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For some reason, I'm quite good at guessing whether or not a game (both 2D and 3D) is made with Unity3D. But I can't really figure out why that is.

What makes Unity3D games look similar? Is it because people use the same textures? Or is it the texture filtering? The lighting? Something else? I'd really like to know for educational purposes.

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Most likely explanation –  Trevor Powell Sep 15 '13 at 6:19
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@TrevorPowell Digging a bit deeper, it looks like even Unity users agree, and try to work around it: forum.unity3d.com/threads/148843-Unity-rendering –  futlib Sep 17 '13 at 12:47
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@futlib - A few users, I'd chalk it up to unity being relatively widely adopted now by many users that do not have the capability or desire to extend it much farther than what the defaults are. –  Noctrine Sep 17 '13 at 16:23
    
There area a number of default settings that people neglect to change, like using the default diffuse or vertex lit shader, amount of ambient light, sky color (very specific Unity Blue), settings of point lights (color, range, intensity), camera FOV, specular color and shininess of bumped spec shader, etc. I'd bet all of this subconsciously registers as a "Unity Style." –  Calvin Sep 25 '13 at 1:13
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marked as duplicate by Anko, Sean Middleditch, bummzack, Byte56 Sep 18 '13 at 23:58

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2 Answers

Trevor Powell has a very good answer.

Also if you consider that Unity3D, while big enough to be known, is not used by major company's. Bigger Company's like Blizzard, EA, Bethesda, and Square Enix, will build their own engine, or purchase the rights to use something like the Unreal engine. And then will put lot's, and lot's, of time into making the game large, unique, and in general try to come up with something original. Something that's never been done before.

On the other hand people starting up, or working for free, aren't worried or spending 2 year's of full-time work with a team of 100 people, to make an original idea come to life as the next big internet sensation. For example you can find THOUSANDS of different games of tetris, created by people trying to learn to program. And they all look the same! Regardless of if they where programmed in Basic, C++, DirectX, or OpenGL, it's tetris. However, There aren't many people trying to remake Skyrim.

Unity3D fall's kinda in the middle-ground between those two end's of the industry. It's got people who are aiming for something more complicated than tetris, and people who are copying idea's, and mechanics, from a variety of very well known (modern) games/genres. So you wind up seeing something fairly familiar but still somewhat impressive, though not spectacular. And people making that form of game happen to typically use Unity for it's familiarity, power, and lack of expense.

In effect, your not recognizing games made with Unity. Your recognizing some basic trait's of the developers, who tend to use Unity.

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It can also be people go with all default parameters for the physics, making movement look the same as other Unity games. –  Valmond Sep 16 '13 at 9:52
    
I'm sceptical. Deus Ex: The Fall is by all means a AAA game and I could tell it's using Unity from seeing a single screenshot. –  futlib Sep 17 '13 at 12:50
    
@futlib - The budget for The Fall is likely a fraction of what the last console Deus Ex game was. Also, as a mobile game, I don't think they were so concerned with making it look drastically different vs making it fit on the device. –  Noctrine Sep 17 '13 at 16:42
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I hate to answer my own question and I'd rather not accept this answer, but I'm also quite convinced that this is not just confirmation bias.

Digging a bit deeper, it looks like some Unity users actually agree. The closest technical explanation is apparently:

If you spend few months with any other engine you will notice that models in any engine look the same or at least you can easily recognise them becouse not due to one feature but rather many features that are implemented in engine. Image effects, lighting, shader quallity are usually the most important things where you can determine if model is rendered in one or other engine.

I'm not really happy with this answer, because I was wondering what kind of shaders or filtering mechanisms in particular make Unity games look alike.

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this answer actually very true, and it's not restricted about unity games. For example you can easily recognize UE3 games, CryEngine3 games or even Source Games. Even the heavily moded Engines (like the one used in FarCry3 brings some traces of original engine's rendering result, which makes it kinda easy for anyone to tell what's under the hood. I guess shaders, and then lightening have the most impact in this case. but we shouldn't forget about other smaller (less similar) details, like LOD, or texturing or programming habits, or resource file organisation encouraged with each engine. –  Ali.S Sep 17 '13 at 17:00
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