An Honest Comparative Review Of Bb & Unity From A Complete Novice

Discussion in 'Buildbox General Discussion' started by ash_white, Jun 6, 2019.

  1. ash_white

    ash_white Boxer

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    Hi All,

    First of all, apologies for the long post but I thought I’d share my personal experience and hopes for Buildbox now that I’ve been using it for a few months. To draw a true comparison I decided to work with two ‘engines’ on the same project in unison. This was to gauge the nuances between the two more accurately and ultimately highlight what would best suit my style of creating as I pursue a full-time career in game design.

    Unity is an obvious choice for anyone serious in wanting to learn game dev, especially as it’s deemed an industry standard (I had already heard about it before I embarked on game dev myself actually which says a lot); but Buildbox is a really interesting product so I decided to try it out as it’s a relatively new kid on the block and presents a more simplistic approach to game creation, which was perfect for a newbie like me.

    I would like to add that having worked with both now, I appreciate that they are completely different engines, serving different game styles for different audience types. My aim for this post is to highlight some pros and cons I’ve experienced with the hope that there will be some productive cross-pollination as fundamentally the goals for both Unity and Buildbox are the same… to help people make kick-ass games.

    So here’s my general experience on both:

    Buildbox On-boarding
    I found the demo games to be extremely helpful in that they gave me instant gratification that I had made progress from the offset. It was perfect for engagement as I could experience first hand capabilities of the engine and ultimately get inspired. The help panel is also great to get familiarised with the UI.

    Unity On-boarding
    There wasn’t any noticeable on-boarding I experienced. There was no major intro to what it was capable of and I was left to dig around and search for tutorials which made for slow progress.



    Buildbox UI
    Very clean and intuitive layout. The dark styling looks great and I like that it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. It pays homage to many design programs so the user doesn't feel too far removed from their other work environments, lessening the learning curve.

    Unity UI
    The aesthetic feels quite dated and although the layout is similar to BB regarding the scene, assets and effects panel placement, it still feels quite convoluted/complex. Just not as polished.



    Buildbox Performance
    I’ve been using BB3 and as it’s just come out of beta, I expected a few teething issues but nothing too jarring. I must say, I’ve experienced an unenviable amount of crashes and lagging while doing a multitude of different things from menial to complex, which have considerably hampered my progression. It doesn't seem to like custom objects or mildly complex node mapping in-particular. I’m also not able to use any prefabs/fbx. I find it lags whenever I have any other apps open on my machine and when using, I feel like i'm kind of walking on thin ice a little. I push it too much and I'm in the water.

    What I would say is that these issues are very sporadic. What may cause crashes one day may not the next which leads me to believe it’s as much my system as it is Buildbox. Something between the two just don’t like to play nice perhaps?

    Unity Performance
    I’ve not experienced a single crash. It has handled everything I’ve thrown at it, including being stable whenever errors arise in my game. It’s also stable when I have C4D, Photoshop and Illustrator open which is convenient when I’m moving between apps to create objects, materials and graphics. It can handle complex objects with high-poly count, materials, better light, shadow rendering and offers a particle solution.



    Buildbox Support
    There is a support email address which I’ve used before and got pretty good response times considering the size of the team but it didn't yield the results I hoped for regarding requested features (or at least not yet available but were passed on to the team as a feature request). There are a few tutorials on Youtube going over some top level stuff but I've unfortunately found this forum to be a pretty desolate place. What is most frustrating is the very neglected supporting documentation. At best, I’m able to marginally expand on the intro templates as I found there to be no coverage on the nuances of BB3 and the variety of nodes/actions etc. There is also a lack of emphasis on any new features dropped in a latest version which is very frustrating. There is certainly some grace given here as I do put all this down to a resource issue, being such a small team with a new product, but I’m not fond of muddling through a venture with half the work I undertake being guess work.

    Unity Support
    Due to the nearly 15 years or so in the market, support is expectedly in abundance. If not directly from unity contact or the Unity documentation (which is vast and concise), they have their own courses. The forums are also teaming with folks who are always on hand and experienced with the platform to help with any queries at any level. I also found lots of free and paid e-courses on learning Unity for every range of experience.



    Buildbox Convenience
    The node approach is where Buildbox shines. It’s so convenient to have this way of building and for anyone with experience programming, the option to finesse the code is cool (wish I knew enough there). It would be great if there were some more detailed help wizards that explained what things did within the advanced section and around the input data fields.

