Optimize yourself! [Part 2]

Things you can do better in Unity!

This is the second part of our tips list, that can help you increase your productivity with Unity.

The first part can be found here. So definitely check it out if you haven’t already!

1. Unity project setup wizard

When you’re creating a new project it often takes at least half an hour to setup everything. There are at least 2 ways for you to save time here:

  1. Simple: create a project template with basic setup, folder structure and version control ignore file. This will be the most efficient one to make and you can put stuff in it already. But it is not the most customizable one, so probably you will need to spend this additional time on finishing your configuration.
  1. Advanced: create a module that will be responsible for setting up your whole project in a way you want it. With as many game/folder structure/architecture variants as you’d like to have. And in a perfect world, it would be great to have such module but it takes time to make it.

No matter which option you choose, it is always helpful to have a solid foundation for you project 😉

2. Finally you drag the list of objects into the component

Sometimes you may come across a case where you have to fill the list of objects with objects from a scene or a project. When you’ll first try to select all of the objects you’d like to assign, you’ll realise that Inspector is no longer showing you object with your list to fill. There is a very simple solution to that, and not many people know about it.

In a top right corner of Inspector there’s a lock button, that locks Inspector focus on current view.

Now you can select as many objects as you like and you can easily drag and drop them all into the list in Inspector.

Done!

3. Use build-in json tools

Normally, when you are working with JSONs, you have to have JSON parser. After parsing a string into JSON object, you have to assign all the values from JSON to the desired object, which is super boring to write each time…

However, since the Unity 5.3 they gave us built-in JsonUtility which will do most of it for you!

Warning: JsonUtility currently works only with ‘structured’ JSON and does not support types, like dictionaries. If this is a problem for you, then you probably need to find a fully-featured JSON library.

For more information about JsonUtility you can go to: https://docs.unity3d.com/Manual/JSONSerialization.html

4. One script that handles all of the platforms?

If you are new to programming, you probably don’t know much about platform dependent compilation. If you are into programming, then you have probably seen a code that uses platform dependent compilation a few times, but you might not understand how it works. It’s simple! It gives you the power to write the code that will be executed only on a specific platform. So you might ask why it’s good to use it? Because you can use libraries designed only for one platform.

For example: you are making the greatest game of all time for Android and iOS. And you want to implement that last feature, namely leaderboards. You’ve created a button to show these native leaderboards and assign method OpenMainLeaderboard() to it. And now it’s time to implement this method, but how will you run Google Play Services on Android and Game Center on iOS?! That’s simple! Use platform dependent compilation!

Example:

With that you don’t have to worry about the missing references from libraries that are not designed to run on other platforms.

If you’d like to find more platform directives go to: https://docs.unity3d.com/Manual/PlatformDependentCompilation.html

5. Don’t waste your time for reimporting project over and over again

Aren’t you tired of waiting for your project to be reimported each time you change build platform? For me it’s not only boring, but also wasting a lot of time! But there is a mighty solution for that, which no one ever told you about!

In Unity there is something called Cache Server. It can be configured to work on your local machine or on a dedicated server. This cache server will save your reimported assets and when you change your build platform, it will give you back your reimported assets, so you don’t have to reimport them again! This is great! And the only thing you have to do is to go to Unity > Preferences > Cache Server and change Cache Server Mode to Local or Remote.

You can read more about Cache Server on our blog:

http://blog.theknightsofunity.com/using-unity-cache-server/

http://blog.theknightsofunity.com/unity-cache-server-localhost-make-sense/

Summary

That was top 10 things that you can do better in Unity (with those in the  previous part)!

I hope that this list will help you save a little more time that you will still waste by watching another cat video on the internet 🙂

If you have your own trick to speed up your work, then don’t hesitate to share it in a comment section below.

And don’t forget! Optimize yourself!
You can also subscribe to our newsletter, so you won’t miss our posts in the future!

Optimize yourself! [Part 1]

Things you can do better in Unity!

How many times you’ve been bored or annoyed because of some stuff you had to do over and over again? Probably countless… But fear no more!

Bill Gates once said “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”.

And you might ask why even I’m bringing this quote here? It’s because I am going to make you lazy in a good way… 😉

Let’s get it started

The main reason we came up with idea for that list is the fact that we (as  humans) are lazy by design and we don’t like to repeat ourselves in our daily tasks. As a  result, we came up with tools and tricks that we use to make our life easier and we hope to make it easier also for you!

