Creators: Text Based Adventure

The last two weeks we were looking at something quite different: a text-based adventure system built in Unity. This was inspired by the Henry Stickmin games and also by the old 80s-style choose-your-own-adventure books.

158788261_51be05e517_z

Basic Program Design (Story Card)

The user is presented with a “story card”. A card consists of some text describing their current situation and (normally) a number of options to choose from.

Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 14.12.23.png

Depending on which option they pick, the story branches from there, card-by-card, until it reaches an end (a card with no options).

Setting up a card is straightforward:

Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 14.15.27.png

You enter the card description (the text the user sees on screen), the text that the user will see on each option button (the program supports up to four at the moment) and the card (or branch, but we’ll get to that later) to jump to when that option is selected.

There’s also the mention of “States to Set True/False” and we’ll explain that next.

Story States & Story Branches

We could have programmed the system entirely using only cards, but there’s one situation where this becomes tedious. Imagine that you have a choice; hitting a button for example. The consequences of this choice won’t become apparent until later in the story. If we only had story cards, then we’d have to branch the story immediately at his point, replicating the same steps on both branches until the point at which the consequences of your action played out.

Fortunately, there is a better way.

First, to remember the value we introduce the idea of a “story state’. It’s just a container for a true or false value. Cards can set the value of specific states when they are activated as seen above.

Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 14.14.09

So, that covers remembering values, how do we then make use of them? This requires a “story branch”. A branch references a state and two places for the story to go (either of these can be a card or another branch). The value of the state determines which is picked.

Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 14.19.01

 

Game Manager

This class looks after the story. It is responsible for updating the UI to the details of the current card, for handling the use clicking on specific buttons and generally directing the flow of the story. It also needs a StoryCard to start off the story with.

Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 14.21.33.png

Project

 

The project, including a very simple story using a number of cards and also a couple of states, can be found here. There are two scenes in the project, Adventure which contain a simple story and Basic which is a good starting place for your own story.

Creators : Breakout / Mouse Controlled Camera

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 15.25.41

This week we looked at a version of the classic game Breakout. It was an exercise in showing how a game developed with 3D assets can, nevertheless, appear like a 2D game given the correct choice of camera and lighting.

The camera for this game is an orthogonal one. Unlike a standard perspective camera, which mimics how we actually see the world, things don’t get smaller as they get further away with an orthogonal camera. This gives a very flat look where we don’t see the edges of the game area, blocks, bat or puck. In addition, the scene has a single directional light which shines directly downwards. Shining straight down means there are no shadows around the sides of the objects as there would be if the light was at an angle.

This game does not use Unity’s physics for the puck movement. I found that the physics just didn’t give the consistent behaviour you’d expect from this game. Accordingly, I programmed the movement of the puck myself. The maths is a little more complex than I’d like but the intention is to keep the puck moving at a constant speed, even after it hits something.

Additionally, we worked quickly on implementing a mouse controlled camera. In the hierarchy, we created a camera rig from two empty objects, one inside the other, and put the camera object inside the second. Changing the Y rotation of the first empty then turned the camera around the vertical while changing the X rotation of the second tilted the camera around horizontal. The visual below show what a real world camera rig that behaved this way might look like; rotating at the base and at a horizontal pivot.

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 15.53.28

In our scripts we referenced the usual horizontal and vertical input axes:

     float horiz = Input.GetAxis ("Horizontal");
     float vertical = Input.GetAxis ("Vertical");

but in the Input Manager (Edit|Project Settings|Input) we switched these from the arrow keys to the mouse axes:

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 15.35.08 (Edited)

The Breakout project can be downloaded here and the mouse controlled camera project can be downloaded here. These projects are both saved with Unity 5.5.2f1, so please use that version or later when opening them.

 

 

 

Creators – Projects

material-design-joystick-wallpaper-flat-video-game-1486908

This week we spoke about possible projects. We also looked at games that you like so that we could draw inspiration from them.

When it comes to projects, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself:

What is the type of game you want to make?

Take a look here for an exhaustive list of game genres: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_video_game_genres

What is the setting for your game? Do you have a character in mind?

These choices will determine the look and tone of your game and are good things to decide early on.

What do I already know that will help create my game?

From what we’ve seen already this year, what things will your game need that you already know how to do?

