January 23, 2013 by solomonlutze
For those developers who aren’t aware, Unity 4 has recently been released for free.
I haven’t had a chance to do too much with it, but most of my time was spent with a tutorial for Mecanim: their new animation system. The goal here is to provide a more complete solution for animations, and what they have seems very powerful. First, you’ll need a model and some animation clips – you can brew your own with a program like Blender (which is also free), or you can use default Unity assets or buy them in the Unity asset store. Once you’ve gotten those, you can import them into Unity and easily integrate them into your game. The addition of an “Animator” component — which can be linked to any object you want to animate — lets you attach those animations to objects in your game, and that’s when things get really cool.
The Animator component lets you link animations, and especially transitions between animations, to various state-based information in the game. In the tutorial, you build a robot whose walk animations are triggered based on move-speed and direction, using that information to blend the walk/run animations along with turn animations. The result is unbelievably smooth, and is a low-cost, low-time solution to some of the big problems of animating. There’s even a “traffic light” system for creating looped clips that shows you with red, yellow, or green lights how closely matched the start and end frames for a clip are. There’s also a very visually-oriented place to create a state diagram to tell unity which animations your model can blend between. You can demand that a forward jump only be possible from a running state, for example. These are the sorts of time-savers built into the free version.
If you haven’t seen this video yet, it shows a lot of examples of what the Unity 4 engine is capable of:
Learning how to develop a game can take time and money you might not have. As a dev on a low (nonexistent) budget, the tools introduced in Unity 4 are a blessing. If you’re an aspiring developer or game dev hobbyist, Unity is a tool you should definitely try to pick up. It does a lot of the black magic design behind the scenes, and lets you spend more time actually developing your game. Mecanim is the latest example of the engine’s friendliness to developers, and a great addition to an already robust suite of tools. I definitely think if you haven’t picked it up yet, do so immediately.