Intern vs. Learning in Unity
Working with video games doesn’t sound like a terrible idea, does it? Expressing your creativity through art, coding, audio and storytelling. Providing entertainment and unique experiences to other people, doesn’t that sound nice? Anybody can create games, no matter their skillset or previous experience. This is an account of how I, as somebody with zero coding background, finally found a way into learning game development with Unity.
There are so many options and tools to consider if you want to create a game, but you’ll most likely need a game engine. And when you are new to the world of game development and programming, forming a relationship with an engine can be a tricky thing. If you are off to a bad start, you’ll get a bad impression and things like coding will seem foreign and way too complicated.
My advice is simple: start with the basics. Become familiar with the editor before you start scripting. You can get pretty far with just the standard assets. If you want more varied graphics or a bit more advanced options, go to the Asset Store and find a finished project there. This way, you can study a functioning prototype before you start coding and creating your own game.
I have been introduced to Unity three times. The first two felt like they didn’t show me what I could do with the game engine. I was a game design and communications student, who took obligatory classes in programming. We went straight to scripting and [csharp][/csharp]Debug.Log(“Hello World”); – something that didn’t feel very efficient or inspiring. The logic was hard to understand and C# didn’t make sense to me. So my options in game development always seemed limited, since I wasn’t able to dedicate a big part of my education to learning how to code. I had just started on a game design degree, not a programmer one.
My second introduction was much the same. Coding, making 3D objects move and so on. There was too much effort and too little reward. In all fairness, we spent an hour or two importing a fully animated character, but couldn’t use him for our corresponding assignment, so he was all but useless in the long run.
I was getting the feeling that the creators behind games like Firewatch and Ori and the Blind Forest were practically wizards or just way more dedicated and motivated that I could ever be. I am pretty passionate about video games, but maybe I just wasn’t meant to create games.
Then came the third encounter. This was a workshop during my internship at Unity, meant to introduce the marketing team to the Unity Engine. I was ready to get a 1.2 second head start on writing “Debug.log(“Hello World”); and get confirmed once again that I didn’t want to be a programmer. But that didn’t happen. Instead, we imported the standard 2D assets and I realized that I quickly could build a small level and run around in it, when the animations were in order.
Within an hour, I had created the basics for a small prototype. Not that it was a particularly amazing prototype, just a basic platformer, but it was still something!
This introduction felt like the one I had needed from the very beginning. Suddenly, creating a game was just a little more realistic. I could do much with just the standard assets, and even if the graphics weren’t varied, I could find more on The Asset Store, which has almost anything I could think of. Finally it felt like my passion and drive to learn from other developers would be enough if I wanted to make a game.
The Asset Store even has a good deal of free assets and if you want to look into paid assets, there are regularly sales like the 24 hour deals and the Staff Picks sale.
The creators of Firewatch and Ori and the Blind Forest might still be wizards, but now I was learning magic as well!
Everyone learns differently and different things motivate people. My ambition wasn’t to know how to code, I wanted to help create games in other ways or help a studio to promote their project to an audience. The purpose of this little ramble is that it is important to start with the basics. The Unity engine is an amazing tool, available for any game developer if they want to. Yet it looked hostile and unapproachable even to a passionate individual like me, because I missed a huge step in actually getting to know the engine.
If the first thing you encounter seems illogical, possibly very difficult and might take way too long to learn, your motivation may stumble. That’s not the point of introducing such a game engine to hobbyist and beginners. Instead, the idea is that anyone who wants to try should be able to do some game development.