Unity In Action – A Souls-Like?

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So for this week I will be reviewing Unity In Action – 2nd Edition. The author, /u/jhocking provided me with an early access version.
Note – this review does not represent the finished product.

Here is what I was able to create after reading the book:

 

Who Is This Book For?

…people who have some programming experience but no experience with Unity, and teach them how to develop a game using Unity!

The description is lacking and undersells itself to the true client. The ambitious learner. Those who truly want to challenge themselves and aren’t afraid of suffering through page after page of deep, exhaustive ingredients and guts of a game (i.e., build from scratch, not just a hastily thrown together demo that abuses prefabs and makes you feel all warm-and-fuzzy for copy-pasting some code). UIA is a challenge. A call to deprive yourself of hand-holding. To finish this book is true suffering. There isn’t a picture for every step. This is no place for a “code in a weekend” type of reader.

But I’m A Visual Learner!
Teaching style matching learning style is obviously a big part of what makes a resource successful. I will comment that in starting the first chapter I had begun to feel the strain as I had to put in extra effort to associate exhaustive text instructions with the application of those instructions in my Unity editor. I noted how it felt like a rough draft that should be reformatted into bullet point and pictures. With all of that said, as I progressed I began to really push myself to concentrate and apply the concepts (including further experimentation). With each extra grain of effort I started to uncover some things. The first being that this was the most consistent and informative book I have read. Unity in Action deviates from the typical hand-holder formula. As the title suggests, it can be a brutal read at times. But just as Dark Souls has those pay off moments where you reach a campfire, the book pays off with skill after you’ve spent enough time reading and experimenting.

~On the surface UIA is unimpressive, but hours-deep into the book and I uncovered a rich learning experience.

Learn From A Professional
The author is a professional game developer and demonstrates an extensive insider knowledge of the trade and Unity. Citing the past, present, and even possible future of the engine (e.g. describing changes Unity has made for both tools and code, and possible changes including how this might effect your project). Additionally, the use of notes/warnings both shows where mistakes might be made and cements learning. A lot of mistakes I made in other books were highlighted here and either helped me remember them or allowed me to finally learn them.

What can I expect to learn?
-raycasting (+mouse-picking, +sphere-casting)
– co-routines (4 books and someone finally explains it properly!)
– AI/ finite-state-machines (not much depth but whats done is done well)
– lighting (just the basics)
– level design (good depth: white-boxing/constructive-solid-geometry/extensions)
– 3d modelling (good introduction to concepts and external tools)
– audio
– internet connectivity
– 2D, including tilemaps
– and a lot more

xncByIg.png

Readers will explore working with tilemaps in the 2D section.

There is just so much more material than is typical of this type of book.

Summary
In the end, Unity in Action is a satisfying read that left me both eager to learn more and eager to apply all of the skills I gained. The inadequate use of pictures is complemented by the most consistent, up-to-date, and informative text I have thus far witnessed.

Here is my advice: get to know the basics using something easy (prefab-heavy/interface/hand-holding) and then when you feel confident and up for a bigger challenge check out this book.

UIA is planned to release December 2017.


Rating: 8/10 – Recommended

Pros

  • Extremely up-to-date (in some cases even foreshadows changes)
  • Author shows deep knowledge of Unity
  • Learn to build a game from scratch (no prefabs)

 

Cons

  • poor use of pictures (occasionally blurry/cluttered)
  • occasional lack of depth on concepts (e.g., finite-state-machines)

MH2Ehdm.pngUIA suffers from occasional cluttered pictures.


Looking Back…

This was one of my favourite reads thus far, as I had a chance to explore alternate methods to prefabs assets. It is very common for a book or course to use the Unity provided assets like “First-Person-Controller” and just not teach you anything substantial. UIA breaks down how to build that asset from scratch going through such things as Quaternion and more. I look forward to giving a full review to the finalised version of the book!

If you’re looking for just one learning resource and you prefer books over video this is the one to get.

 

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