How to Start Developing Games With Unity
May 19, 2020

What is Unity?

Unity is a powerful game development platform. Its primary use, as a cross-platform engine, is to develop games and simulations for computers, mobile devices, and consoles. It gives worldwide creators the tools they need to bring their vision to life. 

Some incredibly profitable and amazing games have been developed on Unity, such as the puzzle platform adventure game, Inside, and the popular open-world, multiplayer-only game, Rust. Your game could be the next chart-busting hit.

Read on to find out how to start developing your game on Unity. Find out what costs are involved as well as what features and capabilities the engine offers. 

Things You Should Know Before Starting the Development Process

Diving straight in with zero planning might not be the best idea. A successful game needs to be well thought out. If your work is criticized, do not be offended. Think of it instead as a learning opportunity, and fix what needs to be fixed. The end goal, after all, is to create a suitable, profitable game for your target audience.

If you’re a total beginner to coding and 3D development, Unity comes with tutorials. There is plenty of material just a swipe away. Game development can be tricky, especially for beginners, but still totally doable. So get reading, get experimenting, and expand your brain.

You may be tempted to take an initial idea and develop it straightaway. It is, however, better to work out your game plan and goals before beginning the development process. This is easily done by using state diagrams, for example. Plan ahead what will happen with the game.

Another important thing: don’t dive straight into JavaScript or C# code, try using pseudocode. Pseudocode is made for humans, not machine reading, which means you can see your visions more accurately.

How to Install Unity

Installing Unity is easy. Go to Unity’s Download page and click “Download Unit Hub”. From there, follow the usual step-by-step process for downloading the installer, accepting the terms of use, and selecting the components you’d like to install. Then, click “Install”. Installation does take time but, once installed, Unity is available on your PC.

You need an account to use Unity. First, open the application. If you already have an account, sign in and skip to the next section of this explainer. If you don’t have an account, click “Create Account”, fill in the forms, and click “Create Unity ID”. You should receive a confirmation email. You can also sign up using a Google or Facebook account.

After confirming your email, go back to the Unity application and click “Continue”. Next, you can either choose Personal, if you have a personal plan or the Pro/Plus option and enter your serial code in the space provided. You are now all set up to create the games of your dreams.

No additional software is needed for programming in Unity. It comes with an IDE, Monodevelop, and the compiler is built into the engine itself. However, if you want to work on your own personal assets, you would need additional software; there are plenty of free, open-source tools available, such as Blender for 3D or Audacity for audio.

The official minimum specs that Unity version Unity 2019.3.0 can run on are as follows:

  • OS: Windows 7 SP1+, 8, 10, 64-bit versions only; macOS 10.12+; Ubuntu 16.04, 18.04, and CentOS 7.
  • CPU: SSE2 instruction set support.
  • GPU Graphics card with DX10 (shader model 4.0) capabilities.

Check the System Requirements page to find out more specific requirements, especially for Unity Player.

The Cost of Unity

Unity’s business model operates on what is known as a Software as a Service or more commonly referred to as a SAAS model. This means that Unity’s applications are available for consumer use through the internet, as a subscription. 

Unity’s platform offers 5 price levels: two Individual offers — Free and Learn Premium; and three Business offers — Plus, Pro, and Enterprise. All of Unity’s plans are royalty-free and everything created using Unity is owned by the creator.

Personal and Learn Premium

If you are an individual or a small business (that hasn’t made a $100k profit in the last 12 months) then you are eligible to use the Personal plan. The Learn Premium plan is also available to individuals for a monthly fee of $15.

The difference between the plans is that Learn Premium offers live sessions with Unity certified instructors and resources useful for creators in their learning stages. The Personal Plan gives you the latest version of the Unity development platform as well as resources for getting started and learning Unity. The Learn Premium plan is more educational and targeted at people eager to expand their knowledge. Learn Premium is also included with Plus, Pro, and Enterprise.

Unity Plus and Pro Plans

Unity Plus and Pro are for bigger, large-scale companies with incoming revenue. They provide more advanced options for customization. They are also annual plans, which means you cannot downgrade from one plan to another. 

If your past 12-month revenue does not exceed $200k, you are eligible for Unity Plus, available for a $40 monthly fee. This provides more advanced features such as splash-screen customization and live-ops analytics. This plan is the best-seller among creators planning to publish. 

Of course, you can still develop a game with Personal, which caters to beginners.

Unity Pro offers, even more, features with priority customer service and priority access to Unity advisors for $150 per month. This plan suits professionals who seek flexibility and the ability to customize.

Unity Enterprise

This plan is suitable for large organizations that require source code. With its custom solutions, it lets the client create, operate, and monetize any type of game. Unity enterprise is purchased directly from a Unity representative and prices vary from client to client.

The table shows the features available according to different plans. For small businesses (depending on eligibility, as explained above), Unity Plus is the best-selling option. If you are a bigger business with growing annual revenue, Unity Pro or Enterprise might be the right choice for your business. These plans are required for companies with revenue/funding exceeding $200k.