So here are top 10 things you can do better in Unity:

1. Change your play mode editor color!

How many times you’ve been tweaking your game to be in this one perfect spot? And all of a sudden you realized that you just clicked on pause button and lost all of those changes? Of course this is how Unity works, but how many times you forgot about it? Probably not only once. 😉

So the simplest solution to remind you that you’re in the play mode is to change editor’s play mode color! To do so, just go to Unity > Preferences > Colors and change your Playmode tint color to something more vivid.

Results?

2. Let the code write itself

There are many tools that can extend your IDE and give you just a little bit of support for your programming skills. One of such extensions is JetBrains ReSharper which is so useful that you probably won’t want to program anything without it.

This tool analyzes the code for you. This tool writes the code for you. This tool finds bugs for you. THIS TOOL EVEN FIX THOSE BUGS FOR YOU! Maybe not all of them, but it fixes the typical ones without any problems 😉 If you are programmer then you should definitely check it out.

Here are some examples:

  • Converting code to Linq:

  • Converting code from Linq:

  • Adding missing usings:

  • Generating methods:

Home page of ReSharper: https://www.jetbrains.com/resharper/

3. Optimize your build pipeline

When you’re developing your next very best app or game you are probably making a lot of builds per day. Each build can take up a few minutes or even an hour to make. This is bad especially because it’s impeding your work till the build is finished.

So let’s count the time you waste because of that process. Let’s say that your project is medium sized and need ~20 minutes to build on Android and ~1 hour to build on iOS. And you’re making 1 build per day at minimum. Now let’s sum up the time it takes to make those builds in one month (20 work days): Android builds – at least 6h 40m. iOS builds – at least 40h. This is more time than it took first spacecraft (Luna 1) to make flyby of the Moon in 1959! Which took only 36h! But how to save so much of your time? Use external tool to make those builds for you!

For a long time, the most popular one was Jenkins, which offers you a lot of flexibility. Also, it’s giving you basically unlimited possibility to configure your build pipeline to suit your needs, for example:

  1. Watch repository for new commits.
  2. Analyze code.
  3. Make a build.
  4. When finished, send build file to a FTP server.
  5. Send mail with a build report and a link to build file.

Of course there are a lot more options, and if you ever need more, then you can always add some. Oh, and I almost forgot! It’s available for free! So you just need to go to their website, download it and install it on your build machine 😉

More about Jenkins: https://jenkins.io

The other tool is provided by Unity itself and it’s called Unity Cloud Builds. It of course assures better integration with editor, where you can basically configure everything you need to start using it. Like Jenkins, it is also available for free, but with Unity subscription your builds will be higher in priority list and will be processed faster. Additionally, after each build Unity generates the link to your build to download or to share with your friends 😉

More about Unity Cloud Builds: https://unity3d.com/services/cloud-build

So what are differences between these two? Jenkins is open-sourced and has a huge library of plugins to install. You can for example integrate 3rd party APIs like Slack with it. Jenkins also allows you to configure it any way you like it and give you a possibility of setting up your own build pipeline. On the other hand, Unity Cloud is only focused around Unity and you can’t add anything to it. Of course you can configure Slack to get notifications from Cloud or use Webhooks that Unity provides, but that’s it. But the advantage is that it is straightforward, easy to configure and use.

Which one should you use? If you need something simple, then go with Unity Cloud Builds. If you need something more advanced, with a lot of configuration options, then go with Jenkins.

4. Store your data in convenient way

Many people put the data into objects on a scene or hardcode it somewhere else. With that approach it’s often hard to find where you have to make a change in order to achieve a desired result later in development…

But we’re here to present you two better ways to store data:

  1. Text Asset, which can be JSON, Excel file or any other text format. The problematic aspect of it is that in such file you can put only text, and you need to have a parser to read this file and get your data.
  2. The other and more convenient way is to create ScriptableObject. You can put there anything you like. Text, numbers, textures, material, models, etc. And most important thing is that you can use it like any other asset in your project and reading data from it is as easy as getting a variable.

Here is an example of ScriptableObject code:

And with that code you can easily create as many WeaponData objects as you want 😉

5. Auto references

Creating UI is not the most pleasant thing to do, mostly because you have many scripts, that need even more references, which you have to assign by hand. Wouldn’t it be great to have all of these references filled all by themselves?

Of course! Here is a sample implementation for that:

Here is class example of use of that implementation:

Here is how it looks in Unity:

These references were added automatically! 😉

Summary

So, here’re 5 tips that hopefully can help you exclude a chore part from the Unity development process and boost your productivity. I’ll be adding more tips like that in the next part, so stay tuned!

