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Double Fine's ex-tech director launches new tool for Unity

Nathan Martz spent eight-and-a-half years working at Double Fine and co-created the studio's Buddha engine. Now he's released tools to help people make better video games.
There are loads of products on the Unity Asset Store to help developers make video games, from 3D models to lighting tools to various kinds of services. But only one of them is from the former technical director of famed independent game studio Double Fine. Nathan Martz spent eight-and-a-half years working at Double Fine, heading up the studio's technical initiatives before leaving in August 2013. Among other duties at the studio, he co-architected the "Buddha" engine, which powers several Double Fine games, including Iron Brigade, Brutal Legend, Costume Quest, the upcoming Massive Chalice and others. Now, like so many others in this industry, Martz has struck out on his own, except instead of making a whole game, his new one-man company, Make Code Now, has launched a new Unity extension called "SECTR," available now on the Unity Asset Store. "The spirit of the product and my company ... is to take some of the best tech from 'triple-A' games and bring it to Unity, in a simple, affordable fashion," Martz told Gamasutra. (See the prices here.) "At a high level, SECTR is about spaces [sectors], and the connections between them [portals]," he explains. The free version, called SECTR Core, includes tools to easily add sectors and portals to Unity-based games, and includes full source code so developers can build out their own specialized features. The paid version of SECTR -- SECTR Complete -- includes tools for memory management, audio production, and occlusion culling. SECTR Complete will also include all future updates and module additions.

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"The idea is not to make this a 'fire-and-forget' money-maker, but to engage with the broader Unity Community," said Martz. "I had a really great run at Double Fine, I was there for eight-and-half years -- it was the best professional experience of my career." But he said the appeal of striking out on his own was too strong to ignore, thanks to modern game development and distribution. "I didn't want to be the kind of person who'd look back in 20 years and regret that I never took a risk," he said. For Martz -- who's married with a kid on the way -- creating a tool company instead of a video game studio was part of mitigating risk. He knows that while it's great that so many people are making video games these days, it's extremely difficult to release a commercially successful game. But developers will always need good tools. "If you look around at the opportunities to provide technology, I think Unity is a really good ecosystem to be a part of," he said. "...We're seeing an interesting trend -- it's not just a tool for people who've never made games before. It's also a tool for people who've made lots of games before, and are doing it in the context of being on their own. The ability to make something, and bring it right to a community that's ready to buy products, seems perfect."

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