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Start Making Video Games: An Introduction to Unity 3D

Updated on September 5, 2017
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Introduction

With modern technological advances, Video Game design has never been so simple, simple yet powerful. Many think something as complex as a video game would be too difficult to learn and thus never look into it, but I'm here to show you that although it takes hard work to make a 5 Star game, getting started on learning is not as hard as it looks & sounds!

In this guide, I will take you through the basics of the Unity game engine from what I've learned so far from my 1st year of University on a Game Design course and will continue to publish more on this subject as a series of articles.

If you take it upon yourself to follow my guides, I really do hope you enjoy the experience.

Though please note that in addition to what I show you how to do, you should be experimenting on your own to learn more by experience!

First Steps

First thing is first, you'll need to check that your computer can run Unity, chances are it will if your computer isn't old or running an Operating System older than Windows XP.

If you're unsure, Unity.com has a requirements page.

Once you know your computer can handle it, you should download Unity from their website.

The Unity Logo
The Unity Logo

About Unity

Unity is a simple yet powerful Game Engine, Game Engines are programs in which people can make games, it provides the tools needed to create and run games.

Unity is popular among Indie Game developers as it is a free program with the option of paying for some pro features (Which you don't need in my opinion) and it is very powerful with the right knowledge. It is also very versatile in that you can make games for many platforms such as Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Mobile Phone and more!

It incorporates the dragging, dropping, scaling, texturing, colouring, rotating and placing of shapes and models to make up levels and environments to make your ideas a reality. This is fused with scripting, which is the writing of code and attaching it to things in the game to make them behave in certain ways. The coding languages used in Unity are C#, Javascript and Boo (Boo is essentially Python for anyone who has learned any of the Python languages), when I eventually explain any coding (It'll be explained later in the series) I will be using C# as it is the only programming language I know how to use (to some extent).

You can also import 3D models made in programs like Maya and 3DS Max if you know how to to do 3D modelling. Models could be of characters, terrain details like trees, rocks, and buildings, items and collectables.

You don't need to know how to 3D model or code to start making a game of your own, just a grasp of the Unity Interface and some imagination, so let's explain the Unity Interface next.

The Unity Interface

The Unity Interface
The Unity Interface

This is the Unity interface, if yours looks somewhat different from mine, it may be that the layout default has changed.

I advise you to go to the toolbar at the top, click Window, then Layout, then choose Two by Three. I find this layout the easiest to use, you may choose to use a different layout later which is okay, as long as you know what different areas are within Unity, which is what we will look at now.

If you look at the screenshot above, you'll see all the areas numbered from 1 to 5, I'll go through what each area is and what it's used for now:

1. This is the Scene View, it where you can manoeuvre around the level you are creating, where you can place, change and select objects to edit.

Think of it as your sandbox where you can add, edit & remove anything you like to build your level.

2. This is the game view, this is what the level looks like from the perspective of the player. As your level comes together, the view in this area will start to look more and more like an actual game!

3. This is the Hierarchy list, everything in your level/Scene view will be listed here. Instead of searching in your scene view for an object you'd like to edit, you can just find it in this handy list instead. Get used to maneuvering with the Hierarchy view as it will save you a lot of time.

4. This is the Project list, everything in this list is something you can use in your game. Unity comes with some standard assets that any person can use in their game. As you get the hang of Unity, though, you'll be importing and creating your own GameObjects, Scripts, Textures and more to apply to your game!

5. This is the Inspector, a core part of creation and editing in Unity. When you select something in your scene, its attributes and settings will appear in the Inspector. Here you can change things like Scale, Rotation, Position and add more components and scripts to make the object do and act however you want!

Now, if you look at the top left of the above picture, you'll see a purple oval surrounding drop-down menus, these 4 are the most used.

Assets are used to import and export things like 3D models, Textures, and sounds into your Project list so you have them available to use in your game.

GameObjects is what it says on the tin, in this drop-down menu, you can spawn primitive shapes and such like Cubes, Spheres, Capsules, Cylinders and Planes (Flat 2D Squares).

See the pictures below for a line-up of the primitives, no capsule, however.

Unity Primitive Shapes

Unity Primitives (Missing Capsule) From left to right: Sphere, Cylinder, Cube & Plane
Unity Primitives (Missing Capsule) From left to right: Sphere, Cylinder, Cube & Plane

Components let you add characteristics to your Game Objects, these characteristics can be edited in the Inspector of the object you added a component to.

Terrain lets you add a giant Plane to the scene view which can be edited in many different ways like increasing the height of different parts of the plane, making hills and mountains, adding ground textures. It's very simple to use as well as the tools work as if you are simply painting onto the terrain.

The other drop-down boxes also hold other abilities but these aren't too important for a beginner at this moment in time. Except maybe I should explain how to save your work.

If you go into the File drop-down box, you will see 2 options that say "Save Scene" and "Save Project". Saving the scene, saves the level that you are working on, whereas saving the project saves everything you've done and imported into Unity for making this level. I personally recommend saving both every so often so you don't risk losing your work, you'll thank me later.

The Play & Pause Buttons

The Play & Pause Buttons
The Play & Pause Buttons | Source

Finally, I will tell you about the Play & Pause Buttons. There is also the Skip button but I don't think you will have much use for it at this stage.

Once you have some sort of playable level together or if you want to test if something is working correctly, you can press the Play button at the top of the Interface. This will run the game as long as there are no programming issues waiting to be fixed. You then become the player and can do what you like. When you are done, you can hit the play button again and the game will stop and you will be back to the Unity Interface screen.

Now the pause button, you can press this while you are in-game to return to the Unity Interface while the game is running. This means you can test things while the game is running by changing whatever you like and unpausing the game to try it out as the player. What you must remember though is that the changes you make during a pause WILL NOT stay there after you hit play again, you will have to make those changes again while the game isn't running for them to be permanent.

Final Word

So this is the basic introduction to Unity for beginners, keep experimenting and looking at different parts of Unity to get used to it.

I hope this has helped you get a start in understanding how video games are made and that It's not as difficult as it seems, though it takes a lot of time and effort to make a truly good game!

If this did help you, please show this by voting in the Poll below as I might make a series of Unity tutorials if people find them informative and helpful.

Finally, I'll leave you with a video of some well-made video games constructed in Unity. With enough time, effort, and dedication, anyone can make an amazing video game of their own!

Top 5 Games Made With the Unity Game Engine

Jamie Peutherer publishes content weekly at Xnanga.co.uk. Follow him on Twitter (@Xnanga) for updates. Check out Gung-ho! Gaming for the latest news on videogame releases and PC hardware.

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    • Xnanga profile image
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      Jamie Peutherer 4 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you very much, I'm glad I could be of help. :)

      Going by how well this article is received I might start a series of Unity tutorials so do keep an eye out if that interests you!

    • BraidedZero profile image

      James Robertson 4 years ago from Texas

      Great article! I've been looking for video game making software for the last few months. Thanks for your advice and help guide. I don't have experience in video game building but this was definitely a great place to start!