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Introduction to Unity

This chapter is from the book

Getting to Know the Unity Editor

Now that you have Unity installed, you can begin exploring the Unity editor. The Unity editor is the visual component that enables you to build your games in a “what you see is what you get” fashion. Because most interaction we have is actually with the editor, we often just refer to it as Unity. The next portion of this chapter examines all the different elements of the Unity editor and how they fit together to make games.

The Project Dialog

When opening Unity for the first time, you will see the Project dialog (see Figure 1.3). This window is what we use to open recent projects, browse for projects that have already been created, or start new projects.


FIGURE 1.3 The Project dialog (Mac version shown, the Windows version is similar).

If you have created a project in Unity already, whenever you open Unity, it will go directly into that project. To get back to the Project dialog, you go (from inside Unity) to File > New Project to get to the Create New Project dialog, or you go to File > Open Project to get to the Open Project dialog.

The Unity Interface

So far, we have installed Unity and looked at the Project dialog. Now it is time to dig in and start playing around. When you open a new Unity project for the first time, you will see a collection of gray windows (called views), and everything will be rather empty (see Figure 1.5). Never fear, we will quickly get this place hopping. In the following sections, we look at each of the unique views one by one. First, though, we want to talk about the layout as a whole.


FIGURE 1.5 The Unity interface.

For starters, Unity allows the user to determine exactly how they want to work. This means that any of the views can be moved, docked, duplicated, or changed. For instance, if you click the word Hierarchy (on the left) to select the Hierarchy view and drag it over to the Inspector (on the right), you can tab the two views together. You can also place your cursor on any line between views and resize the windows. In fact, why don’t you take a moment to play around and move things so that they are to your liking. If you end up with a layout that you don’t much care for, never fear. You can quickly and easily switch back to the built-in default view by going to Window > Layouts > Default Layout. While we are on the topic of built-in layouts, go ahead and try out a few of the other layouts (we’re a fan of the Wide layout). If you create a custom layout you like, you can always save it by going to Window > Layouts > Save Layout. Now if you accidentally change your layout, you can always get it back.

If you would like to duplicate a view, it is a fairly straightforward process as well. You can simply right-click any view tab (the tab is the part sticking up with the views name on it), hover the mouse cursor over Add Tab, and a list of views will pop up for you to choose from (see Figure 1.6). You may wonder why you would want to duplicate a view. It is possible that in your view-moving frenzy, you accidentally closed the view. Re-adding the tab will give it back to you. Also, consider the capability to create multiple Scene views. Each Scene view could align with a specific element or axis within your project. If you want to see this in action, check out the four Split built-in layout by going to Window > Layouts > 4 Split. (If you created a layout that you like, be sure to save it first.)


FIGURE 1.6 Adding a new tab.

Now, without further ado, let’s look at the specific views themselves.

The Project View

Everything that has been created for a project (files, scripts, textures, models, and so on) can be found in the Project view (see Figure 1.7). This is the window into which all the assets and organization of our project go. When you create a new project, you will notice a single folder item called Assets. If you go to the folder on your hard drive where you save the project, you will also find an Assets folder. This is because Unity mirrors the Project view with the folders on the hard drive. If you create a file or folder in Unity, the corresponding one appears in the explorer (and vice versa). You can move items in the Project view simply by dragging and dropping. This enables you to place items inside folders or reorganize your project on the fly.


FIGURE 1.7 The Project view.

Whenever you click a folder in the Project view, the contents of the folder will be displayed under the Assets section on the right. As you can see in Figure 1.7, the Assets folder is currently empty, and therefore nothing is appearing on the right. If you would like to create assets, you can do so easily by clicking the Create drop-down menu. This menu enables you to add all manner of assets and folders to your project.

Favorites buttons enable you to quickly select all assets of a certain type. This makes it possible for you to get an “at a glance” view of your assets quickly. When you click one of the Favorites buttons (All Models, for instance) or perform a search with the built-in search bar, you will see that you can narrow down the results between Assets and Asset Store. If you click Asset Store, you will be able to browse the assets that fit your search criteria from the Unity Asset Store (see Figure 1.8). You can further narrow your results down by free and paid assets. This is a fantastic addition because it enables you to go and grab assets that you need for your project without ever leaving the Unity interface.


FIGURE 1.8 Searching the Unity Asset Store.

The Hierarchy View

In many ways, the Hierarchy view (see Figure 1.9) is a lot like the Project view. The difference is that the Hierarchy view shows all the items in the current scene instead of the entire project. When you first create a project with Unity, you get the default scene, which has just two items in it, the Main Camera and a Directional Light. As you add items to your scene, they will appear in the Hierarchy view. Just like with the Project view, you can use the Create menu to quickly add items to your scene, search using the built-in search bar, and click and drag items to organize and “nest” them.


FIGURE 1.9 The Hierarchy view.

