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Unity Game Development Essentials ***--

Unity Game Development Essentials Featured By Will Goldstone
Published October 2009
List Price: $49.99, Your Amazon.com Price: $44.99

Amazon.com Sales Rank: 211,859
Availability: Usually ships in 24 hours

Game engines are central to the video games we know and love. From the artwork to the mathematics that underpin the frames onscreen, the engine calls the shots. Aside from offering one of the leading 3D game engines, Unity also provides a superlative development tool ''' a tool that can produce professional standard games for Mac, PC, and the Unity Web Player. This book is a complete exercise in game development covering environments, physics, sound, particles, and much more, to get you up and working with Unity quickly. Taking a practical approach, this book will introduce you to the concepts of developing 3D games before getting to grips with development in Unity itself. From creating 3D worlds to scripting and creating simple game elements you will learn everything you'''ll need to get started with game development for the PC, Mac, and Web. This book is designed to cover a set of easy to follow examples, which culminate in the production of a First Person 3D game, complete with an interactive island environment. By introducing common concepts of game and 3D production, you'll explore Unity to make a character interact with the game world, and build puzzles for the player to solve, in order to complete the game. At the end of the book, you will have a fully working 3D game and all the skills required to extend the game further, giving your end-user, the player, the best experience possible. Soon you will be creating your own 3D games with ease!

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There's lots of competition in game development tools. And, in the case of the Unity development platform, the winner of that fierce competition is the consumer. The base-model Unity 3D development and deployment platform is free for independent developers. And Unity, coupled with a few external tools for making 3D models and bitmaps and script-files, can result in a top-notch development platform for 3D games for a total price of free.

The only problem comes with the learning curve. While spending a couple grand on commercial tools will guarantee you instructional DVD's and manuals and perhaps a month's membership at Lynda.com, your collection of free tools probably doesn't. Sure the popular tools have support forums and online tutorials to help you get going, but if you're at a loss as to exactly how to get from installation to a working development pipeline, you might need a little handholding. And that's basically where Unity Game Development Essentials lives. It's a step by step tutorial on how to use the Unity UI, how to set up your scenes, how to script movement, how to build physics, how to add audio, how to compile and package your creation, and how to deploy your app on the web or as a standalone executable for Windows/Mac.

And this process is via a book-length game project, specifically "Survival Island", which is a rather simple 3D first-person adventure in which you explore an island looking for the cabin and fire-building supplies so you can build a fire and survive. Yes, it's simple, but for the case of book-tutorials, simplicity is strength. Books built around a single project always lead to one of my chief tutorial pet-peeves, and that's that the game is almost never complete. The tutorial in Unity Game Development Essentials starts with "this is how the Unity GUI looks" and ends with "this is how you embed your completed game into a page and/or make a standalone executable". There's nothing omitted. You don't end up with "most" of a game with only two dozen simple steps left up to the reader to complete. There really is truth to the 80-20 (or is it 90-10) rule in which all the little completion steps end up taking most of your time. If a book sets off to build a "big project" and leaves you with about 75% of a game, then you don't have a complete book.

Note that Unity Game Development Essentials is 100% tutorial. This is a book (and companion sample code on the book's website) where you start at page 1 with no knowledge of Unity and you slog through all the way to around page 275 when you have a completed project. If you're looking for a reference to Unity's object model or a tutorial on scripting syntax, you'll need to look elsewhere. You'll also need to look elsewhere for modeling tutorials. While Unity has a cool world-builder that's used to good effect to build the aforementioned "Survival Island", it's not a modeler. You'll need a 3D modeler to actually build your models (save for the ones in the tutorial, as they're in the downloadable code). And this book doesn't show you how to use Maya or Blender or any other 3D tool that works with Unity.

Also note that Unity Game Development Essentials does not cover iPhone development. Unity does have an iPhone back-end version available along with some specialized tools and API's specifically for iPhone publishing. But this book doesn't cover those. That doesn't mean that the book isn't useful for iPhone development, but if you're originating an iPhone project in Unity, you'll need more information than what's in this book. If you have plans to develop a Unity project that you can then get working on iPhone, then Unity Game Development Essentials will be an excellent first step.

Finally note that this book is 102% platform-neutral. This book will work equally well if you have a Mac or a Windows machine for your Unity development.

My only complaint is in regards to the price. The back-cover price is $49 and the Amazon price is $39, which seems a bit high for a Unity tutorial, given that once you're done doing the tutorial parts of the book you probably won't use the book as a reference. One good point is that a PDF of the book is available on the publisher's website for $34. That's a pretty good deal, and I hope more publishers make a point of releasing electronic versions of their books in common formats.

The table of contents for the book is available here.