forma.8: A Unity for 2D games case study
Back in 2014, video game journalist, Mauro Fanelli, and veteran graphic designer, Andrea Gellato, decided to go from spare-time game enthusiasts to full-time game developers. With the help of Unity, they quit their jobs, formed MixedBag, and pursued the dream of realizing the vision they had for their forma.8 game.
forma.8, a 2D metroidvania action-adventure exploration game
To produce a premium game with beautifully hand-drawn vector graphics
PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch, Wii U, Xbox One, iOS, PC / MAC / Linux, FaceBook GameRoom
Fast prototyping, multiplatform launch
Unity enabled a self-taught programmer and his artist collaborator to make their dream game a reality.
- Created forma.8 prototype in around one month
- Asset Store plugins saved months of work
- Shipped forma.8 on six different platforms at launch with a 5-person team. The game is now available on 10 platforms.
- Ported to Nintendo Switch in just 10 days
The time was ripe to make the dream come true
When the iOS market exploded, Mauro Fanelli and Andrea Gellato understood that the time was ripe to make their dream game happen. With limited resources, however, they needed an easy-to-use tool that would give them a boost.
“In my heart of hearts, I always wanted to create games,” says Fanelli. “But I’m self-taught, I’ve never really been a very good programmer. So the fact that Unity is so easy to use was a godsend. Without Unity, we would have never been able to set up the company and make games. With it, I was able to do a prototype of forma.8 in around one month.”
A solution for any problem
In addition to the ease of use of Unity, the support of other Unity developers and the Asset Store also made things easier for MixedBag to succeed.
“Unity has a huge, amazing community of developers, and if you follow the forums, there’s a solution for pretty much any problem.”
Fanelli says that the Asset Store makes things easier, too, and in fact, it is the first place they look when they have something new to develop.
“If someone else already has written the code for us, why not reuse or repurpose it to solve our problem as well? We’ve purchased 15-20 different plug-ins from the Asset Store, and they enabled our five-man studio to build what would normally require 20 people. It’s incredibly helpful, and it saved us months of work.”
At the game’s heart and soul: a striking 2D look
Inspired by one of his favorite games from the 90s (the action-adventure game, Another World), it was clear to Fanelli and company from the start that 2D was the right fit for forma.8. He and his partner, Gellato, had a clear vision for the look and feel.
“It was our dream project, let’s call it that way. And in our minds, we knew how it had to look. It would have this unique graphic style. One of the goals was that you would see no pixels on screen. It had to be clean and bold with no contrasting colors,” he says.
In the end, they based all the visuals in forma.8 on a black silhouette, but always with a vibrant, colorful background.
A beautiful 2D game deserves a hard-working 2D engine
At the time they started working on forma.8 in 2011, the Unity engine offered little 2D-specific support. So when the Unity 2D engine was introduced, they were thrilled.
“In terms of physics, what really mattered was that simulations were stable. With the Unity 2D engine, we no longer had to do calculations for collisions and teleporting,” Fanelli says. “We no longer had to worry about errors or detecting if you were in the mesh collider or outside it when passing through walls. We just switched, and we got a huge improvement in performance.”
Shipped on six different platforms
With Unity’s multiplatform support, forma.8 was able to deploy to a lot of platforms rapidly. They also extended the Unity Editor with a plug-in wrapper for console functionality that made the control system work on various platforms without having to write a lot of code.
“A lot of small teams just launch on one or two platforms because it can be so resource demanding, but actually we shipped forma.8 on six different platforms with a five-person team at the same time. And actually porting the game to Nintendo Switch took only around ten days. Porting games used to be a huge challenge, now with Unity, you can deploy everywhere.”
MixedBag shipped forma.8 to PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch, Wii U, Xbox One, iOS, PC, Mac,Linux and FaceBook GameRoom.