    The UI complements everything and it feels very intuitive which is huge for those who lead on visuals and I suspect that’s most of the BB3 target audience. It seemingly lacks auto-save which would ease some of the pain what with it’s instability. I’d also prefer to be able to preview directly on my device in real-time instead of having to package things up every time. This doesn't make for a speedy workflow. The assets with animated demos are great however I would like to see an assets store full of BB and third-party shapes/objects/materials/rigs/nodes etc. Could be an interesting way to incentivise creators to build on the BB platform and for BB to add a new revenue stream?

    Unity Convenience
    The UI isn’t overly intuitive but for all it’s convolution, it does offer an abundance of options for the user and supporting info around each feature. You can apply auto-save functionality via a plugin and there is an assets store built directly into the software full of content for any purpose, including builds of full games for users to tailor. There are a bunch of free and paid assets to more than cover any game type. You can also preview directly on your device which is great for testing. The biggest plus was a plugin I found called ‘Playmaker’ which, like Buildbox, is a node based solution that allows you to create games in Unity without writing a single line of code. It has great documentation and there are a number of tutorials and courses online specifically for this plugin. It basically felt like Buildbox for Unity weirdly (only not as aesthetically pleasing).



    Buildbox Cost
    I’m currently on the old ‘indie’ subscription of BB @ $35 per month but I believe new customers can only purchase annual subscriptions. The cheapest being $99. There is no free or trial option as far as I can see, which is a shame.

    Unity Cost
    I’m currently on the free ‘Personal’ version and should I wish to take advantage of additional benefits I can opt for the ‘Plus’ subscription which gives me the option of a lower rate paid yearly @ $25 per month ($300 per year) or $35 paid monthly.



    My overall takeaway:

    I love the Buildbox approach, the way it looks and where it’s heading. I get a sense that the team are deeply passionate and driven people but I also sense they are probably a bit stretched/under-resourced and even though there is likely much of the above on their radar, it’s a matter of prioritising certain features over others rather than being able to work broadly on all to deliver a more rounded package at once which is unfortunate but also the nature of the beast.

    That leads me to where I feel things could be improved. The target audience is primarily for non-coders, which may infer that they are either beginners, more visually led or both (or something else). Much to my dismay, I fall in the ‘both’ category but that's often a good thing because you approach things as a lay-person, Ha!

    What would make more sense to me would be to deploy updated documentation upon every release to ensure any new functionality is covered fully and in a concise way to help us work more freely and be less reliant on after-care/support. This would ultimately help alleviate the growing frustrations witnessed in these forums.

    Giving ‘boxers’ the tools to understand the capacity and nuances of BB more broadly should have a positive impact on the wider BB community as they will be better equipped at helping each other problem solve, setting off a pyramid of third-party support, as seen in other forums. I'd hope this would dramatically reduce support requests giving BB staff time to attend to more pressing matters, although it could just as easily do the opposite. A more empowered and engaged BB community would do wonders for retention though, which in-turn creates a more robust platform for scaling the business.

    On the subject of scaling the business, I feel a free option (albeit with a reduced feature set) would actually help. For one, look at the target audience. It's geared towards non-programmers and likely hobbyists - Myself included. Letting folks try before they buy would significantly impact the adoption rate and fuel the BB community. Putting an annual payment solution up just acts as an obstacle for many that you lose out on the competition from the start.

    Free doesn't necessarily have to mean a loss of revenue either. You would gain valuable insight into what is or isn't working in BB. It also removes a somewhat unnecessary variable when trying to build a robust piece of software. The cost. Removing the cost means focus is shifted from putting emphasis on a marketing strategy to building a better platform. I know both are important but a better piece of software will need less marketing to convert potential customers and even less to retain them. Word of mouth is a powerful tool. I would add I'm no business mogul so this is perhaps me being naive.

    For me though, I'm left with a bitter taste in my mouth having to pay money for software that seemingly has power under it's hood but I have no easy means to extract it. It's like watching a Tesla do 0-60 in 2.8 seconds, buying one and driving in standard mode because nobody can tell you how to access 'Ludicrous Mode'. I mean that analogy works in my head at least, Ha!