What do I not yet know how to do?

There are things you might like to be able to do that you’re not sure about how to achieve; these are things to raise with your mentor. He’ll focus on these in the next few weeks. Also; check the Asset Store. There are many free things there that might help you complete your game. If you’d ultimately like to do everything yourself, look at these as items as placeholders to get the basic game working that you might eventually replace.

Finally remember:

BE REALISTIC IN YOUR AMBITION

You will find it hard to get time to work on your project and it’s your first project on your own in most cases. The most important things are to show something that is yours and something that is fun. Showing something that is overly complex but that is not fun is not as good.

Get your thinking caps on!

Creators – Unity Terrain

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 22.17.05.png

This week we looked at the Environment asset pack and the creation of terrains.

Terrains are, at their core, nothing more than a grayscale image (shades of black & white) where the colour values are interpreted as representing heights. Black is is interpreted as zero height, white is interpreted as maximum height (as defined in the terrain’s properties) and every shade of grey in-between represents an intermediate value. The terrain editing tools provides brushes in a variety of shapes to raise or lower the terrain as desired.

Terrains in Unity don’t just allow us to define their heights. They also allow the painting of the terrain with a combination of different textures. In the Environment asset pack there are a selection of useful textures for painting a natural looking environment. These are a grass texture, several rocky textures and a sand texture.

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 22.18.36.png

Trees and grass are also enclosed in the Environment asset pack. These are also painted onto the texture with a brush, or in the case of trees, autofilled to a requested total number.

Once we had our terrain built, we added a character controller from the Controllers asset pack to enable us to walk around in it. We finished the session experimenting with the water prefabs that come with the Environment pack.

Please note that I won’t be at Dojo next Saturday (4th Feb 2017). Nonetheless, you are welcome to attend and join another group for the day if you wish to do so.

Creators – Finishing Pin Bowling

This week, despite a small group, we finished off the Pin Bowling game. After Christmas we’ll move onto a different game – most likely something 1st person in design.

UI Elements – Text and Buttons

We added two UI Text elements to our game and aligned them to the top left and top right hand corners respectively. One is used for showing the current score and one is used for showing the number of shots remaining. Note that when we add UI elements, Unity automatically adds a Canvas and an EventSystem for us.

UI elements don’t have a standard Transform component, instead they have a RectTransform component which is used to describe their position within their Canvas. To align to a particular location we click on the square below the words “Rect Transform” and select how we’d like to align within the Canvas by clicking one of the options while holding the Shift and Alt keys to set both the pivot and position.

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-22-41-48

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Creators – Texturing in Blender & Importing Into Unity

This week we finished off texturing our bowling pin model in Blender and then imported it into Unity to use in our game.

UV Unwrap

We started by loading our existing bowling pin model with seams already marked.

The process of unwrapping a 3D model is similar to peeling an orange and pressing the skin flat. The seams we marked are like cuts in the orange’s skin. When we peel it, the pieces between the seams come out separated.

To unpeel the model we entered Edit Mode (TAB key), selected the entire model (A key) and chose UV Unwrap | Unwrap from the Mesh menu. Notice that we don’t see impact of this until we switch to the UV/Image Editor

 

Switching to UV/Image Editor

Our main panel is normally in 3D View mode. To start working with our texture we click on the icon to the left of the menu options and choose “UV/Image Editor”.

When we change mode we see a flat image with our model split apart and spread out into flat sections. Each of these sections represents a part of our model between a set of seams.

W

 

Moving Regions Around

Painting

Previewing

Saving Texture to File

Exporting Model from Blender

Importing Model into Unity

Replacing Our Existing Pin Prefab

Test

Creators – Blender

blender-socket

This week we did some basic modelling in Blender. Blender is a very powerful 3D graphics package that is free and open-source. It is supported across all major desktop platforms.

Blender is so large and fully featured that it can be quite intimidating to learn. Knowledge of a few shortcut keys for common operations can really improve the experience of working with the program. We were indebted to Giuliano D’Angelo’s wonderful Blender shortcut infographic for providing us with some quick reference in this regard:

http://www.giudansky.com/design/51-blender-map

Moving About and Zooming

The first thing we covered in Blender was moving about. Practically speaking, Blender requires a three button mouse to operate. In Blender the middle mouse button (MMB) is used to control the view. Used on its own, it tilts the camera. When used with the SHIFT key, it pans the camera instead. CTRL and the MMB are use to zoom, but this is also more often achieved by scrolling the mouse wheel.

