once the Pro upgrade happens, the threshold for the runtime fee has been raised to $1 million in revenue over the prior 12 months (much higher than the original $200,000 for Unity Personal, though in line with the prior count for Unity Pro). The fee has also been changed to a two-option structure – either the fee can be calculated based on the number of new people engaging that you self-report (as opposed to “installs” calculated by Unity’s internal metrics) each month, or it can be a flat 2.5% of revenue – and Unity currently pledges to always bill the lesser amount.

I’m of the mind that people should support the software that allows them to do great work. Unity has been an easy, streamlined experience for me to use over the past three years of off-and-on personal projects, as well as for the past ten months of Idle Space Navy‘s development. I would have been proud to support Unity on my own terms even without this new fee structure, and I’m happy that the community’s concerns have been taken into account. So long as this path continues, I see no reason why Phoenix Aura games will need to change to another engine (though the possibility that a game may be developed in Unreal at some time in the future was always planned for).

I’m also of the mind that, despite the issues of Unity’s upper level management, the Unity Engine itself is still one of the best ways for people to become involved in not just game development, but any kind of programming, thanks to the community, the depth of tutorials, the wealth of assets, and the availability of other resources. Unity’s new version will include the option to remove the “Made with Unity” splash screen even for free apps made with Unity Personal – and I have decided that this is not an option we will be taking.

Some may wonder if I’m writing this to shill for a corporation who screwed up. On the contrary, I am deeply disappointed in the actions undertaken by Unity management regarding the initial rollout of the runtime fee. I just still believe in the promise of the Unity Engine and its ability to democratize game development and gaming in general. I believe this will win out in the end.

Now, onto the ISN portion of this devnote!

A few days ago, I rolled out ISN 0.07.4 to fix a persnickety bug with the boost manager. Somewhere along the line, my object reference to the Boost list got eaten, as did the way to generate boost icons during the game. Probably happened due to a computer crash or me forgetting to save somewhere along the line. Either way, if someone received a boost, they wouldn’t know it, and then when they’d tried to start the game, it would try to make the icon – and couldn’t find the list, so it would crash, and look like one’s save had been eaten. This has now been fixed.

Development on ISN 0.08.0 continues apace, with most of the changes to existing systems completed. Shipyard and Lab upgrades as well as the new researchable ship the Frigate remain to do, and then I’ll be starting on the Artifact System itself. I believe we’re on target for an early-mid October release, soon after the Steam launch of ISN 0.07.4!