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Spotlight on Playmaker: Visual scripting that lets you bypass the code and unleash your creative potential

, May 4, 2017

Playmaker the best-selling visual scripting tool on the Unity Asset Store, with over 2,800 reviews and a 5-star rating average.

Learning to create interactive experiences, including games, can be a challenge for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest challenges arises from the fact that, historically, the main mode of authoring interactive content has been through text-based programming.

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For a limited time, Playmaker is included free with Unity Plus subscriptions as part of the Accelerator Pack, which also includes 2 other top-selling productivity assets (normally a $190 value total) that will help you fast track your development and get your project to the finish line faster.

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In Unity, we support C# and Unityscript, with a primary focus on teaching people to program using C#.  When learning to create games with C#, there are two main areas that need to be understood: logic and syntax. We can think of the logic as ‘what is supposed to happen, in what order, or under what conditions’ and syntax as the language in which we communicate that to the compiler. Learning both of these things, simultaneously, for the first time can be very challenging.

Playmaker, a visual scripting tool created by Hutong Games, replaces the text-based paradigm with a visual metaphor. Logic is expressed through graphs that are wired together to create relationships and syntax is automatically expressed using pre-made ‘Actions’ that can be selected from a list.

Because of this, Playmaker can be a very useful tool for creators who are interested in exploring the logical side of creating interactivity without having to interface deeply with written code syntax.

Many users get stuck simply because they have neglected to place a semicolon, parenthesis, or other punctuation mark in the correct place and their code fails to compile, blocking their progress.

Removing the struggle with syntax allows creators to learn to ‘think like a programmer’ by focusing on creating logic for their game, without worrying about compiler errors.

For this reason, Playmaker presents a great opportunity for creators who are new to programming and want to begin creating interactive experiences — or even those who know that they have no interest in ever learning text-based programming but do want to be able to create interactivity.

See it in action…

I recently conducted a live training on Playmaker that I’m sharing online now. In the video below, you’ll get a short introduction to the core concepts of Playmaker including applications for both player mechanics and enemy intelligence. You’ll learn how to set up an invisibility mechanic for the player, a patrolling robot enemy, and a turret that will fire when it shoots the player. This training is part of a three-part series highlighting Playmaker, Ultimate FPS, and Amplify Shader Editor. These three top-selling productivity tools are included in the Accelerator Pack, which is free with all new Unity Plus subscriptions for a limited time.

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For a limited time, the Accelerator Pack, which includes Playmaker, Ultimate FPS, and Amplify Shader Editor (a $190 total value), is included free with new Unity Plus subscriptions.

Along with the amazing value of the Accelerator Pack, you’ll enjoy the enhanced features of Unity Plus:

  • Editor Dark Skin UI
  • 1 month of free access to Unity Certification Courseware
  • Performance Reporting: troubleshoot and identify issues in real time
  • VIP Cloud Build Queue, enhanced Unity Analytics, Multiplayer, and more!

For more information and frequently asked questions, please visit the Accelerator Pack page.

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For current Unity Plus and Pro subscribers, we are pleased to be able to offer you the Accelerator Pack for $75 —  a significant discount of 60% off the retail price of these assets. To claim your Accelerator Pack at this special discounted price, simply contact us at get@unity3d.com. Inquiries will be processed in the order they are received.

23 Comments

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  1. Gabor Borbely

    May 5, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    I’d be a little concerned over potential performance issues while using Playmaker on low to mid-level machines.Gameflow does sound like it would provide a cleaner, higher performing solution without so much of the overhead that Playmaker may provide.

    1. Hi,

      On perfs, I rebuilded from scratch the UnityLearn 2dPlatformer and space shooter 100% PlayMaker, and used this to benchmark PlayMaker footpring and impact on perfs.

      The results are very good, a 1-2Fps drop when working with PlayMaker, a 1Mb memory footprint ( PlayMaker core dll is basically 1mb).

      These rebuilds are available publicly on Github:

      https://github.com/jeanfabre/PlayMaker–UnityLearn–SpaceShooter_U5.5
      https://github.com/jeanfabre/PlayMaker–UnityLearn–2dPlatformer

      You can play for each project the webgl versions, the 100% scripted and the 100% PlayMaker. The links are featured in the github readme (links above) and the interfaces features all the data as you play so you can testify yourself.

      Bye,

      Jean

  2. “Many users get stuck simply because they have neglected to place a semicolon, parenthesis, or other punctuation mark in the correct place and their code fails to compile, blocking their progress. ”

    Pretending I didn’t read that.

  3. I absolutely love Playmaker! I use it every single day and it is a massive time saver for me.

    It just seems to fit better with the way that my brain works. For me, it is intuitive and easy but I understand that people have different points of view.
    I got Gameflow free with level 11 and only used it a few times. It just didn’t grab me in the same way for some reason.

    Without a doubt, Playmaker is one of the best assets I have ever purchased.

  4. I hope Unity knows or realize that a lot of people (especially me) can’t do shit with unity without Playmaker. But I’m sure that Unity knows already about this. Unreal have it’s blueprint and I guess there is no way to go to far without any visual scripting assistance.

    1. Don’t listen to this comment. This is absolutely false. In fact, most successful games made with Unity are not using any of this Visual Scripting help, because by coding yourself, you can optimize and customize better the output of the game actions.