You can also subscribe to our newsletter, so you won’t miss our posts in the future!

Coroutines in Unity Part 3

Coroutines in Unity – Encapsulating with Promises [Part 3]

 

In the last part of the series we’re going to build a real example of a REST API Interface using Unity’s Coroutines as an internal web requests tool and Promises as an encapsulation layer. We’re going to use the fake REST API service available for everyone to test their services on. It’s a simple API that implements the classic user to-do lists, posts & comments section as well as the album & photos scenario. Very useful if you’re building your own front-end but don’t have your own running server just yet.

NOTE: This tutorial is a bit more advanced and it won’t teach you REST backend theory or JSON serialization. It also assumes you’re already familiar with the RSG Promises we’ve covered in Part 2.

The project

Our project is going to be based around the user to-do lists. The main feature is simple: it’ll take a username as input and provide a list of tasks associated with that user. The application is going to get a list of all the users, find the searched username in it and if that user exists it will then grab all the tasks. Ideally you’d want the user searching to be done server-side, but for the sake of this example let’s say someone hadn’t thought it through and left you to do your job.

For JSON deserialization we’re using the popular JSON .NET framework. If your project is going to be cross-platform you should take a look at JSON.NET for Unity, which uses the same namespace and structure so it can easily be used as a drop-in replacement.

We’re going to work with Unity 5.4.0f3. You can download the .unitypackage here with a complete project and all the necessary plugins. Let’s dive into it.

The project features a Plugins directory, Scenes directory with the single example scene as well as Scripts directory, where the whole codebase sits. The code is structured as follows:

devenv_2016-08-24_11-09-12

Let’s start from the top.

The Models

The Models directory is where the data models’ classes are. They’re essentially the classes with properties mapped to JSON object keys. For example our JSON of a single Task object looks like this:

The associated Model class is then being implemented in the following way:

As you can see, JSON .NET allows for an extremely easy mapping using the JsonProperty attribute. Actually, you can skip these entirely if the property name matches the JSON key. Personally I prefer camelCase in my JSONs and PascalCase in my properties. Keep in mind that for AOT platforms you should use JSON .NET for Unity or use regular fields. Refer to the documentation for more information.

The User model is a stripped model as the jsonplaceholder returns a much bigger JSON, but for the purpose of this example we will not implement all the properties.

Promises as a service interface

Let’s say you’re working on a REST API for a month only to find out that management of your company decided to move to Websocket. Or perhaps you’re ahead of your backend department and want to test new features on your own without the need of using a real server. To remedy this it’s a good idea to implement the Factory pattern which let you choose the exact implementation of your service (APIServiceFactory) by encapsulating a common interface for all of them (IAPIService). The interface is using Promises as the abstraction layer so it’s very easy to use.

To search users and list their tasks we only need two functions:

If you’re going to need another API implementation in the future all you have to do is create a new class that will implement these two methods. The instantiation is done via the factory and the provided config (IClientConfig and ClientConfig):

RestAPIService

The REST API implementation uses the Unity’s Coroutines and the UnityWebRequest class under the hood. Because of that, the factory creates a GameObject and attaches the RestAPIService class, which also extends the MonoBehaviour. This lets us encapsulate the coroutines even further – you’ll be able to use the service in all of the classes, because the interface deals with Promises only. For example, getting the user tasks is done like so:

Notice how easily we control the output with promise.Resolve() and promise.Reject().

TestAPIService

The test implementation is just an example of what you can do. It returns objects without any external calls, but you could also use it as a room to test your JSON deserialization without launching a real server. The bottom line is that this should be the space to mess around with no worries that you’re hard-coding some test scenarios which need to be commented out later. All you have to do is change the config to the real service and you’re done.

So for example, if you’d like to test how your tasks` UI look, but don’t have the tasks functionality done server-side just yet, simply implement the test service and the GetUserTasks() method to return a bunch of test objects:

Notice that you can resolve promises instantly when needed.

The result

The payoff is the example test scene and the MainScreenController class which utilizes the interface. First, it initializes the service using the Factory:

As mentioned earlier, changing to Test implementation is as simple as swapping that APIType property in the config. The UI consists of a single input field where you type in the username and a button to get all the user tasks. Using the common interface it couldn’t be any simpler:

2016-08-24_10-46-14

Summary

And at last we come to an end of the series. Again, the final project can be downloaded as the .unitypackage here. In conclusion Promises prove to be a great way to abstract your code from Unity specific Coroutines. They can also be used in many different cases and are an elegant way to create clean interfaces. We hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we do. If you have any questions about the series or the example project, feel free to leave a comment in the section below.

