Elegant Dev Storytime Launches! And, the Unity Insanity
Introducing Elegant Dev Storytime
If you read this blog, you probably already know about the launch of our new web docu-series: Elegant Dev Storytime, which had its first episode premiere on our YouTube channel September 9th, 2023. As previously announced, the work has begun to produce more content for Elega's social media channels so that we can have a more consumer-facing presence. There is a lot of content planned, covering topics that span across business, gaming, mixed reality, and artificial intelligence.
The first two episodes are out now, titled Making My First Game: A City Builder and Business Needs to Learn from Games. In future episodes, you'll see the journey ahead of new updates to Kalling Kingdom, the construction of our new proprietary game engine (named: Aperture internally), and explorations from the past decade of software development experience.
The series is from my desk - yep, me! I'm Scott Lee, the now one-man show here at Elega Corporation. If you followed previous updates, you'll know that over the past 6+ years, we've had part-time employees and worked with outside contractors driven primarily by our IT training courses business with Pluralsight. After recently leaving that courses business as we know it, I've returned back to the original purpose of this company to produce real software, like games!
Our new web series, Elegant Dev Storytime, will catalogue this journey of creating software at Elega throughout the coming months or years. This is the first time that I've been creatively unrestricted since signing my author agreement with Pluralsight all the way back in 2017. In Elegant Dev Storytime, I get to put in all the things you never heard if you took my courses: my opinions on what's great and what's terrible in the form of rants or sarcasm, jokes for the sake of entertaining, any topic of choice as opposed to following a curriculum, and music! Yep, Pluralsight didn't allow me to put music into the courses, and very much required me to follow a very strict format for the sake of having consistency in their premium content.
The last time I had all of this freedom in videos was probably back when I made the gameFINITY series, which originally premiered on the Digicades YouTube channel. That channel became the indiejacob channel that we know and love today, where gameFINITY was later moved to the Elega Corporation YouTube channel. That previous show has been long over and followed a more conventional format for YouTube of providing gaming commentary, and was more of a participatory exercise in being a part of the gaming community more broadly. The perspective in gameFINITY was more from the standpoint of being a player of videogames, not so much a game maker.
A lot has changed since gameFINITY. Elegant Dev Storytime isn't just recreating that same show again: this time it's more about incorporating my perspectives as a software architect, programmer, and technical expert into how that intersects with business, the gaming industry, and game design itself. You won't see stuff like excitedly unboxing the next Nintendo console, or reviewing the latest big new videogame. Instead, you'll see evergreen topics where I'll explore things like lessons that were learned previously in my career, or perspectives that should be considered for the purpose of improving software.
Unity Did What?!
I don't need to provide a lot of commentary on what Unity Technologies, the owners and developers behind the Unity game engine, have done the past number of weeks. The press, the development community, and many relevant parties have all given perfectly valid commentary along with an appropriate backlash. If for some reason this is the first you're seeing it mentioned, Unity essentially attempted to create a new, bizarre pricing scheme in which they would charge for installs of their game engine runtime and this was rightfully met with extreme hostility, confusion, frustration, and some degree of their engine being abandoned.
In short, Unity's actions have prompted me to accelerate the move of our current and future software out of the Unity into our own proprietary engine. This includes porting Kalling Kingdom out of the engine and this will delay the original plans we had for updates to the game. There was also a 3D technical demo that I had planned to put together before the end of Q1 2024 that would have utilized the 3D capabilities of Unity, and the choice to use Unity for that has been withdrawn. I've not yet chosen a new engine for that project - Unreal is a possibility but there's also now a broader consideration in that Elega should reduce all dependencies of its technology to not use third-party vendors in order to protect against actions that are of a similar nature to that of Unity.
To Unity's credit, they did announce a walking back of their fee structure that was very nearly implemented. But this isn't enough for many in the community, including myself, where it's broadly considered that the trust and credibility of Unity as a company is now considered broken. Not that Unity cares from a business perspective but I've elected to abandon use of their engine, and so have many others. The short-term drawbacks to this are fairly moderate from the relative perspective of what I have going on as an individual and with Elega as a company but the long-term benefits are major.
Ceasing use of Unity in favor of our proprietary engine will mean that we have one less royalty split on revenue coming in to Elega, which might occasionally give a little bit of flexibility on sales or pricing, including pricing structures if we're not just doing premium pay-per-copy titles. Naturally, using our own engine also means having full control over every aspect of the game, which should mean better ability to adapt to special requirements on projects. While it will take us longer to support certain platforms, we conversely don't have to be restricted by Unity not working with a given platform - a port would be possible due to that full control.
Research Update: Artificial Intelligence and Mixed Reality
Meta is in the process of launching its Meta Quest 3 and I will be monitoring sales figures, or whatever information can be provided about sales figures, of this new headset closely. The Quest 3 is a meaningful product to enter the market because, if it is commercially successful, could provide another step toward the mainstreaming of mixed reality as opposed to only virtual reality (VR).
Some timelines are tricky with the launch of our new online presence with the YouTube channel and the renewed effort on Kalling Kingdom but it is clear that there is future effort needed to support the format of mixed reality. At a minimum, experiences that are normally 2D in nature, whether they be games, productivity apps, business applications, or other kinds of programs - they'll need to be able to run usefully within these headsets. Being interactable within the headsets isn't enough: it's important to design 2D (and of course 3D) experiences with a high standard of quality for supporting mixed reality headsets.
We would still like to put together a mixed reality web experience here for the Elega website - expect to see some kind of announcement about that later. For now, it will be a background project as I continue to focus on the priority of building an audience while working on a new core suite of products.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has also been making major waves, of course. Open-source large language models are flying out onto the internet constantly, and each week has a new one that surpasses in capability prior well known models in one way or another. I've been experimenting with this technology a little bit on the side to ensure I'm well informed on the topic but have not made major contributions to the marketplace.
Consumers are still getting used to the mere existence of things like ChatGPT and its capabilities, as well as how best to use these as tools in their day-to-day work or living. For businesses, there exists a major opportunity here to develop custom applications that utilize large-language models for their specific domains, where data scientists or AI specialists will want to conduct fine-tuning and embedding relevant to niche knowledge areas. These custom applications within companies will inevitably provide some small edge in competitive markets such that companies who avoid using these models, or simply don't know to use them, will likely end up at a disadvantage.
The big trick with these models that makes a huge difference is the ability to plug them into APIs. If there's a point that the marketplace reaches where applications are developed that both utilize APIs and are fully autonomous, then we may see some very interesting things happen. I'd imagine, though I know very little about this, that autonomous agents may be able to conduct round-the-clock work on things like drug discovery and research or other medical breakthroughs. Of course, that's the optimistic side. There's the dark side to all things in which nefarious actors will use autonomous models for cyberattacks or scams.
Originally, I wasn't planning to make this update post just yet but we've had a lot happening in recent weeks since the last post! As always, it's time for me to get back to work. I'm cautiously optimistic about the future of the Elega YouTube channel, the new custom engine port for Kalling Kingdom, and our future products. The world is changing very rapidly, and we continue to do our best to adapt to these changes. This isn't mentioned above, but I'm also going to be watching for opportunities to update our existing course catalogue to ensure that those turning to us for those resources remain well prepared as well! Thanks for reading - I imagine we'll have a lot more interesting updates soon!