      Personally, I think Visual Scripting is bad because it doesn’t teach you how to program really, because syntax is very useful in programming and not everything can be “soft-coded” in PlayMaker. Remember visual coding is limited and can sometimes become way more complex to handle and update than regular code, which is a standard.

      Codind yourself teaches you the real ins and outs of what is really executed and make you understand more deeply the game flow process.

      My suggestion : go learn to code properly C# first with external tutorials !

      1. I love you and your comment

        1. Thanks. I just couldn’t resist to react at this utterly wrong comment only praised by lazy code-“beginners” (to not say noob).

          Note I have nothing against visual scripting if it’s used as a complement to code, not a replacement.

          Happy coding !

      2. I think there can be a balance. I personally do not use any visual scripting software, however if someone feels more comfortable with it…why not? Look at something like Flappy Bird. Honestly no reason to know how to code to make something simple like that. It really depends on your needs. Also, something like can be somewhere in between both worlds. It’s visual scripting that outputs C# scripts to attach as components.

        1. For sure there is a balance. If you know how to program, you can perfectly use Visual Scripting as a good complement to build more repetitive Behaviors or to design a more complex relationship between code and GameObjects implied.

          Also, what triggered me is the fact Unity want that non-coders use Playmaker . It’s bad, because Programming is an universal skill and it’s all to your advantage to learn it, even not so deeply.

          As ironical as it seems, to use efficiently Visual Scripting, you must first know how to “manual code” properly ! That’s part of the learning curve to master how to create a game, no matter what engine you are using. That’s why even if Unreal’s blueprints seems very attractive, if you want to have more control of what you do, you must hardcode yourself parts you want to optimize, like many big games rely on some of those manual optimizations.

          So, Visual Scripting is totally right if you know the basic of programming !

        2. I’m all in for Unity implementing Nottorus as their Visual Scripting

      3. Good comment, c# forever

      4. Sorry I’m late to the party.

        I believe visual scripting has a place, but certainly not the end-all-be-all solution to any one problem. Visual scripting should be taken on a project-by-project basis and be used where most effective. Visual scripting can be used properly (just like regular coding) and can lead to running a high performance experience. I’ve personally used PlayMaker to rapidly scaffold logic and gameplay and have built custom actions to work with PlayMaker in order to save on performance when I needed it.

        It’s also good for rapidly designing new gameplay mechanics. Something like PlayMaker is just another tool for a team to use in their quest to ship their code.

        Does having coding experience help with using PlayMaker? Absolutely. PlayMaker, and other like tools, can help those who are new to coding and want to build an experience by not being deterred by a lack of knowledge or a lack of funds to hire experienced programmers to execute their vision.

        I’m sure you’re not alone in seeing Unity position PlayMaker as an in-road for those non-coders with the intent to convert them to members and subscribers. But that should be seen as a positive step in our industry. Democratizing our tools to the masses helps bring the overall costs down (look at Unreal), helps drive development (lots of great experiences being developed on the indy scene), and shines a light on the importance of programming. And the Unity+PlayMaker combo is seen by many as a gateway for those looking to start programming and coding.

  5. is Unity 2017 visual scripting is playmaker ? or do we get a brand new other feature ?

  6. I don’t see that Unity is pushing playmaker. They have featured plenty of varied assets. They are simply getting behind something that has been their best selling asset for years. I also use playmaker in my projects, and what is nice about it, is that it doesnt stop me from using C# simultaneously. You can either run your C# scripts at the same time, or change them into playmaker actions and use them within playmaker. Not everyone who comes to Unity wants to spend most of their time working in C# (or javascript). Having playmaker offers a nice alternative method of visual programming. Of course some naysayers will talk about how playmaker is not as powerful as C#. Of course this is true. Every tool has its place and purpose. Reach for the right tool at the right time.

  7. I’ve been using it for years. It’s the best game dev tool I’ve ever used. Hope Unity will buy Playmaker creators and integrate Playmaker directly into Unity.

  8. I used Playmaker and dropped it within days because of the visual noise: it’s just so confusing when you start going beyond zone triggers.
    Graphical shader nodes like ASE yes, FSM like playmaker no
    Let’s just hope they’re not thinking of integrating this…

  9. But i Love Coding! <3

  10. Hector Magana

    May 4, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    Playmaker is a visual state machine and requires it’s own logic or way of thinking, Unity should look into something more similar to coding like Nottorus.

  11. I think Unity should look into the way Nottorus works… and partner with the Developer to make the Visual Scripting for Unity…. Nottorus is more like Actual C# with nodes.

  12. Thomas Pasieka

    May 4, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    Not quite sure why Unity keeps pushing Playmaker. Much like uScript and other node based visual scripting tools you end up being confused by your own node graph setup rather quickly which evolves into a huge mess in no time. The first image of this blog post pretty much shows exactly that. I think GameFlow is a much better alternative. It’s cleaner and reads from top to bottom right in your Inspector.

    1. Hi,

      Yes, you are right the first screen shot doesn’t do justice at all, and is really something that should be avoided :) but it’s important to realize that scripting can be equally confusing with mile high scripts and do-it-all components, the problem of organization and structuring remains bold what ever the solution used to create interactivity: careful planning, crafting and refactoring along the way is necessary for every type of development.

      Bye,

      Jean

      1. Precisely for that reason it would be positive a solution that provide more clarity. Gameflow offers a more clear and viable alternative without sacrificing power and versatility. I agree with Thomas.