    This is a totally personal choice and what suits me may not suit the masses but having sat with BB for some time now, I see so much potential but I don't even know if it can do what I want it to do, which is the most frustrating part of all this. Whereas with Unity, I already know it can and with its vast support it better suits my way of working. This isn't meant to discourage anyone from using BB either, nor is this an ad or paid endorsement or whatever it is folks do to act shady. This is just my honest account using both platforms and perhaps it will help in some way.

    That being said, I really wish we were further into the Buildbox journey as I know it's only a matter of time before this platform will be finessed. The guys behind it are so close to achieving that I feel and extremely passionate people from everything I've seen online and on socials. A few creases to iron out and I'll certainly be tempted back!

    Thanks

    A x
     
  2. thatguyminib

    thatguyminib Serious Boxer

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    Very in depth! I love it.

    My personal experience with Unity, been programming professionally for about 3 years, and buildbox is that I prefer Unity. At the time I subbed to BB which was the last September it was to try out BB3 beta and that was the only software I wanted to use. The first drag and drop codeless 3d game engine, yes please! I mainly got it to make games without having to touch code since I am coding 40+ hours a week. I must say that I have been disappointed with every single update they have released for BB3 and even more disappointed in the release. It has not been worth the $199 I paid back in September. My year subscription is going to be up here soon and what do I have to show for it? Nothing because buildbox has falsely advertised BB3 as a #nocode engine, which at the time of this writing, it is far from it.

    Another thing that Unity has over buildbox is that if they say a feature is going to come out at a certain time and then find out it won't be and has been delayed they come straight out and post about it on the forums and let everyone know and the reason why. With buildbox all we get is broken promises. All I have asked Buildbox team for was transparency and consistency and they have never delivered on this.

    Also, the Playmaker plugin you mentioned is amazing! Funny thing is I have talked to plenty of BB vets that have now jumped ship to Unity and Playmaker for the reasons I have stated above and so much more.

    Honestly, this post will probably be deleted soon as the buildbox team hates it when you talk about other game engines, but hey I figured I would respond. I am very frustrated with the $199 logo that I have sitting on my desktop...
     
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  3. ash_white

    ash_white Boxer

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    Thanks for your response @thatguyminib.

    To be honest, although I'm left a little frustrated (mainly because I really see the potential but can't get to it), I'm also confident that getting it close to nailed is just around the corner for BB. I have faith in the guys behind it so it's now just a waiting game, but waiting just isn't a luxury for some of us, unfortunately.

    I sincerely hope this post isn't removed. It's an honest account of my experience, I've not been disrespectful and I genuinely want this platform to succeed. It's the future, that's for sure. Just look at the web industry! Wix & Squarespace (among others) have pretty much owned the space for the past few years with no signs of it letting up. You can put an e-commerce website up in a day (even buying a domain and hosting setup takes a few hours instead of a few days).

    This no-code 'drag and drop' method is the future and although BB is at the forefront of this movement, others will catchup. Just look at Playmaker! It's now important to make it as easy and robust to use as possible. It's the only way BB can maintain the advantage they have in this area.

    This forum hasn't been overly fruitful for me (at least not when I compare it with other company forums (adobe, unity, etc). Stifling any conversations when our intent is to help move the platform forward seems rather Orwellian in my opinion. Having an honest and open discussion about ways to improve, even down to what the competition are doing well and not so well help companies and the community learn and grow, which is the supposed premise of a forum.

    Anyway, this was never intended to be a slating post, far from it. Let's hope it remains visible and we can discuss openly as adults.
     
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  4. thatguyminib

    thatguyminib Serious Boxer

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    Yea that is what we all thought that feedback and talking about these things is good and helps improve the product, BUT last year one of the most active members got banned because of this. Also, I used to have hope and faith in BB and honestly I have lost all of it.

    This forums actually used to be a great and active place until posts started getting shut down, people got banned for sharing their thoughts and feedback and when the staff just stopped communicating with everyone.

    Also, you are right, others will catch up! Playmaker has actually been around for a while now and top quality games have been made with it. Not only that but there are other plugins on the Asset store that are their own versions of visual scripting and drag and drop. Also, Unity will be releasing their visual codeless way of programming next year!
     
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  5. SJO

    SJO Boxer

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    You can get banned for talking about other engines? That's UNREAL! No matter what our opinions are, we need to be in UNITY. I'm not trying to create HAVOK, so there is no need for the mods to be full of RAGE. After all, we are all GAMEMAKERS.
     
