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Double Fine chooses Moai (pandodaily.com)
47 points by snprbob86 on May 2, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 26 comments

I started a games company at the beginning of the year and am constantly researching game engines. If I wasn't working in 3D I would have went with (or switched to) Moai. It looks like a great mix of productivity boosting features and a no-BS, close to the metal way to create cross platform code. I also like their focus on the networking, advertising, analytics, etc features in their SDK.

I'm currently using Unity. Their core product is decent but their team (at least the CEO and the sales guys, I haven't interacted with any tech guys) are obnoxious. I met with their sales rep in Asia (where I'm based) and he told me in no uncertain terms that they don't care about small teams. And that they were horrible at communicating because they don't see themselves as having any real competition. I think it's the fist time I've been heavily invested in a technology and at the same time wanted to see it become obsolete.

One of the best parts of Moai is Lua. I had started with Unity working in C# (seemed like it would be less performance bound) but didn't really like the toolkit until I switched over to the relatively obscure Boo (it has a Python-like syntax). Even with the almost total lack of documentation it's just way more productive than the other language choices. Switching to really terse scripting language has had a big impact on productivity for me.

I'm really sorry about your negative interactions with our team in Asia – they don't reflect the fact that we very much feel we're competing with every other option there is out there, and generally never being as good as we can be at serving developers. And not just competing the 3-5 significant other 3D engine companies, but also internal technologies, open source engines, and even very different approaches like picking 2D instead of 3D in cases where both might work.

Our entire business model is built around supporting individual developers and small teams, and while we've more recently started to learn to support bigger customers, it not how we think about our product and company and we've kept building and licensing great tech that we then release to everyone using Unity – the same for all, from the littlest indie shop to EA.

PS. I'm glad that you liked Boo, it's a cool language whose designer works for us doing many Mono and compiler-related projects.

PPS. Apart from being kind of enthusiastic about Unity and the business we're in I'm usually not told that I'm obnoxious, but I can live with it if I have to. In any case feel free to get in touch on twitter (davidhelgason) or by email at david at unity3d.com. Also would love to hear more about your bad experiences in Asia, these are new teams and maybe someone didn't get the memo about democratization yet.

Thanks David, it's good to get a more positive response from you guys. I'll send you an email to continue our conversation.

[Edit: I received an email from Nicholas. I'll follow up with him]

Thanks for your kind words about Moai. Considering we only shipped 1.0 last month, it's exciting to see how quickly game devs have connected with the idea of a minimalist open source framework + cloud services for games.

Unity is a fine product as well. We have a number of Unity developers building their game back-ends on Moai Cloud, and we are working to build more features for them.

this is going to sound like a sales pitch for Unity but ...

Engine + Tools > Engine

Moai = Engine Unity = Engine + Tools

I've got 25 years experience making AAA games. I am continually amazed at how productive people are in Unity. I've got several x-coworker friends from various AAA game companies including Namco, EA, Vicarious Visions, and others that have started using Unity. All of them can't praise it enough. Some of these are even engine guys. In other words, the types most likely to have a "not invented here syndrome".

I've also been watching and participating in game jams and watching the amazing things coming out of them with the largest percentage coming from Unity.

Been to a few "teach kids game programming" events where Unity was one of the options and those kids always come away with more than the kids doing python, processing or JavaScript.

Even GDC had several unity games at the experimental gameplay session, the indie games summit and more.

There's also a large market of 3rd party libraries and editor plugins for Unity that provide many of those things like support for social network X or picture service Y. Unfortunately Unity stupidly made the store for those plugins only accessible from inside Unity, buried in the Window menu under "Asset Store" so that none of it is discoverable from the outside.

Of course there's a learning curve. If you've written your own engine it's easier to get a couple of images/models on the screen by writing code from scratch. But for a real game with a team that initial speed is quickly dwarfed by the amount of work writing exporters to support your artists, level editors to support your game designers and the fact that Unity editor is fully interactive while the game is playing for the ultimate in quick iteration times. You can practically edit functions on the fly as the game runs.

No, I don't work for unity and I actually haven't done more than a couple of tutorials nor have I used Moai but I have written 6 game engines and all the tools and utilities for them and after seeing my various friends and x-coworker's successes and praise for Unity I'm not about to pick something that only provides 1/2 to 1/3rd the feature and therefore have to pick up the slack myself.

I've used both Unity and MOAI. Unity is too heavy for a cross-platform 2D game engine - whereas MOAI is absolutely light and tasty.

No question, there is big power in the Unity tools. But if you want to build a 2D game with physics and access to cloud services, MOAI does a pretty damn fine job of giving you exactly what you need, and getting out of the way.

