Wooga: A Unity case study
How does a studio maintain both technical and creative production at their highest possible levels? And also consistently solve complex development challenges while fostering fresh ideas for gameplay and stories? Wooga has found a way. This enterprising studio combines innovative technology, art, writing, and design to generate games that players will enjoy for years while making the diversity and inclusivity of their teams a priority. They’re currently supporting four story-driven casual titles on mobile and Facebook.
To speed production and create richer content with a more diverse workforce
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Staying on top of technology while diversifying the workforce
From its inception in 2009, Wooga has sought to bring more underrepresented groups into game development by fostering diversity programs and prioritizing the hiring of marginalized developers. Yet they still face the challenge that’s universal to game studios: staying on top of fast-evolving technology and getting the most out of their development platforms. That’s why in 2015, Wooga signed up for Unity Integrated Success, part of Unity’s Success Plan offering, giving them direct access to engineers, a dedicated advisor, and many other benefits. They’ve renewed every year since.
- Efficient best practices integrated with guidance and advocacy from a Developer Relations Manager (DRM)
- Richer games and storylines from a more diverse development team
- Fewer interruptions to production cycles due to critical issues resolved in hours
- Increased female internships with game-development workshops for teenage girls
- More effective development by understanding emerging Unity capabilities
Working hard creating casual games
Founded in Berlin in 2009, Wooga started out creating social games for Facebook and expanded to mobile devices in 2013. Since 2018, they’ve focused on story-driven casual games and currently keep around 300 employees busy. According to engineering team manager Linda Stein, “Our goal is to be the market leader in story-driven casual games.” Currently, their audience is largely American women over 45, a growing market that Wooga intends to expand considerably – and globally. “We’re targeting players who simply want to relax and enjoy a great story.”
The move to supporting multiple mobile platforms drove Wooga to choose Unity early on as its primary development tool. They tapped Unity’s cross-team collaboration features to bring their engineers and less-technical designers and artists together. Critically important Unity functionality for them includes virtually instant porting to different devices, the ability to quickly add custom editors, and a constantly evolving feature set that remains at the cutting edge of industry technology.
Breaking gender barriers and building collaboration
Wooga recognizes the importance of diverse teams for telling more inclusive, engaging stories – and making better games overall. This has become a core value for the team, ever since they looked at their studio and recognized a lack of women, particularly on their engineering teams. This inspired them to make the hiring of women a priority and, to promote a richer pool for future hires, Stein developed workshops that teach teenage girls how to make games. The result has been a flood of highly qualified intern applicants.
Over time, the increased percentage of women at Wooga has led to a more open and creative working environment that draws top developers to the studio. While many other studios have just one or two female engineers, “Women are present in significant enough numbers at Wooga that many different voices are heard from, so their impact is considerable,” Stein says.
Adding Unity Integrated Success to the team
When Wooga first started using Unity, they wanted more than just game-development software. They wanted a relationship that included proactive and strategic guidance to help avoid time-consuming, costly architecture mistakes, and they also wanted to be in the loop for upcoming Unity tools and development possibilities. As well, Wooga needed fast responses when they ran into any issues that were slowing production.
Unity Integrated Success met these needs and more, offering two-hour emergency response times, in-depth project reviews, prioritized bug handling, a dedicated Developer Relations Manager (DRM), quarterly service reviews, and priority backports. These program features enable Wooga to quickly consolidate all their development work in Unity and collaborate closely with Unity Integrated Success on many projects.
In-depth report to optimize performance
Project Reviews are a valuable Unity Integrated Success component, where a senior Unity engineer spends several days doing an in-depth analysis of the code architecture, workflows, and other development processes. A comprehensive report provides specific recommendations and outlined best practices for working with Unity, methods that could immediately be applied to other Wooga projects as well.
For the upcoming game, the team worked on a custom implementation of the Universal Render Pipeline (URP). The Project Review facilitated an exploration with Wooga’s tech artists to solve low-level rendering issues. To reduce GPU power consumption, the team came up with a number of optimizations including different shader techniques and the use of UI particles. “It’s been really great spending a couple of days with specialists from Unity. Working with them one-on-one and having direct access to their knowledge made the problem-solving process so much more enjoyable,” says technical artist Giuseppe Modarelli.
As the lead for the Unity Integrated Success team, the DRM’s job is to keep current with Wooga’s roadmap and development status so they can share any relevant information, either from Unity or the industry in general, as needed. They also set up meetings or even offsites with Unity teams. Wooga’s head of frontend engineering Daniel Doubleday emphasizes, “The Unity Developer Relations Manager is our direct link to connect us with Unity experts. If we’re ever really stuck, the DRM just makes things happen.”
Fast responses from the support team
Unity’s Integrated Success team is known for its responsiveness on serious issues, as Doubleday recounts, “One time our payments started bugging out, so we opened a ticket and Unity’s frontline support helped us right away.”
In another instance, a device incompatibility issue appeared to be preventing reliable content updates. However, “The issue occurred unpredictably and was almost impossible to reproduce,” says Stein. Wooga finally found a device that seemed consistently broken and notified Unity. “Unity came by, picked it up, and took it back to their labs to test. They gave us a tweak for the AssetBundles code and our content delivery system was back in business.”
According to Doubleday, “Unity Integrated Success has gone the extra mile to help us fix live issues again and again. It’s an enormously valuable partnership.”
Partnering means a happier, more productive workforce
Unity strongly believes that the world is a better place with more creators in it, and Wooga is a solid example of how gender diversity improves game quality and enhances creativity in general. They’ve moved the needle quite a bit over the past years: between 2016 and 2019, they grew the percentage of total female employees from 28% to 42% and the percentage on game teams from 22% to 34%.
Currently, half their hires are female, with 37% of them in engineering. Stein says, “These days when we attend game jams and similar activities in the gaming community, they are full of women, and that’s where we find a lot of excellent recruitment candidates.”
Keeping all of Wooga’s diverse contributors creating at their greatest potential is what Unity Success Plans are all about. And as the teams begin to explore newer Unity capabilities such as the Data-Oriented Technology Stack (DOTS), Unity Integrated Success will be alongside – with Project Reviews, fast fixes, and proactive and strategic guidance – to ensure their ongoing success.