Choosing a new technology for an important project is risky, especially when you’re stepping out of your comfort zone for the first time in your career.
We talk to software engineer, Kieron, about his work with Lairytales and learning Unity in anger.
Tell us a bit about the project
“The project is called Lairytales. We’re creating interactive stories for kids that can be used independently for child-led learning in an app, as well print-based books, so children and adults can also share the experience. The stories are based on naughty creatures called Lairies, who have some really horrible habits!”
“We have a Kickstarter campaign running at the moment – get your kids something cool for Christmas!”
What’s the appeal of the project for you as a developer?
“One of the things I most enjoy about working on Lairytales is its technical potential. It’s a project with massive long-term scope and we have ambitions to expand the app to include lots of features that get kids learning and laughing at the same time.
“I’m also focused on finding new implementations for the characters. For example, I’m excited about trying to integrate Scratch and getting children learning the basics of coding.”
Why did you choose to build with Unity?
“For me, the idea of being able to write-once, run pretty-much anywhere is an easy sell. This is a job on top of my day job right now, so if it makes my life easier that’s a massive win. Sign me up!
“Then there’s the speed. Before settling on Unity, I tried a bunch of different HTML5 Canvas frameworks/ libraries and a raft of other tech. None of them compare to just how fast you can get something up, on-screen, tweaked and ready than with Unity.”
What are the main challenges you face using this tech?
“Coming from a services world, where I deal in scale, high-availability and resilience, having to make things pretty is hard! My biggest challenge is creating something that’s visually beautiful (which I think the Lairies are, in their own stinky way).”
What advice would you give to someone starting out with Unity?
“Firstly, find someone who knows their stuff, a friend, a freelancer, and learn from them. I’m lucky, I reached out to a Twitter friend who lives in the next town over for some advice. Now an IRL friend, he’s been instrumental in helping get this project up and running! Thanks @GarethIW!
“Secondly, there’s a million ways to solve a problem – pick one, don’t get bogged down. I suffered a lot from analysis paralysis – trying to make the perfect solution to each problem. I ended up achieving nothing for a long time.”
What have you learnt about the limitations and possibilities of the tech during your project?
“Mobile is hard, VR + AR is freaking awesome!
“My biggest takeaway from my time playing/creating/imagining with Unity is the possibilities – seeing all the cool new stuff coming out of the VR and AR space makes me want to go get all the HMDs I can and never leave my home office.”
Would you recommend Unity to other people in your situation?
“In a heartbeat. Unity is fun, rewarding and exciting. It’s like a game in itself… when you get that thing working, when all the hours of sweat and toil pay off, it’s incredibly rewarding.”