The Inspector View

The Inspector view enables you to see all of the properties of a currently selected item. Simply click any asset or object from the Project or Hierarchy view, and the Inspector view automatically propagates with information.

In Figure 1.10, we can see the Inspector view after the Main Camera object was selected from the Hierarchy view.


FIGURE 1.10 The Inspector view.

Let’s break down some of this functionality:

  • If you click the check box next to the object’s name, it will become disabled and not appear in the project.
  • Drop-down lists (such as the Layer or Tag lists; more on those later) are used to select from a set of predefined options.
  • Text boxes, drop-downs, and sliders can have their values changed, and the changes will be automatically and immediately reflected in the scene—even if the game is running!
  • Each game object acts like a container for different components (such as Transform, Camera, and GUILayer in Figure 1.10). You can disable these components by unchecking them or remove them by right-clicking and selecting Remove Component.
  • Components can be added by clicking the Add Component button.

The Scene View

The Scene view is the most important view you work with because it enables you to see your game visually as it is being built (see Figure 1.11). Using the mouse controls and a few hotkeys, you can move around inside your scene and place objects where you want them. This gives you an immense level of control.


FIGURE 1.11 The Scene view.

In a little bit, we will talk about moving around within a scene, but, first, let’s focus on the controls that are a part of the Scene view:

  • Drawmode: This controls how the scene is drawn. By default, it is set to Shaded, which means objects will be drawn with their textures in full color.
  • 2D/3D view: This control changes from a 3D view, to a 2D view. Note in 2D view the scene gizmo does not show.
  • Scene lighting: This control determines whether objects in the Scene view will be lit by default ambient lighting, or only by lights that actually exist within the scene. The default is to include the built-in ambient lighting.
  • Audition mode: This control sets whether an audio source in the Scene view functions or not.
  • Game overlay: This determines whether items like skyboxes, fog, and other effects appear in the Scene view.
  • Gizmo selector: This control enables you to choose which “gizmos” appear in the Scene view. A gizmo is an indicator that gives visual debugging or aids in setup. This also controls whether the placement grid is visible.
  • Scene gizmo: This control serves to show you which direction you are currently facing and to align the Scene view with an axis.

The Game View

The last view to go over is the Game view. Essentially, the Game view allows you to “play” the game inside the editor by giving you a full simulation of the current scene. All elements of a game will function in the Game view just as they would if the project were fully built. Figure 1.12 shows you what a Game view looks like. Note that although the Play, Pause, and Step buttons are not technically a part of the Game view, they control the Game view and therefore are included in the image.


FIGURE 1.12 The Game view.

The Game view comes with some controls that assist us with testing our games:

  • Play: The Play button enables you to play your current scene. All controls, animations, sounds, and effects will be present and working. Once a game is running, it will behave just like the game would if it were being run in a standalone player (such as on your PC or mobile device). To stop the game from running, click the Play button again.
  • Pause: The Pause button pauses the execution of the currently running Game view. The game will maintain its state and continue exactly where it was when paused. Clicking the Pause button again will continue running the game.
  • Step: The Step button works while the Game view is paused and causes the game to execute a single frame of the game. This effectively allows you to “step” through the game slowly and debug any issues you might have. Pressing the Step button while the game is running will cause the game to pause.
  • Aspect drop-down: From this drop-down menu, you can choose the aspect ratio you want the Game view window to display in while running. The default is Free Aspect, but you can change this to match the aspect ratio of the target platform you are developing for.
  • Maximize on Play: This button determines whether the Game view takes up the entirety of the editor when run. By default, this is off, and a running game will only take up the size of the Game view tab.
  • Mute Audio: This button turns off the sounds when playing the game. Handy when the person sitting next to you is getting tired of hearing your repeated play-testing!
  • Stats: This button determines whether rendering statistics are displayed on the screen while the game is running. These statistics can be useful for measuring the efficiency of your scene. This button is set to off by default.
  • Gizmos: This is both a button and a drop-down menu. The button determines whether gizmos are displayed while the game is running. The button is set to off by default. The drop-down menu (the small arrow) on this button determines which gizmos appear if gizmos are turned on.

Honorable Mention: The Toolbar

Although not a view, the toolbar is an essential part of the Unity editor. Figure 1.13 shows the toolbar components:

  • Transform tools: These buttons enable you manipulate game objects and are covered in greater detail later. Pay special attention to the button that resembles a hand. This is the Hand tool and is described later in this chapter.
  • Transform gizmo toggles: These toggles manipulate how gizmos appear in the Scene view. Leave these alone for now.
  • Game view controls: These buttons control the Game view.
  • Layers drop-down: This menu determines which object layers appear in the Scene view. By default, everything appears in the Scene view. Leave this alone for now. Layers are covered in a later chapter.
  • Layout drop-down: This menu allows you to quickly change the layout of the editor.

FIGURE 1.13 The toolbar.

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