  6. TreySmith

    TreySmith Administrator Staff Member

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    @ash_white Agreed on EVERY point. What a well thought-out, articulate, and detailed post. Really appreciate you taking the time to write this out, and to be complete open and honest, you have nailed down every issue as well.

    Few thoughts, and none of these will be combatting what you said (because I honestly agree with all of it):

    1. I'll have @Sean Buildbox reach out to you and attempt to figure out the crashes. That definitely should not be normal, and sounds like a system compatibility issue.

    2. Bootstrapping a 3D no-code game development company is definitely not an easy task. To be completely honest, I can see why it was never done before. I believe we have decent execution for a team our size (10 full time people versus 2000+ at Unity), but no question that resources are tighter than we would prefer. Good news is, we are making a lot of new hires in the next 30 days to alleviate this issue.

    3. We would never remove a post like this. We love feedback from our customers, and that's how we've shaped our software. In 5 years we've banned only one person I know of out of 20,000+ registered users.

    4. Free version is coming this year. I know it's absolutely instrumental for gaining critical traction, but being bootstrapped it had to be done with a lot of thought. I believe now we know a way to do this though, and completely agree people should be able to learn the platform for free! We'll have more details about that in the coming months.

    Thanks, and please keep it coming!
     
  7. Jollydo

    Jollydo Boxer

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    Buildbox should be for non-coders who can use the nodes.
    Since i'm using BB3 Beta since September 18, and now the full version: it crashes a lot, i still have no idea what some of the nodes are doing (no tutorials, no explanation, no documentation) and to have a unique game that stands out, i need to code.
    Also we were promised in December that BB3 would be released before the end of the year AND it could do everything Unity does. Yeah right.

    The BB engine is lagging. When i have more than 10 dynamic objects being pushed forward by the Actor, the game lags. This lag was also in BB2, Had to do way too much game optimization to get a game without any lag.

    And even if all the above would be solved, then it is still a question if publishers will accept a BB3 game, or do we still need to redo the game in Unity before it is approved for a publish?
    And I believed at export there would be a checklist from VooDoo, so you can see if your game is up their standards. Where is it?

    So in all BB3 is NOT delivering for their target audience: non-coders. I really feel left alone. They left their target audience in the dark for way too long. The last couple of months I only see hard effort from BB the get new customers in with all kinds of deals and advertisements.
    Maybe Buildbox is too small as a company, to ever be one of the big boys. I don't know, but it seems like it.

    So the waiting game continues, probably must wait until September 19 to have a working BB3 that isn't crashing, all documentation is there, and is accepted by publishers. That's a whole year of waiting!

    I looks like BB will have a new target audience, students at school learning to make games. The same target audience GameSalad switched to, two years ago. For serious game designers, BB it not the game engine and the competition is catching up.

    Looking at Playmaker now...
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2019
  8. comicsmathias

    comicsmathias Avid Boxer

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    I just wish you had hired the guy you banned.
     
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  9. jmiller8031

    jmiller8031 Avid Boxer

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    Buildbox 3 is good for making a quick concept and to generate ideas right now. Unless you're trying to make the 1 billionth version of some hyper casual BS that will most likely be ignored then you need to look at something more complex. Game development is complex and there are no magical shortcuts. There can be more efficient workflows and I think Buildbox is going in that direction, but people stop thinking they can make a game easily.

    I personally think Buildbox needs to stop marketing to the novices and get off the hyper casual train because that is going to be dying off as soon as the services like Apple Arcade and Stadia go live. All they have to do is look at Game Salad, Stencyl, or Construct to see that the novice market is already saturated. Make Buildbox easy to learn like every other engine out there, sure, but it needs to be able to get complex in the right hands. Look at Gamemaker, Unreal, and Godot. They're all easy to learn and can get as complex as needed.

    Unity is a steaming pile of mess. I use it all day long at work. Don't make that your benchmark. Unity is constantly over-promising and under delivering. They are always showing these potentially amazing features and then they tell you those features won't be ready to use for months or years. By the time they're released they fall short. I see Buildbox doing some of this and it just rubs people the wrong way.
     
