Creators – Being Random

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This week we mainly looked at three things:

  • How data is organised on your computer
  • Creating functions
  • Using randomness to make things interesting

Data Organisation

Most of us had heard of a hard-disk before. This is a stack of metal disks inside your computer. Each metal disk has a special coating made of millions of tiny magnets (like you might find stuck to the fridge) that can be turned on and off.11644419853_9499fa0faa_b

We saw that able to turn something on and off, like a switch, was enough to count from zero to one, but the more switches we added, the higher we could count. Two switches can count from zero to three:

Switch 1          | Switch 2          | Total (Add)
[Off = 0, On = 1] | [Off = 0, On = 2] |
------------------+-------------------+-----------
Off = 0           | Off = 0           | 0
On  = 1           | Off = 0           | 1
Off = 0           | On  = 2           | 2
On  = 1           | On  = 2           | 3

With enough of these tiny switches, we can store anything we need. Each of these tiny switches is also known as a ‘bit’ and a 1 terabyte hard disk has a billion of them!

We also saw that the files on your disk are arranged with folders (also known as directories). Folders can contain both files and more folders. This allow us to keep our hard disk organised; without them all our files would be in the same place which would be difficult once we had more than a few. The location of a file is called its “path”. Looking at the highlighted file on the desktop of my Mac we can see the full path would be:

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/Users/kierancoughlan/Desktop/Ball and Bat Sounds.m4a

 

This means that, reading backwards, the file called ‘Bat and Ball Sounds.m4a’ is in a folder called ‘Desktop’ which is itself inside a folder called ‘kierancoughlan’ which is, at the highest level, inside a folder called ‘Users’.

Functions

A function is a collection of commands that do a job together. We’ve already encountered them, even if you hadn’t especially noticed:

  • Our P5 template already contains two functions called start() and draw()
  • All of the P5 commands we have used, such as createCanvas() and rect() are functions themselves

We could add all our code to start() and draw(), in fact, that’s what we’ve done before this week. That’s fine starting out, but it does mean, once there are a lot of commands in those functions, that our code is gets harder to read and understand. Breaking out a few commands into a new function and giving it a name that describes what it is doing, really helps.

Once we’ve written a function, it can be called as many times, and from as many places, we as need.

Functions can do one other thing too: they can give back a value to the place where they were called from. For this we use the special word return. For example, let’s see what a function to pick the largest of two numbers, we’ll call it Max(), might look like:

function start(){
    let a = 4;
    let b = 10;
    let c = Max(a, b);
}

function Max(n1, n2){
    if (n1 > n2)
        return n1;
    else
        return n2;
}

We give Max() the two numbers we are comparing. If the first one is bigger than the second, it gives back the first. Otherwise, if gives back the second. Note too that the names of the variables in Max() are different to those in start(), and that’s not a problem.

Random

Finally, we looked at the P5 function random(). We used it two different ways:

random(); // gives a number between 0...1
random(n); // gives a number between 0...n (where n is a number!)

In the first form, we used it to pick a random colour. In the second, we used it to pick a random position for our squares.

Files

As usual, all the code is on the creators github repository. Head there and download it!! The files for this week contain both the script we wrote (sketch.js) and a longer version that I wrote (sketch2.js). Feel free to take a look at both!

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.

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Project

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