Devs learn rival Godot engine in a week to poke fun at Unity
The result? Install Fee Tycoon
It's generally not accepted as good form to kick someone while they're down, but we can always make an exception where predatory business practices are concerned, especially in the $334 billion video game industry.
Earlier this month, Unity outraged its community of developers by introducing per-install runtime fees for games built on the company's engine.
All the same, runtime fees will still apply to qualifying titles and trust in the company is shattered. Such is the risk of building something on another vendor's service, only to have them change the rules on you.
So canny devs have started looking elsewhere, not least the open source and free game engine Godot. In fact, on hearing the original announcement, two industry veterans decided to learn the engine and build a game satirizing the situation – and they did it all in one week.
The result is Install Fee Tycoon, an idle clicker in the vein of Cookie Clicker* only instead of baking cookies at exponential rates, it's reinstalls of games built on the "Chaos3D" engine.
The inspiration for indie devs John Warner and Trevor Da Silva was that they woke up on September 12 much like any other Unity developer – "by shitting their pants." The pair said they deemed the policy to mean that "it would now be possible for developers to become bankrupted by the action of a handful of angry troglodytes with a bat file which would automatically reinstall their game."
This, they noticed, "would make a great game" itself. Introducing Install Fee Tycoon, they say:
The makers of the "Chaos3D" game engine have begun pocketing 20 cents from developers every time one of their games is installed. Behind closed doors, however, they are paying you one cent every time you perform a reinstall. It's time to get rich. Use your connections on the dark web to trigger more reinstalls faster and faster. Install Fee Tycoon contains the addictive fun of Idle Clickers like Cookie Clicker but adds some interesting twists; your contacts will need your help to become more efficient, and the game contains several minigames to play while waiting for your wallet to get fatter. It's a perfect addition to the genre. Additionally, Install Fee Tycoon includes a simple but funny narrative component.
Granted, an idle clicker isn't exactly the most advanced type of game, but it demonstrates the point that experienced devs can whip up something in Godot, fully formed, in no time and that Unity is not the be-all and end-all. It also neatly plays on concerns many had about how Unity's install tracking would work and how it could potentially be open to abuse.
- Unity apologizes, tweaks runtime install fees after gaming world outrage
- Unity talks of price cap and fees for only largest games developers
- Having read the room, Unity goes back to drawing board on runtime fee policy
- Unity closes offices, cancels town hall after threat in wake of runtime fee restructure
But wait, there's more: "The most hilarious outcome here is to get into a point where, if we had built this in Unity, we would have owed more money than we made," the pair told The Reg. "So we're going to launch the game for the lowest price Steam will allow – for the lols, of course – and we're going to track installs. We'll then publicly share install information as well as what we would owe Unity in this case. But not only that – we're going to seed a pirated version and track those installs."
"Trevor and I both have very fond feelings for Unity," said Warner. "I think it's clear to everyone at this point, including Unity, that the proposed changes were a mistake. We want Install Fee Tycoon to stand as a hilarious memory of what might have been, if the entire games industry didn't collectively explode in panicked revolt."
"We really want to highlight the absurdity of this whole thing," Da Silva added, saying that the game will sell on Steam for 40 cents. "We had hoped for 20, but tragically, Valve actually wants to make money."
"If we get very lucky, we'll get into a position where we would have owed more money than we made, had this been released in Unity under the proposed plan. It would be the perfect punchline to our joke. As John said, we have a lot of love for Unity; they're certainly correcting this blunder, but it's still funny to think of the bullet we all dodged."
Install Fee Tycoon launches on October 9 if you fancy a laugh at Unity's expense and a look at what can be achieved with Godot within a week. Away from this joke title, which was released pseudonymously under the Moonstruck moniker, the two are responsible for The Fall and The Last Hero of Nostalgaia.
Elsewhere, developers continue to make their feelings known. Boston Unity Group, "the first official Unity user group in the world," is holding its final event today after 13 years because "the trust we used to have in the company has been completely eroded."
"Over the past few years, Unity has unfortunately shifted its focus away from the games industry and away from supporting developer communities," the group's leadership wrote. "Following the IPO, the company has seemingly put profit over all else, with several acquisitions and layoffs of core personnel. Many key systems that developers need are still left in a confusing and often incomplete state, with the messaging that advertising and revenue matter more to Unity than the functionality game developers care about." ®
*Click with caution – bafflingly addictive gameplay ahead.