15 April 2013
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Goodbye Shiva, hello Unity

Beginning in early March, I have been unable to build any apps for Blackberry Playbook devices. This is either a bug in the Shiva3D build process, or a change that was made in the latest Playbook update. Either way, new builds of old Shiva apps won’t work – they install, but crash instantly.

It’s probably a simple thing to fix, and although I’ve reported it to Stonetrip, I’ve not been able to get a response from Shiva’s normally responsive support staff.

A couple of days ago, I finally found out why: Stonetrip went into administration sometime in Decmber, and is now in liquidation.

Based in France, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Stonetrip is finished. The rumor is that under local business rules, a company can use the liquidation process to restructure and  then resume trading. Further industry rumors report that Stonetrip could be trying to relocate to a country with more favourable business rules.

I can understand that there must be legal issues which are keeping Stonetrip from publicly announcing the situation, but as a developer who is trying to run a business, it’s disconcerting to discover that your primary tool provider has gone broke from rumors.

I’ve had a feeling that something hasn’t been right for some time. Stonetrip has kept up a furious pace releasing updates to the old 1.9 series of their software, while the big 2.0 release that we’ve been promised for  years has failed to materialise.

While it’s been great for me, since I’ve gotten more than my money’s worth for the 1.9 license I purchased so long ago, it’s also meant that Stonetrip hasn’t had a viable income stream from existing developers, yet they’ve had the expense of providing support.

I can imagine it’s been an uphill battle. Constant work on the old release, constantly adding new platforms, all the while trying to squeeze in a few hours here and there to get 2.0 out the door.

When I first began looking into mobile development, Shiva3D beat out Unity3D because it was cheap, supported the devices I wanted to target, offered most of the same technical features as Unity, and ran in a VM on my Linux PC. Since then, Unity3D has caught up. It can now be used to produce apps for many of Shiva’s main platforms, and the price is more palatable. I also happen to have a MacBook sitting idle, so I can use that instead of having to buy a Windows PC.

The best news for me is that Unity will be supporting the Blackberry 10 OS in the next few months.

I’ve decided that the time has come to move on. I’ve played with Unity for the last day or two, and it’s all pretty similar to Shiva3d; I know what Unity should be capable of, so it’s just been a case of figuring out the particular command or button press to do it. I also already know Javascript and C#, so I won’t have a problem there.

I really hope Stonetrip can recover from this setback, but I don’t have the time to wait and see what will happen. My fear is that they’ll start up in another country, have insufficient funding and the same lack of focus in trying to support too many platforms, then end up in a similar situation in 12 months time.