Building Your First Game in Unity

It’s a longer process than you think, but so very rewarding

Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

You’ve decided you want to build a game. You’ve downloaded Unity, clicked create a game, and… well, you don’t know where to go from here. Maybe you have programming experience. Perhaps you’ve built a game or two in the past. Whatever the case, you don’t feel confident enough to continue. You mothball your project. Years go by, and you may never build that game.

You don’t want that to be you, right?

With games these days, we often see the graphics, game mechanics, or even the fact that the AAA games are in 3D, and think to ourselves, “What can my snake clone possibly do to help me in my journey.” It’s a fair point, your 2D snake clone is not likely to pull in a lot of eyes, but at the same time, the basic mechanics of all games, 2D, 3D, VR, they’re all the same. If you can build snake, you can make a Unity game to be played on the upcoming X Box Series X.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

So you want to jump right in and build a game. That’s a worthy cause, but if you don’t take the time to plan correctly, you’re going to run into issues. I firmly believe the reason that most games do not get finished is that they are not adequately planned.

Try and imagine your finished game. What mechanics are at play? How do the menus look? How do you check your ammo, corn reserves, or whatever? These are all important considerations that if you take the time to hammer out right now, you will not waste time endlessly later trying to finish your game.

Make a list of the various mechanics you want to see, make a list of the assets you’ll need, and then get ready, because you’ll be on your way.

You’ll start building your game long before you ever create the first file associated with it. Game development takes planning, sometimes even months or years of it. You want to have as clear an idea as possible about what your game will look like, what game mechanics are in play, and what assets you’re going to use.

If you plan on building your assets in either 2D or 3D, I suggest that you become familiar with the tools of the trade. For 2D assets, I recommend that you familiarize yourself with one digital painting program or another. There are plenty of free options available:

Any of these programs can be used to create your graphic assets. Just remember to keep in mind file size when you are saving your final files, and to make something a bit better than my bug-eyed alien up there. If you create sprites that are far too large, your final product will contain a lot of bloat without a lot of benefits. If they are too small, your final product can seem stretched and lose some visual appeal.

Trying to pick a size that is approximately what the end-user would see on their screen is an easy way to prevent this. Just remember that screen sizes vary, and you will need to implement code that deals with different screen sizes regardless.

If you’re working with 3D assets and you want to build them yourself, familiarizing yourself with these two programs will make your life considerably easier:

You’ll be using both of these programs (because they’re free) or paid versions of similar programs to build your 3D assets. You’ll construct the model of your asset in Blender and then create the textures, as detailed or as simple as you like in GIMP. Using this workflow, depending on your skill level, you can build professional-quality assets to be used with Unity.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to build the assets yourself, you can also purchase assets from the Unity Asset Store or stores like it online. Purchasing assets on these stores may feel like you’re cheating, but that’s not the point. Two games made with the same assets can vary immensely in quality. If you think your game mechanics are on point, this can be an excellent method to producing a successful game.

When you’ve collected all of your visual assets, it’s time to move onto the audio for your game. As with anything else, you have the option of creating your own, or you can purchase your music from stores online.

If you decide to create your own music, how you’ll go about this depends on the equipment you have and your skill level. For a beginner who cannot play a musical instrument, it may be best to stick to one of the music creation studios available. The following are two common options for either a PC or a Mac user:

An awful song in LMMS

Above, you can see the…. well, I don’t even want to call it the beginnings of a song, but it’s something in LMMS. Using either LMMS or Garageband, if you have the skills or are willing to take the time to follow tutorials to learn how, you can build your own musical assets for your games.

Sound effects are a different story, though not altogether out of reach for the average person. We all have phones that can record, and everyone can download Audacity to try and clean up the effects we create. Results will vary based on your skill level; however, the tools are there.

Lastly, as with visual assets, you always have the option of relying on third-party assets. Some may view this as cheating, but if you don’t have the audio production capabilities, why wouldn’t you outsource that? This is about bringing your vision to life, not about building everything from scratch. You’re using Unity, after all.

You have your assets, visual and audio. You’ve installed Unity, and your plan is ready to go. Are you?

Whether you are working in 2D or 3D, you are going to encounter challenges in the creation of your game. Unity has prepared a ton of learning content so that people like you and I can get up to speed on using their engine. It may sound like a drag going through tutorial after tutorial, but there’s a process here.

As you move from one tutorial to the next, keep an eye out for the mechanics that you listed in your plan. When you encounter one, make a note on your list as to which tutorial you found it in. By the time you have finished all — or most, if you’re impatient — of the tutorials, you’ll know where to find more information on almost every feature that you desire.

When you first create your game, that empty scene can be a bit daunting. Remember that that feeling will go away if you put a few things into the scene. Just breath, and start placing your assets. It will come together in no time.

Now it’s time to build your game. Good luck. Have fun and happy coding!

Be sure to follow Patrick Fluke here on Medium for more articles on Programming, Game Development, Writing, Science and Technology!

Freelance Writer and Programmer.

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