Unity: “Middleware is in trouble”

Unity: "Middleware is in trouble"

Unity: "Middleware is in trouble"

Unity Technologies believes that the increasing feature-set of 3D engines, such as its own Unity, means developers are less reliant on middleware solutions than in the past.

Unity now supports multithread rendering and advanced lighting techniques, allowing its developers to export to Flash, and Epic Games' Unreal Engine also supports Flash 11 and its Stage 3D APIs. Crytek, meanwhile, built its own in-house physics engine for CryEngine rather than use a thirdparty solution. In an interview, Unity Technologies CEO David Helgason tells us it all adds up to trouble for the middleware industry.

"I'm good friends with many of these people, and they're great technologists," he tells us," but developers are less willing to [use middleware], I think, now that 3D engines offer more and more features.

"My sense is that these businesses – not all of them, necessarily, but as a category, for sure – are in trouble. It's kind of sad, because there's some really good stuff coming out of there."

Helgason, of course, would say that – and as we reported yesterday, the likes of Bungie and Remedy are making use of Umbra's rendering optimisation technology in their games, with Bungie's Hao Chen talking up the merits of middleware as the former Halo developer builds its next-gen engine. But Helgason believes in-house engines supported by middleware are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

"Fewer and fewer people are making their own in-house engines," he says. "The concept never goes away – there's always someone with an in-house engine, and many of them are really good. But they're really expensive to maintain and the smaller the team and the more nimble the project has to be, the harder these are to justify.

"A lot of people are coming to us with really good in-house engines but wanting to replace them with something outside which will be maintained by somebody else. They can still get source code if they need it, so it's actually the best of both worlds."

Helgason's comments come from a feature on the current state of 3D engines, with input from Epic's Mark Rein, Carl Jones from Crytek and David Coghlan of Havok. It's in our new issue, E236, which should be with subscribers in the coming days and will be on shelves next Tuesday, December 20.