Should You Install Unity Cache Server on localhost

Should you install Unity Cache Server on localhost?

Do you already know how to use Unity Cache Server? If you’re one of the maniacs trying to optimize every aspect of their development environment, then you most probably do! It’s a great solution for the teams that are working on large projects, especially for mobile devices. But does it make sense to install it for only one person… locally?

How Unity imports assets

The first thing you need to understand is the way Unity imports assets. When you put a file into your Assets folder, Unity executes an asset processor. The textures will be converted to optimal texture format for your target platform: sounds to mp3/ogg (or any other) conversion, models to internal Unity mesh format and so on. Some conversions are done so fast, that you won’t even notice it, but for some it may take enormous amount of time. For instance, processing Android and iOS textures may even take several hours!

This is not an issue if you’re working on a game for a single platform, but usually you are not. For instance, if you’re working on an Android game, most probably you’d like to build an iOS version too. Unfortunately when you switch your target platform, Unity removes previously processed data as you’d never intend to use it again. As a result, switching between multiple platforms may take more time than actual development of your game!

Let’s install Cache Server

Cache Server solves that issue by storing processed assets in the persistent database for later use. If you’re working alone or if your internet connection is not that great, it may be a wise choice to install it locally.

Cache Server is written on the top of NodeJS. If you’re not familiar with this technology, don’t worry. It’s distributed along with cache server zip file, so you don’t even need to install it! (well, I don’t know now why I even mentioned it…)

Now it’s time to get the Cache Server files. These can be found on Team License web page (Team License is now available for everyone). Just click on the download button.

a280306e-a6e8-4ebe-806a-9ff04bd439a3

Unpack the downloaded zip contents in the location where you want to keep your processed asset database. Cache Server by default creates its database in-place, so be prepared to have at least 50 gigabytes of free space on your drive. Now you’re ready to launch it. Go into the CacheServer directory and double-click on RunWin.cmd file. There are appropriate script files for Mac and Linux too.

d4a57c8c-7df2-41ad-824d-881f87cdbfd2

When you see the output like this one, you know that your Cache Server is operational:

f7548b51-d00c-46d0-8afe-be95a1b26bd5

Now, don’t close this command line window! Your cache server works only when it’s open. When closed, you can re-launch it again and your data will be still there, but if it’s not running Unity is not storing anything in it (obviously).

Configuring Unity

Let’s now open Unity preferences. Go into the Cache Server tab, and use localhost as the IP Address.

3fc6f3ce-5cd7-43a8-8a67-6c7a6ea9b3bf

When you see Connection successful message, this means that your Cache Server is fully operational! Now you have to reimport your assets at least once to have it uploaded to the cache server. Later on instead of usual asset importing progress you will be seeing something like this:

using cache server

How long it will take depends only on the speed of your hard drive.

If you’re interested in more information about the Cache Server, you can find it in the official Unity manual. Please also note that Cache Server may require a license different than free (it got a little confusing after latest changes in licensing, so I cannot tell for sure).

7 Ways to Keep Your Unity Project Organized

I saw a person on Quora the other day, asking how programmers are able to write projects that consist of over 10,000 lines of code. When software gets bigger, it is more difficult to maintain and that’s a fact. So here’s the thing – if you don’t keep your project organized, you’re going to have a hard time to keep the pace. Later on, you will find yourself wasting time with a messy project instead of adding new features. This is also true regarding any Unity Project. Here are (in my opinion) the most important tips that will help you with keeping your project organized.

1. Directory Structure

We cannot talk about organization without mentioning organizing project directory structure. Unity gives you a total freedom in that matter, but because of that, it can frequently get really messy. This is the directory structure I personally use:

  • 3rd-Party
  • Animations
  • Audio
    • Music
    • SFX
  • Materials
  • Models
  • Plugins
  • Prefabs
  • Resources
  • Textures
  • Sandbox
  • Scenes
    • Levels
    • Other
  • Scripts
    • Editor
  • Shaders
  1. Do not store any asset files in the root directory. Use subdirectories whenever possible.
  2. Do not create any additional directories in the root directory, unless you really need to.
  3. Be consistent with naming. If you decide to use camel case for directory names and low letters for assets, stick to that convention.
  4. Don’t try to move context-specific assets to the general directories. For instance, if there are materials generated from the model, don’t move them to Materials directory because later you won’t know where these come from.
  5. Use 3rd-Party to store assets imported from the Asset Store. They usually have their own structure that shouldn’t be altered.
  6. Use Sandbox directory for any experiments you’re not entirely sure about. While working on this kind of things, the last thing that you want to care about is a proper organization. Do what you want, then remove it or organize when you’re certain that you want to include it in your project. When you’re working on a project with other people, create your personal Sandbox subdirectory like: Sandbox/JohnyC.

