What is it? An all-inclusive development suite for making 3D games.
Price and licence: The free version has all you'll need as a beginner, and is fine to use commercially unless you're making more than $100,000 a year from your games. The pro version has fancy things like pathfinding, physics, and graphics tricks, and costs £924. No royalties for either version.
Makes games for: PC, Mac and Linux. iOS and Android versions are £246 each.
Tutorial: Infinite Ammo's Unity tutorial
Case Study: AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! – For the Awesome
Developers: Ichiro Lambe (Dejobaan Games) and Alex Schwartz (Owlchemy Labs - Unity Version)
Get it: from Steam
How long does Unity take to learn?
Alex: I'd guess you're asking about how long it takes to prototype a game idea, i.e. make some kind of first playable 'proving ground' to figure out if your game is on the right track toward fun. At Owlchemy Labs, we found that a prototype of gameplay should take less than 7 days for us, and if it takes longer than that to find fun, we toss the whole prototype as it's a good sign that we're on the wrong path.
In addition to that 7 day rule, we also follow a "one day of prototype == one month of polish", so a 6-day prototype will take 6 months of full time work to build out as an actual, polished game.
What prior knowledge or skills are helpful?
Ichiro: Knowledge of another 3D engine, Solid C# (or C++, etc) skills, vector algebra, the ability to research ("Google, help me find documentation on fast dot product functions.") and communicate well ("Dear Unity Community, can you help me with X problem I'm having with Y?")
What can't you do with it?
Alex: I'm of the camp that anything is possible with sufficient time, money, and effort. Also WD40 and duct tape. But honestly, we haven't hit development walls that prevented us from fulfilling our creative goals, and anything that annoys us is usually just a minor editor idiosyncrasy.
How long did you think the game would take to make, and how long did it actually take?
Alex: We estimated around six months, with only two full-time developers on Owlchemy Labs' end and one to three part-timers on Dejobaan's end. It ended up being closer to 8.5 months, with the last month of work spanning the course of about 4 months, due to updates and launch timing.
How much of the development time was enjoyable, and how much was unpleasant?
Alex: I've had the unfortunate opportunity to work with some pretty nasty engines in the past. Thankfully the work within Unity was mostly pleasant. The most unpleasant part of the development of the game involved bringing in 3D Game Studio's proprietary asset formats where a source asset was not available, but that was solved early on in development.
How much did it cost you to develop, and what did that money go on?
Ichiro: Most of the project was done via revenue share, so development/marketing costs were well under $20k.
How well has your game done for you financially, on a scale from 1-10? (Let's say 5 is 'just enough for me to make another game', and 10 is 'more than I could possibly need')
Ichiro: Time will tell. Most of our revenue comes about over the course of two years after the initial push (when we do bundles and Steam sales and so forth). The original Aaaaa! was doing pretty well, until we added it to the Portal 2 Potato ARG. That dialled things up to 11.
If you could give your past self one piece of advice before starting to make the game, what would it be?
Ichiro: Add in one more killer mechanic that pervades the entire game and gets fans of the original to pick up the semi-sequel.
Unity is the best combination of approachable and versatile for 3D games. It's more complex than Game Maker, but about as easy as it gets for 3D development. The free version is very generous, and the recent addition of Linux support makes it one of the only noob-friendly tools that can make games for all three desktop operating systems.