John Riccitiello is an American businessman who served as President and Chief Operating Officer, CEO of Electronic Arts; currently CEO of Unity Technologies.
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Hello Reddit! I am John Riccitiello, CEO of Unity Technologies. We make the leading game and experience platform for creating 2D, 3D, VR and AR experiences. Some of the more well known games from this year that were made with Unity include: Pokemon GO, Super Mario Run, Firewatch and Inside.
If you’re a developer, you might have heard about our latest plans for the Unity platform, super exciting stuff. We're forging ahead at full speed as you can see on our roadmap, improving graphics, adding platforms, fixing things, and overall making sure that you can make the best games and VR experiences out there.
And if you haven't seen it yet, here's our short film Adam which shows just what the Unity engine is capable of already!
Feel free to ask me about our 2017 plans for Unity, my experience at the company and what I see in the future of the game, mobile and AR/VR industries. I'll be answering questions from 11AM - 12PM. Excited for my first AMA!
EDIT: And that's all the time I have for now. Thank you very much for all your questions! I'll try to answer a few more later on. Happy holidays!
Ok I'll be that guy. Nested prefabs? ;P
On an aside, I want to say thank you to all of Unity for allowing me to make my dreams a reality. Unity allowed me to create my "foot in the door" for the game industry.
Nested Prefabs is now -- actually -- on the roadmap for real. Stay tuned for more detail in the coming months. And -- so glad Unity helped you get your start in the game industry.
Are there any plans to make the codebase more transparent, or provide more documentation for what Unity is doing under the hood?
Unity developers like myself have begun creating their own set of coding superstitions based on what worked on that one project that one time, and it causes a lot of confusion in the community as well as wildly varying code standards.
We are exposing more of our code (C#) in public repositories like Github. We launched (experimental) our VR editor last week. We have substantially increased investment in documentation -- expect more. https://github.com/Unity-Technologies/EditorVR
What is your favorite game that uses Unity?
I just started playing Mario. Love it. Loved Lara Croft Go. Am very excited to see War Commander Rogue Assault come out this week. One of my favorites is City Skylines.
What was it like stepping into David Helgason's shoes as CEO? Did you see it as a big challenge to keep his dream of democratization alive, or were you more focused on bringing your own directions and views to Unity?
David is one of the people on this planet that most inspires me. His (and Joachim's) vision of democratization is what attracted me to Unity to begin with. I am personally very much a believer in the idea, and had the great luck of joining Unity in 2014, early enough to help make the call to launch Unity 5.0 Personal Edition -- our first free, full functional / all platform engine launch for Developers. All about Democratization.
I have heard Unity will be supported the Nintendo Switch. What are your professional and personal thoughts on the system?
We do support the new Nintendo Switch. And, i might note, both Pokemon Go and Mario are built in Unity.
On the Switch -- I am very hopeful it is a huge success. Like with all platforms, success comes from creators building great games, which i fully expect Nintendo to do for the Switch.
Hi John! What is your favorite sandwich?
Is being a "Unity Developer" an enough skill to work in the game industry ?
I am college a dropout who's been working as a freelance game developer for the past 3 years (am am doing good at it).
As someone who doesn't have an official degree, and 100% of my products are made in unity as a programmer & designer, do you think i have a chance in perusing a career in the game industry and work on big games with big studios or am going to stay limited to making small mobile games for clients all over the world.
Many of the most successful game developers i have known over the years don't have college degrees. College can certainly help and programs in game engineering and design (like at USC, Utah, etc, etc) are great. But, success in the game dev world is really more about passion and focus. Really knowing games.
Hello John ,
Whom would you consider as Unity's top competitor at the moment and where would you see that competition in 5 years from now ?
Our biggest competitor is developers / companies that create their own game engines. We are investing in Unity tech so that many of these companies will make the switch, and with it get better performance, more platforms, better outcomes.
Why did Unity choose to focus on services like Analytics or Cloud Build, but seems to neglect important technical defficiencies like the input system, ancient mono runtime, or nested prefabs? Most of the services could be obtained with third-party products, but none of the neglected improvements have a satisfactory workaround.
