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From game-jam to Unity Showcase

How two devs in different countries created an awesome 2D game in their spare time

Phased: A Unity for 2D games case study

Back in June 2017, when Tim van het Kaar and Joshua Boren came up with a twist on the shape-shifting genre for a game jam project, they thought, ‘Hey, this is pretty cool. We should keep working on it as a full project.’ Then, the Unity for 2D solution made their production pipeline so smooth that the project just kept on rolling. Before they knew it, they’d formed a partnership, their project was featured at the Made with Unity showcase at Unite Europe 2017, and now they plan to release Phased as a full-scale game in 2018.

The game

Phased, a 2D shape-shifting platformer with distinctive art and captivating mechanics developed by EpicHouse Games

The goal

To see their unique game-jam idea all the way through to release

Platforms

Windows, more platforms to follow

Team members

2

Location

The Hague, Netherlands

Los Angeles, California

A low barrier of entry, efficient 2D tools, and the extensibility of the Unity engine have meant that Tim van het Kaar and Joshua Boren could turn what started out as an experimental project into a promising full-scale game.

The results:

  • Tilemap saved 10-20 hours a week in development time
  • Two-person team collaborating remotely developed Phased in around 9 months
  • Featured at Made with Unity Showcase at Unite Europe 2017
Phased: Unity for 2D games case study
Tim van het Kaar, co-founder and developer at EpicHouse Studios, talks about how Unity 2D features like the Tilemap tool, made it possible for two part-time developers to create a showcase game in their spare time.

Suddenly they were making a full-scale game

After meeting on a social community web forum for game devs, Tim van het Kaar and Joshua Boren decided it would be fun to make a game together at a game jam. The two developers soon found that with Unity’s continuous updates–and its growing arsenal of 2D tools–they could create a rich game despite their limited time and resources.

“The theme of the jam was shapeshifting, but everybody was doing shapeshifting. We wanted to do something different, so instead of shapeshifting, we did world-shifting,” Van het Kaar says.

In the Phased universe, the hero is a girl on her summer break, who wakes up one day with the ability to twist reality. It’s a unique take on a well-known platform genre. Unity’s low barrier of entry has allowed them to see their idea to its fruition.

“With Unity, anyone can make a game that grows into something larger, and you can start doing it even if you’re not a full-time game developer. You can start doing it while you’re working on school. You can start doing it while you’re working a full-time job,” van het Kaar says.

“We’re two guys, I’m studying, he’s working a full-time job, and we’re still about to release a game that’s made in our spare time. And I think that’s because Unity allows us to save a lot of time.”

How the Tilemap made it easy to build 2D worlds

The two developers found Unity’s continuous updates–with its growing arsenal of 2D tools–made it possible for them to create a rich game despite their limited time and resources.

When they started creating Phased, the 2D experimental version of Tilemap had just come out in the preview version, and the two developers decided to experiment with it.

“We soon realized that we could extend it with brushes and features that matched our own workflow, and it was making it very easy to prototype and iterate on new levels,” van het Kaar says. “That meant we could just try out a feature in a separate scene and then once everything worked, put it in the main level, and we didn’t have to break things before they were ready.”

See how EpicHouse used Tilemap below.

Slicing and dicing rapidly with spritesheet support

Another 2D feature that van het Kaar loved was the spritesheet support, which made it much faster and easier to build their scenes.

“You can just throw in a regular spritesheet texture, click a button, and you have your whole spritesheet laid out. And if there’s one that’s not neatly lined up–because it’s actually laid out the way you want it for your game–you can still splice it however you want to.”

“Together, the Tilemap and spritesheet support have saved us hours and hours of work every week. In fact, if we didn’t have those 2D features, we simply couldn’t have made a game of this scale with two people working on it part-time,” van het Kaar says.

See how Spritesheet support made it easy for EpicHouse to work with 2D images below.

If it’s not there, build it

In addition to the 2D features included in Unity, the two creators also found that they could extend the Unity engine to match the way they worked.

“Everyone’s making a different game, and you can’t solve every problem for every game in one engine, but the nice thing about Unity is that it gives you the tools to build whatever you need on top by extending the editor,” van het Kaar says.

“For example, we have an enemy that becomes longer as it attacks, and in the frame where it’s long, it needs to have a longer collider. So we built a tool for moving colliders and scaling them during each frame of a sprite animation. That way we don’t have to check every single pixel,” he says.

In other instances, rather than extending the Unity Editor themselves, they simply add tools from the Unity Asset Store. In particular, they’ve found that Rewired is extremely useful for input control.

“It allows us to work with any controller we want, without having to make specific configurations for each one. We just plug it in and it lets us take advantage of specific controller features, like using the PS lightbar on PC. It’s just so useful to have,” van het Kaar says.

“If we didn’t have Tilemap, we probably couldn’t make a game of this scale with two people. It allows us to rapidly iterate on game design and create game levels.”

— Tim van het Kaar, Co-founder, EpicHouse Studios

How do you get started with Unity for 2D?

Follow this practical guide with information and resources that will get you on your way, save you time, and help you gain the most value when developing 2D games using Unity.

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