Plus, you don't have to buy a per-seat license for MOAI...

Unity does not support linux. So how is it even relevant for Double Fine given their stated requirements? Or any other game dev given the possible future of linux based steamboxes?

A while ago I spoke to a Unity engineer about this. He told me they have internal builds running on Linux. I think the main thing holding them back from releasing it is the testing they would have to do for each distro. Probably not worth it for the limited use it would see.

If Linux Steamboxes do become a reality they would quickly be able to release Unity for that platform.

Of course I wish they would release the editor for Linux as I would like to use it :)

Do you really think that's going to be a problem for Unity? Having based their stuff on Mono, MonoDevelop, and supporting OpenGL? Maybe a little bit, but I'm sure there code is almost prepared, if not already running on it.

Especially if they just shipped statically linked code, to not bother with glibc/libc changes, or other differences between distros.

not quite the same thing but Unity does run in Chrome in Linux in Native Client.

Unity's ability to extend the editor while it's running, and the clever use of imgui (immediate mode gui) is just what I need to prototype things.

Get this Autodesk? Not writing plugin in C++ and restarting every time each one of your god-damn products. Or the pains of the python that came with it (and assert() causing crash of the whole god damn thing).

So back to Unity. Last year, just for fun I was able to write an importer while Unity was running for one of levels, just to see it happen.

I work with Unity daily for my regular job, and also code in it on side-projects at home. It's pretty rare that I've been able to do the same kind of work that I do at my day job in my free time also without getting burn-out / boredom issues. Unity is such a pleasure to work with though that I've not stopped since learning it.

The productivity thing amazes me too. We've built some incredible things in ridiculously short timeframes. It really is a game-changer.

> There are two versions of the game running on the same back-end, one for the Java-based Android games and one for the C-based iOS games.

Someone alert the media that Android's NDK has been available for around 3 years now and allows you to write apps/games entirely in C or C++ for Android.

Harebrained Schemes (the Shadowrun Returns team on Kickstarter) also uses Moai. Perhaps it's worth a look.

Other than the cloud parts, can anyone compare it with Love2D?

MOAI is very similar to Love2D in some ways (Box2D, etc.) but the general application programming model is different - you don't have callbacks to implement features in MOAI, you simply set up the state of various game objects and layers and so on, then let 'er rip ..

I've found myself being very, very productive in MOAI. It took me 30 minutes to build a Path-like custom control for one of my applications, whereas it took me a day or two to do it in Love2D, and its nowhere near as elegant as the MOAI approach.

Interesting. Thanks. :)

Moai's hosting services are an interesting differentiator (compared to Unity and Corona). I was previously waiting for Unity or Corona to partner with someone like Parse but Moai appears to provide a good offering specific to the social x mobile type games (ie DrawSomething).

Thanks for noticing! I work on Moai. Our goal is to enable game devs to build great games, and to do that today you definitely need an online component. Our differentiation from other services is (a) Moai is designed for games, not generic mobile apps and (b) you can write and run your own code, in a gaming friendly language, which enables you to innovate on game features.

Moai Cloud can work with any front end SDK. We do have several Corona and Unity devs building game back ends on Moai Cloud. Robert Nay, the poster child for Corona, is one of them.

Crimson Steam Pirates published by Bungie (the Halo studio) is very impressive and done entirely in Moai


Shadowrun Returns, by Harebrained Schemes (the guys behind Crimson Steam Pirate) will also use Moai. http://harebrained-schemes.com/shadowrun/

They raised $1.8M on Kickstarter. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1613260297/shadowrun-ret...

Ansca Mobile's Corona developer tools are similar to Moai. Corona uses Lua (including a simulator and debugger) and can publish iOS and Android apps.


The Moai SDK has two big advantages over Corona:

- is open source and free to use (attributionware, CPAL 1.0 [0])

- It works almost everywhere: Android, iOS, OS X, Windows, and Google Chrome (NaCl). The Linux port is in the works (they mostly need build scripts). See [1] for more details.


0. http://opensource.org/licenses/cpal_1.0

1. http://getmoai.com

In addition to these, one will soon notice that you can't really and write some stuff in C to link into your lua engine in corona. The corona system was probably done this way to make it difficult to shoot yourself in the foot.

"Constantly pushing updates"

This sounds to me like their plan is to constantly be updating the Lua scripts from their cloud server.

There's no way this would be allowed on iOS right? (Although I can see the comparison with web pages running arbitrary JavaScript, which can also be constantly be updated, but still...)

Also, updates doesn't always mean code. You need a place to push new images, sounds and data files from as well.

Its allowed.

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