Unity in Action – A Final Review

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You may remember my review of the early-access version of Unity in Action 2nd Edition. At the time of the review, only about a third of UIA was accessible. Now that the complete version is out, I will share my final thoughts.

As a reminder, this book was provided courtesy of the author himself.

About the Author

Joseph Hocking currently works as a senior software engineer using Unity. He has spent the last 12 years in the industry. This time has been divided between video games and 3D art, including augmented reality. Hocking has also taught those subjects. This experience teaching and the hands-on experience with Unity translate into a book that I consider a cut above most others I have read thus far. Unity in Action is a strong candidate for the book to get if you’re looking to get knee deep in all things Unity.

UIA-TyrantUnleashed.jpgThe author has worked on several commercial titles using Unity, including Tyrant Unleashed

Who Is This Book For?

If you recall, during my early access review I claimed UIA was a challenging read. Upon further reading, I’ve discovered that there is definitely enough here for a beginner to feel comfortable. Instead of the terse, tight formatting you might expect from the typical Packt cookbook, Unity in Action offers long, exhaustive instructions that leave nothing unexplained.

Unity in Action has something to offer to both beginner and intermediate readers: informative instructions for beginners and a lot of insight for those looking to brush up their skills. Additionally, while I do recommend learning C# outside of UIA, there is still a lot of helpful information on programming to help ease you into the world of C#, or for the more seasoned developer, to really get you thinking about what you can do with your skill set.

Now I still maintain that this book is not for the light-hearted: at ~362 pages, this is a hefty amount of work. This length feels especially exaggerated due to the lack of what I would call “filler”, but some might call necessary if new to Unity’s interface. Basically, screenshots and scripts are kept small, and typically only include the minimum information. For instance, instead of including a screenshot of a large part of Unity with a box highlighting the important part, the book contains just the important area. This isn’t always the case, but often enough that it felt worth noting.

Regarding scripting, repeated sections will be cut out with a “…”, replacing repeated code. Other books will sometimes repeat code each time changes occur, which has a tendency to drown out the actual changes and seems mostly a cheap way to make the book appear longer.

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The writing style uses cut-outs for code (see “…” at the top and bottom) to keep the information focused. Note how the author uses a footer (“A,B,C”). This keeps the reader informed without being overwhelmed.

What Will I Learn?

To be concise,  Unity in Action teaches many 2D and 3D concepts. Readers will learn everything from game design, building a GUI, particle effects like fire, building a 2D platformer, sound, lighting, and much more. UIA also offers a final project to combine concepts. This is something not every book does and is always a great way to review and solidify learning. If you really feel like a challenge, you could even dive into the final project, see how you fare, and then tackle the chapters that cover what you struggled with later on.

Building an Empire

Something to keep in mind is that with every book you read, you build up the necessary foundation to make your game ideas a reality. Every major skill is a series of small concepts that build up to something. Take the card-game project. It’s a very simple match-two game, but it contains a lot of the core concepts involved in a commercial card game.

uia-concept.png

By learning skills such as concept design…

UIA-execution.png

To the full execution in Unity…

UIA-commercial.jpg

You are building up the core skills involved behind large commercial games.

 

 

By applying concepts learned, there are no limits as to what readers will be able to create. Here is something I made after reading only the first few chapters:

 

What’s Changed Since My Last Review?

The biggest changes I have noticed are not really changes, but rather subverted expectations as to the maintained quality of the latter part of the book. So often, a book will have a stellar introduction (or maybe even first half), but then as I read further in, I discover poor editing, random changes in coding practices, and projects that are simply incomplete. Unity in Action is not one of those books. Jump into any chapter of the book, and you will discover that it is consistently high quality.

As aforementioned, the biggest weakness of UIA is its formatting. Pictures occasionally contain too much or too little information. The end result will likely be that a beginner might get lost in the more cluttered, info-heavy pictures, or they might not know where to look when the visual information is lacking enough context.

Summary


Pros

  • Improved picture resolution (no more blurry pics!)
  • Author’s experience with Unity translates into some great insights into the past, present, and potential future of the game engine
  • Up-to-date
  • Minimal errors
  • Hands-on approach
  • Very descriptive
  • Code is easy-to-read thanks to cut-outs and footers
  • Large amount of content
  • Learn to work without prefabs
  • Good balance between 2D/3D
  • Code notes will help the uninformed reader learn and the informed reader review
  • Respects the reader (i.e., no coddling)
  • All assets easy to access on Manning website
  • Supplementary materials in Appendix

Cons

  • Formatting has room for improvement
  • Occasional cluttered pictures
  • Occasional lack of depth on concepts

Skill Level – Beginner/Intermediate

Final Rating – 8.4/10 (+0.4)

Due to its informed author, descriptive teaching style, and consistent high quality, Unity in Action is a strong candidate for the book to get in 2017-2018 for all things Unity.


Get Unity in Action here (eBook)

Get it on Amazon


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