  10. thatguyminib

    thatguyminib Serious Boxer

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    I disagree with Unity being a steaming pile of mess. I too use it in my day to day work and I code in it 40+ hours a week. I love it and I have tried all other engines, yet I keep going back to Unity.

    I was hoping that BB3 would have been the engine I could use in my nonwork hours to make games without coding but that does not seem to be the case. Really wish I hadn't spent the $199 for a year subscription back in September.

    Also what features do Unity overpromise and underdeliver? So far I think everything has been going fine with what they talk about. Sure it takes a bit to get these features out but you gotta know that creating those features for the engine takes time. There is a HUGE codebase they are working with plus they are switching over to their ECS system. It is no small feat.
     
  11. Reverse Studios

    Reverse Studios Boxer

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    There are 3 reasons why I have switched to Unity

    1. The transparency we know why stuff get removed, their engine is never in a state of uncompetitive unlike buildbox currently there are no support for particles or ads which are essential

    2. Its easier yes buildbox is initially easier but only within its built in Nodes and standard stuff anything extra you need to code and coding is way harder in buildbox there are no code suggestions and there are no tutorials. Unity search YouTube for something you want to add its their. Buildbox does not have easy ways to add in features. For features I often say I have to wait for BB to come out but then they don’t include that feature. Unity has more flexibility and resources.

    Buildbox for the 299$ a year with all the features is the same as Unity FREE minus splash screen
     
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  12. thatguyminib

    thatguyminib Serious Boxer

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    I agree with all of the above.

    BB3 I was hoping to be my kind of vacation from coding when I still wanted to make games. Right now in BB3 you can't make much without coding other than a little prototype and $199 for a prototype making software is not worth it AT ALL!
     
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  13. TreySmith

    TreySmith Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi Guys,

    I know this has been discussed a good bit on discord, but BB3 was about creating the foundation which we have finally done. It took 4 years to do it, but we've nailed down a foundation we can build upon. As you'll soon see, we're about to add in many features on top of this foundation that will make the software easier to use and streamlined. We're at the beginning of our journey with Buildbox 3.

    Most of you guys know this, but in case you do not: We are a small bootstrapped company in Silicon Valley, which is pretty unheard of. It's not been easy to build out the software with a team our size, but I think we nailed the foundation. Everything you guys want, and are asking for, can be added to BB3 fairly easily... that was not the case with our previous software.

    We'll get where you want, and probably faster than you think. I'll release more details soon, but we're about to make many new hires and start streamlining the process.
     
  14. TreySmith

    TreySmith Administrator Staff Member

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    I just want to mention that Buildbox 3 came out less than a month ago compared to Unity which is 14 years old. We will get there, but it will not be overnight. Youtube tutorials are just now starting to pop up from the community.
     
  15. Jaro

    Jaro Avid Boxer

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    I am sure that it will take years to create 3D software that will not need coding completely ( if it happens) or some new technology will be needed. There will be such software, but its capabilities will be limited so that it will be used to produce new clone - games. Users will never use their potential.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2019
  16. rjp996tt

    rjp996tt Boxer

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    Is there any update on when the next release will come out?
     
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  17. ash_white

    ash_white Boxer

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    Thanks @TreySmith for the update, and congratulations on the acquisition. I figured something would be in the pipeline (only not so soon, which is awesome). I'm sure this will inject a new energy into the team and help push through the work ahead.

    I also figured what I had mentioned was already on your radar. To surmise everything I've mentioned, and a few more I'd like to see:

    • Concise documentation (web-based, built-into software and downloadable), covering all updated elements that are added with every new release.
    • Realtime device preview
    • Multi-character/object interaction (Ability to control a character but also move objects out of path with separate/independent gesture, not just based on character collision)
    • Ability to use third-party .Obj, .Fbx, Nodes, Effects
    • Asset store
    • Multiplayer functionality
    • Ability to check for and update software internally
    • Performance analytics to see what impact the game has on device processing.
    • Free version

    My monthly subscription is due to renew on the 29th June. I was hoping the documentation currently being worked on would be published in advance of that. Do you know if this will be the case?
     
  18. TreySmith

    TreySmith Administrator Staff Member

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    At lunch with Jon and we just read this post together. Agree on every point! We are actively working on documentation, but I don’t have an eta.
     
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  19. jacksimonton

    jacksimonton Boxer

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    Thanks for sharing a depth thought. I love your input so much, and it's helpful.
     

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