In April 2012, Unity reported 1 million registered developers, with 300,000 monthly users. By 2016, that number had increased to more than 5.5 million registered users. A survey in May 2012 revealed that approximately 53% of mobile game developers were using Unity.

These statistics show how powerful a game engine like Unity really is. You might look at the money used to purchase plans, not as a waste, but rather an investment in the future of your business.

Educating Yourself and Learning on Unity

Learning Unity has never been easier. A host of tutorials are available. For beginners, these provide a fountain of knowledge. Unity Learn features thousands of tutorials to help you develop and refine your craft, from getting started, coding tutorials, and even tips for using the Unity interface. The plan also tracks your progress as you follow the courses. All you have to do is sign in with your Unity ID.

As mentioned above, Learn Premium offers lessons from certified instructors. But that is not all: you can also enroll as a student with Game Dev HQ and stream Unity authorized courses leading to certification. YouTube offers an array of learning-aid channels and videos.

The possibilities are endless. It’s never too late to learn something new.

The Features and Capabilities of Unity

Unity 2D and 3D

Unity enables you to create 2D and 3D content separately, use 2D and 3D elements in the same project, or make 3D objects look 2D. Of course, this all depends on what objects you want in your scene.

Real-Time Rendering

The real-time rendering engine in Unity allows you to create almost photorealistic graphics, giving an illusion of movement in your games.

Coding Languages

The engine supports 2 coding languages: C#, which is one of the most powerful and widespread coding languages, and UnityScript, which is similar to JavaScript. Unity also offers drag-and-drop functionality.

VR Features and Compatible Software

Unity also includes specific VR game design and development features. To create a VR game on Unity, you have to download Steam VR, which is also compatible with software like Blender, a 3D software toolset for producing art, visual effects, 3D models, and more.

Unity also offers 3D exports such as FBX and OBJ. Substance Painter is another good tool that can be used in Unity. The engine is equipped with everything a game developer needs.

Unity’s Supported Platforms

Unity supports over 25 different platforms. It can run on Windows and OSX and can publish to several platforms for PC, console, and mobile.

  • Desktop: Windows, OSX, Linux, Unity Webplayer plugin, and Steam.
  • Mobile platforms: Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry, and Tizen.
  • Consoles: Nintendo 3Ds, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, PSP Vita, Playstation Mobile, WiiU, and Wii.

Such multiplatform support means you can reach a wide audience and captivate them with your game.

What are Unity’s Strengths and Weaknesses?

Pros

Already “commanding 45% share” of the game engine market in 2016, Unity has continued its steady ascension. Unity’s advantages showcase its dominance over the industry. It speeds up development and the engine’s extended support to over 25 platforms is a major advantage over other engines, offering the opportunity to share your game across PC, web, and mobile platforms.

Unity’s documentation is readily accessible to novice developers and offers detailed explanations of even the smallest features. Building your own engine on Unity is much less effort than Unreal. In a short period of time, you can create high-quality games. Unity is great for productivity.

Unity’s community pages provide a great Question & Answer forum if you experience any development glitches. Insiders say that small businesses and groups of freelance workers get the most benefits out of using Unity.

Cons

As great as it is, there is room for improvement. In terms of graphics, for example, the engine trails its rivals. Also, while Unity’s code is stable in comparison to other game engines, which improves the game app performance, the source code is unavailable. This makes it harder to find and fix mistakes to optimize game performance.

Another detail: the Unity Pro license doesn’t include all mobile features; additional investment is needed for Mobile Pro licenses which can rack up expenses. Furthermore, like all level design tools, Unity can prove unwieldy with large teams: it is not uncommon for artists to have to reintegrate their work because another team member has checked in their content over the top. Things become tricky with large teams of artists working on the same aspect.

Why Unity Is the Best Choice for Indie Developers

Small businesses and indie developers are the most common users of Unity. This is simply because the big AAA companies prefer to create their own engines due to control, cost, and game-specific optimization features. So why are indie developers such as big fans of Unity?

Because the engine brings all the necessary accessibility and tools for a low price. The community is huge and caters to every need, answering questions, and offering tutorials.

The Unity asset store provides developers with the assets they need such as 3D models, templates, systems, and many more. Unity gives smaller developers the opportunity to embark on projects of a much wider scope.

There are also 3rd-party markets that cater to Unity, offering even more assets, such as the GameDev HQ with its Filebase — a plugin that imports directly into Unity and allows you to search through hundreds of assets made by a team of artists.

In conclusion, Unity is a great game engine that is very affordable for beginners. It provides the tools for optimizing game development and gives novices all the information they need, as well as the opportunity to take certified lessons from Unity instructors. The learning curve is enhanced by GameDev HQ, which is constantly being updated with new features and tools that game developers might need. Unity is probably the choice for you.

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