Unity's first investment priority is our game engine. Over the past years we have more than doubled investment in core tech, for higher performance, more platforms, greater stability, new features (like timeline, metal, etc). We are specifically investing in mono, IL2CPP, nested prefabs and new input systems (coming in 5.6).
We also invest in services like ads and analytics because these help our developers by enabling them to generate more revenue.
Hey John, I'm an ex-EAC ;)
Very interested in getting more details regarding the timeline tool and Cinemachine for film making with Unity? When will Timeline be released?
Timeline will be great for making films, regular 3d or VR. We have not announced the release date, but expect it in 2017.
What daily habit do you believe has the largest positive impact on your life?
Kidding aside -- remembering i am lucky and blessed to work in such a cool industry and recognizing that not everyone gets to do things everyday for work that are fun. It makes working hard easy.
Currently Unity seems to fall flat compared to other game engines when it comes to 2D games. What plans do you have to help catch Unity up to the competition?
We have a great team working on 2d at Unity. Super strong, based in Singapore. They have made a bunch of upgrades with more coming in 5.6 and even more over the rest of 2017. Here is a link with some info. https://forum.unity3d.com/forums/2d-experimental-preview.104/
Hey! Procedurally generated content is now becoming popular beyond genre. You're seeing games play with it not just with level design, but also enemy design (FTL), character design (Crusader Kings 2), and even narrative (Moon Hunters).
What are your plans to support more procedural generation through Unity, either with direct procedural generation tools, or just to make it easier to integrate PCG into a game?
We are making Unity better for creating procedural content / environments.
But -- i play quite a few games, and so far, my experience is there is nothing like the exquisite detail that comes from the hand crafting a combination of great artists and programmers create when they are paying attention to every cell / pixel. Think the beauty of Bioshock Inifinite or, a personal favorite, Mirrors Edge.
What is more difficult, being CEO of EA or of Unity? and why?
Very different. EA makes games, and being a leader there means taking development risk on game content. Thinking like a player. Being sure the games are fun, exciting and innovative. Unity is about thinking like a developer. We always put our developers first -- figuring out what they need and want.
I love working for Unity. It helps to have our amazing founders, David H and Joachim A around.
Jesus and all angels guide you to accomplish this!! Nested prefabs for everybody!!
I am with you!!
What advancements in AI (artificial intelligence) will be applied to the Unity engine over the next couple of years?
You may have noticed we have hired some great new people from the world of AI and Machine learning. Nothing huge to announce today... but we will let you know ...
Just wondering, how do you feel about the fact that since splash screens are mandatory in the free version of unity, many asset flipped games then also have this splash screen, making unity appear to be the "asset flip engine". Is there anything unity is doing to fix this or is this not your problem?
Unity today is focused on helping he best developers (or new and aspiring dev) make great games. I am personally proud of Unity and love to see games like Pokemon Go sport our splash screen. I think increasingly devs are proud of their association with Unity and more will use the SS, both large and small devs.
Hey John! Thanks so much for doing this AMA. Any plans for a visual scripting system that is built into Unity?
Visual scripting -- on the roadmap. Timing TBD.
Are there any new interesting international markets that a unity port could potentially open up? e.g. LINE apps? or some other tv os or console that isn't on north american radar?
We very much support platforms internationally. Recently at Unite LA we announced our partnership with Xiaomi, one of China's leading platforms. We are very focused on AR / VR. Will announce more when ready.
In regards to VR & AR, do you predict the "gap of disappointment" will increase or decrease in 2017?
I am a huge believer, long term, in AR / VR. When i put on an AR or VR device and try something great (like Unity's Editor VR) i am so convinced that the future for these types of platforms will be HUGE. But, i think it is going to take a few years for these platforms to reach audiences of 10's or 100's of millions like today's game consoles, or even billions like mobile does today. Net -- 2017 will be a growth year, but likely not explosive growth. Watch for big / massive games in 3 to 5 years.
What language would you recommend most to all developers who have not yet finished a game, and what advice would you give to a team or person who starts on something and quickly loses interest?
Work on something interesting.
