Unity has done a great many things for us poor developers and provided a world class game development system. But, apart from a fantastic editor, advanced particle rendering, a full featured 2D system (which we were told recently has an ever growing team and is getting renewed focus), a brand spanking new UI system and advanced rendering with physically based shaders, what has Unity ever done for us? (A daft old quote from Monty Python’s Life of Brian).
Many don’t realize is that along with the tools themselves, Unity Technologies also provide a huge amount of content via the Asset Store (and their Learn/documentation site), a lot of which goes completely unnoticed unless you manage to catch one of the fantastic Live Training sessions (or their recordings) where the asset is used. Through this article, I hope to show you the highlights of the most useful and awesome FREE stuff that Unity provides, completely FREE, no strings attached, even usable in your commercial games.
WHAT’S IN STORE?
Unity Technologies (Publisher 1) currently (at the time of writing) provides over 130 individual asset packages on the store, ranging from individual models and model packs, to advanced scripts, effects and even plugins. There is truly a whole heap of stuff that most developers are unaware of. Each and every one of these assets is provided completely free of charge and most (if not all) are also commercially free, meaning they are free to use in your own commercial games free of charge. Did I mention they were Free? Aren’t they nice!
The only suggestion I’d offer (especially with FREE work or offers) is always check the license. The majority of the Unity assets have one of the following licenses attached:
• Apache 2.0. This is a basic open source style license, allowing free use with no restrictions other than a limited liability on the use of the asset.
• Creative Commons – Attribution. A slightly more restrictive license, you can still use and re-use the asset and modify it for use in commercial projects, but you need to mention the author “somewhere” within the notes for your title. E.g. xx asset provided by author y. The About or credits are a good place. Other than that, completely free.
A good break down of most of the common licenses you will come across can be found here.
INDIVIDUAL ASSETS / MODELS
The majority of the assets on the store have been there for a very long time, simply because the initial offerings from Unity were just models their teams created, or ones they acquired through various means.
More recently Unity has moved away from individual models and started to deliver entire packs of content, this include sprite sheets for 2D games, models and levels combined with example scenes and lots of scripts to assist you using the pack.
Shaders, materials and other effects can be hard, Unity know this and as usual pull out all the stops to bring you some high class samples and examples direct via the store!
While the community usually has the handle on plug-ins, connecting Unity to most services / frameworks or tools, Unity Technologies also provide some quality plug-ins for some of the most requested features.
TOOLS / SCRIPTS
Where would we be without tools, tool scripts or scripts that create tools? Probably in a world of hurt, delving through the Unity documentation trying to figure stuff out. Unity provide a handy selection of tools and script assets to either give practical examples of “stuff” and very useful things.
These are fairly new samples, their main aim to showcase new features (ok, Unity 5!) and how you can implement them effectively in your project. Showing everything from lighting, audio or tools like Mecanim.
Now these are the cream of the crop and totally top notch projects, again all provided by Unity. Each of these packages is a near complete game or solution. They aim to show you best practice for building solutions and games with a variety of themes.
A fair few of these are also full blown tutorials (which I’ll come on to next), whereas others are fully documented solutions in their own right. Each one is high quality and original. The last area I want to focus on with this astounding collection of “stuff” that Unity provide us for free and out of the box are the Learn resources, brought to you by a fantastic team led by non-other than Will Goldstone himself! (Who’s also a Unity book author for his sins). These are really the cream of the crop as far as resources go, that Unity provide. They are backed by an awesome team who diligently look for new and interesting ways to educate user of Unity with everything it has to offer:
Almost every week (except for when big events like GDC, Unite are on) Unity Learn staff run live sessions (which are also recorded for your convenience). These sessions are completely unbarred and funniest to watch live if you get the chance (the trainers get to “edit” the recordings to strip out the embarrassing bits).
The crew are an amazing bunch, ranging from Mike Geig, Matthew Schell and the amazing Adam Buckner. Each session is jam packed for a particular subject, whether it’s UI, Animation, Physics and everything else. Live means you get to see not only the top quality training, but also experience when things go wrong and how to recover from them (sometimes cut in the recording if it was a foobar).
Additionally, if you attend the session live, you get to participate in the Q&A section at the end of each and every event and get your questions answered and walked through by the professionals. If questions run out on the subject, this sometimes drops to a free for all as an added bonus!
I highly recommend watching these sessions and if you can set aside some time in your busy schedule and attend online live.
ON DEMAND TUTORIALS
When the trainers and learn staff aren’t busy recording sessions, they are creating new tutorials for you to digest. These aim to help explain, in a more practical sense, the Unity documentation and toolset.
The material is broken down in to many sections making it easy for focus on a specific area of the toolset that you need help on.
The majority of the content is based on Unity 4.x, however the majority of the content is still valid for Unity 5.x and beyond. More recently we’ve seen Unity 5.x specific tutorials crop up, a trend that will likely continue with some of the more advanced and Unity 5 specific areas on the roadmap. Together with all of the content above, are the complete project tutorials. These aim to show you end to end how to build projects in Unity and showing practical implemented examples of particular features.
Well, that was a whirlwind tour of all the hidden (well not really hidden, just not very well known) assets and free stuff that Unity provide us hardy developers. Yes that even includes the FREE users of Unity 4.x and Unity 5.x.
So stop what you are doing now, fire up Unity and get downloading and exploring these assets (well after you have finished reading the rest of the magazine) and start creating something fun, that’ll cost you no more than a free cup of tea/ coffee that you just won for being the 1,000,000’th customer!