Object Mode and Edit Mode

We used Blender in two modes: Object Mode and Edit Mode. The TAB key can be used to switch between these. In Object Mode we can create, select and reposition objects but we cannot do any detailed editing on them. In Edit Mode, we can do any detailed editing we require on the currently selected object. Note that selecting items in Blender is done with the right mouse button (RMB).

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Creators – Random Pin Placement

This week we worked on random pin placement for our game. We updated the existing PinManager component to randomly (as opposed to regularly) place a number of pins into the scene.

Arrays

An array is a way for a variable to hold more than one value. It’s a a very useful concept in programming; complex programs would be practically impossible without them. In C# arrays are declared as follows:

     int[] nums = new int[4];
     bool[,] grid = new bool[rows, cols];

The first line creates a one-dimensional array called nums which has four entries: nums[0], nums[1], nums[2] and nums[3].

The second line creates a two-dimensional array called grid. Note the size in this case depends on the values of the variables rows and cols. The first entry is grid[0,0] and the last is grid[rows – 1, cols – 1]. The total number of locations in this array is rows * cols.

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Creators – Getting User Input

This week we worked on getting input from the user and making the game react to it.

InputManager

Unity has a build in system for handling user input. The InputManager can be found under the Edit|Project Settings|Input menu:

Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 21.21.01.png

The Unity input system is based on the concept of “axes”. The game request if there is input on a specific axis, giving the axis name. What that means in terms of button presses, mouse or controller input depends on the settings in the InputManager. Axes have a value that ranges from -1.0f (full negative, if negative values are allowed) through 0.0f (no input) to 1.0f (full positive).

inputaxes

Pre-defined Input Axes

While the game programmer can define as many input axes themselves as they like, Unity come with many common ones built-in. The first two shown above, called “Horizontal” and “Vertical” are commonly used for movement. The third “Fire1” is usually used for shooting.

We redefined “Fire1” from it’s default key (Left Ctrl) to bind it to the space key instead.

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-21-36-26

Updating the Code to Detect “Fire1”

We originally had a force applied to our ball in the “PushSphere” script as soon as the game started. We modified the code so that in the Start() method all we did was to retrieve and store the Rigidbody component. In the Update() method (called every time the game draws) we ask if there’s been any input on “Fire1” and only if there has, do we apply a force to the ball:

 using UnityEngine;
 using System.Collections;
 
 public class PushSphere : MonoBehaviour 
 {
   public float PushStrength = 1.0f;
   private Rigidbody rb;
 
   // Use this for initialization
   void Start ()
   {
     rb = GetComponent<Rigidbody> ();
   }
   
   // Update is called once per frame
   void Update () 
   {
     float fire = Input.GetAxis ("Fire1"); 
 
     if (fire > 0.0f)
     {
       rb.AddForce (Vector3.back * PushStrength);
     }
   }
 }

Before proceeding, we ran our game and tested to ensure it  was working correctly.

Moving Our Aimer

The aimer was rotated using input from the horizontal axis. We added a script called AimerController to our Aimer game object. A public property called RotateSpeed gives us a way to tune the speed our our aimer. We don’t need anything in the Start() method, and it’s been removed here for clarity. The Update() method looks for input on the “Horizontal” axis (which maps to the left and right keys) and applies a rotation to the Aimer’s transform using the following logic:

amount to rotate = speed of rotation * user input * time

User input here will either be -1.0f, 0.0f or 0.0f. This equates to rotate in a negative direction (anti-clockwise), don’t rotate or rotate in a positive direction (clockwise).

 using UnityEngine;
 using System.Collections;
 
 public class AimerController : MonoBehaviour {
 
   public float RotateSpeed = 1.0f;
    
   // Update is called once per frame 
   void Update () {
     float horiz = Input.GetAxis("Horizontal");
 
     transform.RotateAround (transform.position, Vector3.up, 
                             RotateSpeed * horiz * Time.deltaTime);
   }
 }

Note that we’re rotating about the vertical axis and the rotation is centred around the aimer’s position.