Tools like Unity have had a big impact on the indie game community, which is getting stronger every day. Nowadays, it's easier to make games for people who don't have a lot of experience, budget, of publisher support.
Meanwhile, the AAA industry is suffering the cost of its growing complexity; I'm not saying that it's dying, far from it, but it's certainly been stumbling, with underwhelming releases (I'll take FFXV as an exemple, which took more than 10 years to be released, for a result that some would consider uneven or even disappointing) or big names in the industry deciding that it's not worth the hassle anymore and choosing to try their luck elsewhere (Hello, Konami). Some series that were once a cornerstones of the industry are also starting to experience disappointing sale numbers and player attention (CoD, Assassin's Creed, to name a few).
What are your thoughts about this new balance of power? Do you believe the trend will continue, that it could bring a lasting change to the industry as we know it, or do you think that the video game industry will be more or less the same in a few years?
(Sorry if the question is too broad; I chose to ask it because it's hard to think about indie games without immediately thinking about Unity)
Big question. One that i could talk about for hours. One thing i love about Unity is we are very serious about helping Indie developers create games that can compete with the biggest game publishers. I expect Indie gaming to rise as a % of the total industry for many years. But, game development will get more complex for Indie's. Real time multiplayer games are more complex and these will be the norm in a few years in mobile, challenging Indies to tackle more difficult and complex problems.
Is Unity still committed to supporting and enabling indie game developers? Are there any new indie dev initiatives coming up in 2017?
We are very much involved with Indie developers, in gaming and now in AR / VR. Unity 5.0 Personal Edition was all about Indies. We launched MadeWithUnity to support Indies. And recently launched Unity Connect, largely for Indies. And -- at Unity -- many of us play and love Indie devs and games.
What's the best way someone with software experience can learn to develop for Unity?
Most people learn by joining a team and learning by doing. There are also a bunch of tutorials online, on Youtube and on our one websites, where you can find more. Many colleges and schools also teach Unity.
How big will non-game VR experiences be compared to VR games - both in general and specifically for Unity- in the next couple of years?
Hard to know. I'd guess non-game ends up bigger than games for the total world of VR. Initially, gaming is more than 2/3 but i think over time non game apps will grow more rapidly.
What changes have been in the company since you became the CEO? Did you find something that you immediately changed?
Unity is constantly changing. Perhaps the biggest change was the decision to more than double investment in the core engine. Another change was launching Ads and Analytics -- we did this after i joined the company as an investor and board member, and grew it in my time as CEO. But, I'd say the biggest issues are really what stayed the same. We continue to be VERY engineering driven. We remain very much focused on the idea of supporting developers, even doing a bunch of things that are unprofitable to drive democratization.
How do you see the future of VR? Do you think it'll become mainstream? Would love to know your opinion on this.
Thanks! Love Unity
I think VR will be mainstream -- meaning 100m consumers using the tech regularly -- by 2020. And, i believe that within 10 years we will see > 1B consumers globally using VR apps
First off thank you, Unity has allowed me to create my job from scratch (High School Game Dev Teacher) and help introduce students to Computer Science and Game Development that otherwise might not have had the opportunity.
I have two questions:
What sort of developments is Unity Education going to make as it matures. It presently seems to be aimed at High Ed, but multiple states are adopting Game Dev in their Career Tech standards and my state (California) is in the process of drafting new Computer Science Standards? Is Unity going to try to move into this space more directly?
I just got a brand new classroom for my program and have been trying to get some Unity Posters to throw up on the walls. Where exactly would I get those? I can't find them on the website.
Edu is a huge priority for us. We have been expanding rapidly at the college / university level and are setting up courseware for this, that would also work in tech oriented high schools. We don't now have posters... will ask the team to make some and post on where to find.
You are EA former CEO , what do you think of the new mass effect ? Have you seen the trailer ?
Can you tell us something on the unannounced Star Wars game ?
First -- I am a MASSIVE Mass Effect fan. Loved the first three -- played through a few times with my daughters.
As for unannounced games -- i stay away from comments.
Do you like memes?
yes -- just not ones that include me.