What did Ask to reach several platforms at the same time?

5 million downloads in a week is no small matter

At first, Etermax developed the versions of Questions for iOS and Android in parallel, using native code for each one. However, the cost of maintaining several development routes was quite high. With the passage of time, the benefits of using Unity, with its “single source code for different outputs” system, as well as its popularity among some Etermax developers and other game studios, became very solid arguments to make the change.

The results:

A very successful launch with 5 million downloads in the first week. One of the 5 trivia games with the highest gross income in the United States.

A single base code that can be quickly exported to different platforms: mobile, web or PC

Smaller equipment and faster speed in the prototyping process facilitate more efficient and creative development

Prefab assets and the Unity animation system offer a wealth of artistic advantages and benefits that save time

Access to the Unity resource store (Asset Store), where there are thousands of free or low-cost resources that allow creators to save essential amounts of time and effort when using Unity

Máximo Cavazzani, the executive director of Etermax, started the company with a series of word games, among which Apalabrados ( Aworded Crack or Angry Words in English), awarded as the best Apple Store game in 2012. with Mattel to create a mobile version of Pictionary. “After creating three successful games, we began to think of a trivia app. That is how Questions was born , which was presented in Latin America in 2013.”

However, to maintain interest in a quiz, the biggest challenge is to generate original content and, especially, that is suitable and interesting for each market. “For example, if you live in Mexico, you won’t want to read the same questions as people living in Spain,” said Máximo. After considering many different ideas, they decided on a unique approach: to design the game to allow users in each region to create content and contribute their own questions and answers. This function, known as the “Factory of Questions”, became immensely popular, so Quedos became the most downloaded app in the Apple Store for 60 consecutive days from December 2014.

Due to this great success, Etermax has become the fastest growing game development company in Latin America. And Cavazzani is quick to mention the reason for his phenomenal growth: “Etermax is not a gaming company, it is a company of ‘great ideas'”.

The difficulty of maintaining two independent versions

Although the versions of Questions for iOS and Android were launched at the same time, the development department of Etermax was completely divided, as one team used Xcode and the other used Android Studio. Etermax had to find experienced employees for each platform, the teams were never coordinated, there were different errors on each platform and, although the final products seemed almost identical, it was as if they had been created by two different companies.

In addition, some functions that required haptic sensors, such as roulette, were difficult to program in the native code. These types of problems caused Etermax to start thinking about leaving behind its native tools and adopting a new multiplatform development tool.

According to Pablo Iacopi, technical director (Technical Owner) of Etermax, “First we tested libGDX, which was a good open source library, but we were never completely sure about its compatibility. On the other hand, the learning curve was quite steep and necessary assemble our own graphical user interface (GUI) “. They also considered using React Native, which would allow them to rely on the compilation of existing code for each platform and use a common layer logic for the new elements, which could then be exported to the different platforms. However, this solution did not allow to unify development properly, which was the main objective of Etermax.

Reasons why they chose Unity

Several Etermax developers had experience with Unity, and Etermax knew that Unity was an increasingly popular development platform and several of its colleagues in the sector were implementing it with excellent results. “Our confidence increased when we saw that other companies chose the Unity platform, and our own developers recommended it, so we decided to try it,” said Gonzalo Huertas, vice president of engineering at Etermax. In fact, the development manager of Question 2 was an Unity expert.

They developed some prototypes to test speed and performance, and the results were definitive. Gonzalo mentioned: “For developers with experience in Android or back-end, the change to C # was quite simple. And, for the other teams, the change to Unity was also quite simple. We chose Unity to simplify our processes. Instead If we continue our development on two different code bases, we now have a single development workflow and can easily publish our products on many different platforms from the same code base. ” In addition, Unity allows you to integrate design tasks, so developers can modify graphic elements regardless of other tools.

The change to Unity allowed to create prototypes faster and to have smaller teams with a greater response capacity, which fundamentally changed the game development philosophy of this company. According to Pablo: “Previously, we tried to perfect a game as much as possible to create a production candidate. Now, we can create a minimum viable product (MVP) and collect a lot of metrics. This allows us to create a game much more complete. ”

Prefab assets and the animation system offer many benefits

After using Unity 2018.3, Pablo stated that “A very important function of Unity for us is the ability to nest prefab assets  , as this greatly simplifies the creation of the visual interface. And this does not only apply to the characters We have many common widgets in different scenes that we can update automatically. ” By creating a widget as a prefabricated resource (Prefab Asset), Etermax can make only one change in the code to update all the nested resources (assets) simultaneously. He added: “Unity’s ability to create a glyph atlas at runtime, that is, its dynamic font function, helps us a lot with the Chinese and Japanese character sets.”

As for the dimension, the decidedly flat 2D design of Questioned works very well. The selection of objects is simpler in 2D, the screen locations are very precise and the entire user interface (UI) gives a feeling of cleanliness and simplicity. Etermax took advantage of the Unity animation system , which is very complete and constantly growing, to animate 2D sprites , manage different clips, and use the rules and timelines to create transitions from one animation to another.

Great speed in the game: tricks to improve performance

Although Questions 2 has most of the functions of the original game and several new game modes, it loads almost instantly. Pablo shared some of his tricks: “We started adding many features to Questions 2 and the initial loading time increased greatly from one moment to another. This motivated us to investigate how Unity’s performance tools could help us. We began to measure what we did with that load and, basically, now we only distribute the load of the game in the moments and in the sections where it is needed, instead of loading everything indiscriminately on each occasion. ”

The company shares its experience and learning actively with the Unity community. You can find articles about his Unity performance tricks and more on his engineering team’s blog .