Unity free version

Hi I am very new to creating games. I have an idea of a game and am trying to put it together. Currently I am trying to choose between Unity and Shiva game engines. I have a few questions about Unity that I was hoping you guys might be able to help with. Hopefully my newbie questions will not annoy you.

  1. One of the things of concern is cost. Ive noticed that Unity basic version is free of cost but comes with a splash screen for PC games. What does this splash screen look like? I am not able to find a picture of it using google search. I swear, I searched before posting this.. The reason I wish to know what it looks like is because I am trying to determine if the splash screen is a pleasant screen that users of the game would not mind or really notice, or if it is like a big advertisement announcing "hey, this guy used the free version" . I dont mind letting the world know I used unity, as long as it still looks pleasant/classy. Could any of you provide a screenshot or a link to one? Also how long does this display? In your opinion (and I know this is subjective), does having the unity splash screen seem to detract from a final product and make it look unpolished or crude or cheap?

  2. I've seen the comparison table for Unity free vs Unity Pro. Since I've never used a game engine before I didn't understand some of these things.

a) For Unity Pro it says "Create water with realtime reflections & refractions, surveilance cameras, or use it to create your own full screen post-processing effects." - Does this mean you cannot create water at all in free version or it just wont look as good? (Quite frankly I have no idea how one creates water in a game engine but Im assuming I'll learn that part from the tutorials along the way).

b) Another statement is "Unity Pro supports realtime shadows with self-shadowing that just work. Without Unity Pro it is of course still possible to use lower-end shadowing techniques, like Lightmaps or Projectors." - I am confused. Does this mean it is much harder to make shadows? Or impossible? I have no idea what a lightmap is :)

Id appreciate any input you guys have on this. While the cost of pro version of Unity seems to push me more toward Shiva, a major attraction for me is the tutorials that come with Unity. And as a newbie I think I will need those.

Hey Gary

Welcome to Unity Answers. I have no experience with Shiva, but I can try to answer your Unity questions.

  1. I personally don't mind the splash screen. It definitely is noticeable, because it's basically a black screen with the Unity logo in the middle. However, I believe it's quite stylish. That's my personal opinion and others might disagree, but at the very least it doesn't say anything about Free Version. It simply says "Powered by Unity". Nothing cheap or unpolished about that. It's like...hmm.. 3 seconds in full and then it slowly fades away. It say about 3.5 seconds in total. But see for yourself. I uploaded a screenshot here: http://www.virtualgamelab.com/unity.html

  2. a) There is simple water in the free version. It's called Daylight Simple Water and Nighttime Simple Water and works basically out of the box. It is very simple and the Pro Water definitely looks much better. Check this thread for better water quality with the free version (Forum Link). You can use shaders to create nice water effects.

b) Shadows with free Unity are definitely possible. You can use lightmaps which means that you basically bake the shadows directly into your textures of your models. Let's assume you have a floor with a carpet texture. Now place a couch on that floor. If you create a lightmap now, the shadow of the couch will be statically put into that carpet texture (sort of). It's very efficient for the performance of your game, but it has a downside. It's static which means that no matter how your lights and objects are positioned ingame, the textures will stay the same. You could create several lightmaps for different scenarios, but imagine you have a moving light source like a lantern in your character's hand. The shadows will move and change all the time. That's when real-time shadows come in handy. That's just an example, but to sum it up, you can definitely have shadows in the free Unity version, you are just limited in what you can do with them. You might need to read up on light mapping anyways, because that's quite important for most games.

In addition, Unity has a great community and excellent support. That by itself makes it a good choice. There are tons of tutorials out there (see this answer; shameless plug ;)).

Also with the upcoming Unity 3.0 on summer and the rebate (and the tons of great features) that come with this new version, Unity Pro is well worth the money.

Best of luck, no matter what your decision may be.