2. Scene hierarchy structure

Next to the project’s hierarchy there’s also scene hierarchy. As before, I will present you a template. You can adjust it to your needs.

  • Management
  • GUI
  • Cameras
  • Lights
  • World
    • Terrain
    • Props
  • _Dynamic

There are several rules you should follow:

  1. All empty objects should be located at 0,0,0 with default rotation and scale.
  2. When you’re instantiating an object in runtime, make sure to put it in _Dynamic – do not pollute the root of your hierarchy or you will find it difficult to navigate through it.
  3. For empty objects that are only containers for scripts, use “@” as prefix – e.g. @Cheats

3. Use prefabs for everything

Prefabs in Unity are not perfect, but they are the best thing you will find to share pre-configured hierarchies of objects. Generally speaking, try to prefab everything that you put on your scenes. You should be able to create a new level from an empty scene just by adding one or more prefabs to it.

The reason why you should use prefabs is that when a prefab changes, all the instances change too. Have 100 levels and want to add a camera effect on all of them? Not a problem! If your camera is a prefab, just add a camera effect to the camera prefab!

Be aware that you cannot have a prefab in another prefab. Use links instead – have a field that requires a prefab to be assigned and make sure to assign it when instance is created. Consider auto-connecting prefab instances in Awake() or OnEnable() when it makes sense.

4. Learn how to use version control system (VCS)

git logoYou may already know something about GIT, Subversion or any other VCS out there. As a matter of fact, “knowing something” is only a small piece of what you may learn. You should focus on learning about important but infrequently used features of VCS of your choice. Why? Mostly because VCS systems are much more powerful that you think, and unfortunately many users are using these as nothing more than a backup and synchronized solutions. For example, did you know that GIT allows you to stash your changes, so you can work on them later without committing anything to your master branch?

Programmers tend to comment out blocks of code in case it’s needed later. Don’t do that! If you’re using VCS learn how to quickly browse previous versions of a file. When you are familiar with it, your code looks a lot nicer without unnecessary block of commented code.

Here’s a nice resource of tips for GIT users: http://gitready.com/

5. Learn to write editor scripts

Unity is a great game engine in the matter of extensibility (see Asset Store). Learn how to write editor scripts and utilize this knowledge. You don’t necessary need to create fancy GUI for your scripts, it can be something simple, as menu entries that are doing something useful. Here are some examples of editor scripts that I have created not so long ago:

  • Google Sheets .csv download – I had a translation spreadsheet saved on Google Drive. It automatically downloaded the newest version as .csv file, so I never had to do it manually.
  • Randomize the position, rotation and size of trees – I had a lot of trees and wanted it to look more like a forest than a grid.
  • Create distribution – Built for specified target, zips all the files and copy to the right place.
  • String replace in the sources – I had several files that contained the application version.

You can learn how to create editor scripts from the official documentation.

6. Learn to program defensively

Have you heard about defensive programming? Wikipedia defines it as follows:

Defensive programming is a form of defensive design intended to ensure the continuing function of a piece of software under unforeseen circumstances. Defensive programming techniques are used especially when a piece of software could be misused.

Generally when you’re writing MonoBehaviours, you should make sure that:

  • All needed references are set
  • All required components are present
  • If you’re using singletons, make sure that they exists
  • If you’re searching for objects and expect to find something, do it as fast as possible
  • Mix-in editor code (ExecuteInEditMode and #if UNITY_EDITOR) to do as many checks as possible before you run the scene

For many of these checks you can use asserts. You should also read A Story of NullPointerException Part 1 and 2.

7. Implement in-editor and/or in-game cheats

After you learn how to write editor script, you should be able to write a set of in-editor cheats. It can work as menu entry that unlocks something (all levels for instance). It’s really easy to create:

Generally you should write cheats that will allow you to:

  • Unlock all levels, characters, items etc
  • Give you immortality
  • Add/subtract values like time, money, coins etc
  • Allow you to see things not meant to be seen by players
  • Anything else that will help you with testing your game

Of course more practical (but harder to write) are in-game cheats. These type of cheats can be executed outside Unity editor, but you have to think how you would like to execute it. See our other article about implementing cheats subsystem controlled by mouse.