Linking the Aimer and the Sphere’s Direction of Fire

To link the aimer’s with the sphere’s direction of fire, we needed to provide the sphere with a new public property which could store a reference to the Aimer’s game object:

public GameObject Aimer;

We then simply had to update the AddForce call, in the Update() method, to take the aimer’s direction into account:

 rb.AddForce (Aimer.transform.forward * -1.0f * PushStrength);

Note that we had to also multiply by -1.0f as the ball was initially going opposite to the direction we wanted.

Prefabs

Prefabs are objects, or collections of objects that we want to re-use multiple times. To create a prefab, all we need to do is to drag an object from the Hierarchy to a project folder. We made a prefab of our pin by doing this. Note that prefabs show up blue in the hierarchy to mark them out. When the prefab is changed, all copies of it in the hierarchy are updated as well.

Automatic Creation of Game Objects at Run-Time

Once we created our pin prefab, we worked on adding pins automatically into the game a run-time.

We added a new empty game object and named it PinManager, we then added a component to it of the same name. This script was given a public property, of type GameObject, to store a reference to the prefab. In the Start() method, we use two loops to place nine pins automatically into the scene, using the Instantiate() method:

 using UnityEngine;
 using System.Collections;
 
 public class PinManager : MonoBehaviour 
 {
   public GameObject PinPrefab;
 
   // Use this for initialization
   void Start () 
   {
     for (int x = -1; x <= 1; x++)
     {
       for (int z = -2; z <= 0; z++)
       {
         Vector3 pos = new Vector3(x * 2, 0.5f, z * 2);
 
         Instantiate (PinPrefab, pos, Quaternion.identity);
       }
     }
   }
 }

Note that there are several versions of the Instantiate() method. The version we’re using allows us to specify the position and rotation of the newly created object. A Quaternion is variable type that can store a rotation. Quaternion.identity simply means “no rotation”.

Testing

Project File

The latest project files can be downloaded from here.

Creators – Starting Our First Game

This week we started our first game in earnest. Let’s talk about the design and the steps we took to begin implementing it.

PinBowling.jpg

Game Design

The game involves a simple play area with pins. The players tries to knock down the pins by controlling the direction and force at which the ball is projected. The number of pins knocked constitutes the score. The game shares element of classic games such as pinball, bowling and skittles, to name a few.

Setting up the play area

To establish the play area, we used a plane (for the ground) and four cubes stretched to size to provide the walls:

gameboard

Because we don’t want gaps in our walls, we’ve been careful to be precise with the positions of everything.

Applying a Force to our Sphere

We added a sphere to our scene and made sure that it had a RigidBody body component. The RigidBody component makes it so that the physic engine takes care of the movement of the sphere.

To test adding a force to the sphere we added a temporary script to the sphere and had it add a force to the RigidBody as soon as the game starts.

Immediately it was clear that the force was too weak, so we added a property to the script which allowed us to scale the force. In testing 1000 proved to be a good value. Here is the script:

 using UnityEngine;
 using System.Collections;
 
 public class PushSphere : MonoBehaviour 
 {
   public float PushStrength = 1.0f;
 
   // Use this for initialization
   void Start ()
   {
     Rigidbody rb;
     rb = GetComponent<Rigidbody> ();
     rb.AddForce (Vector3.back * PushStrength);
   }
   
   // Update is called once per frame
   void Update () 
   {
   }
 }

 

We also experimented with creating a physic material and assigning it to the sphere. Different levels of friction and bounciness give different behaviours.

Testing With a Single Pin

To test the sphere colliding with a pin we added a single cylinder to the scene. Like the sphere, we made sure it had a RigidBody component attached to it. When the game started the ball shot forward and knocked the pin, as we’d hoped.

Aimer

To aim our sphere and control the strength of our shot, we created an aimer. The aimer is composed of an empty object containing two cylinders, one pointing forwards and one pointing crossways.

We didn’t want the aimer cylinders interacting with anything so we made sure to remove the colliders from the cylinders.

We also wanted the aimer to be partially transparent so we created a new material, setting the Rendering Mode to “Transparent”, choosing a colour from the Albedo colour picker and setting the Alpha value to a value less than 255.

Screen Shot 2016-10-10 at 22.39.21.png

Project

Updated project files for this week’s project can be found here. This requires Unity Version 5.4.1f1 or later.