Hey, hey people!
I hope this summer finds you well and welcome to this article, where I will tell you a few things about my experience with learning Unity and why you too might want to leave maker software behind if you want to evolve as a game designer.
I will also briefly summarize why I have been kind of tied to “game creator” software in the past and what has kept me from making this step far earlier.
Why did you use Game Guru before?
Well, the answer to this is simple, I was using FPSC before then and was enjoying the software, the community and the games I have made with it quite a bit. Despite the inherent shortcomings that eventually killed it off, FPSC had a lot going for it and was pretty revolutionary when it was first released in 2005. Sadly, TGC never saw the true potential this type of software holds and, with how they handled the successor Game Guru where more interesting in running it in the ground. This might sound ignorant and harsh to GG community members but its really not if you look at how the software was handled until now. Remember when they tried to morph the software we backed into a sandbox game for kids? I remember.
Game Guru, was originally introduced as FPSCreator reloaded.
Now, FPSCreator reloaded was supposed to be a recode of FPSCreator. With more features, modernized and above all as actually working software. If you are not aware: FPSCreator had a few dire shortcomings such as the memory cap and a general instability of projects. This is the main reason why I have such a long list of discontinued game projects. As media grew to have more polygons and as shaders where introduced, it became increasingly less practical to work in FPSC. Even games that where specifically designed to work within the parameters of the memory cap would cause issues. This is why there are zero decent FPSC projects that are longer than 3 or 4 shoebox sized levels. And those that exist seldomly allow the player to finish a session without a few restarts and crashes. FPSCR should have provided a robust FPS template to allow single devs to make their own first person perspective games without having to dabble into too much coding. At its core a great idea, in execution lackluster.
Sadly, FPSC was rebranded Game Guru and due to tons of mismanagment and simply bad design choices its not a successor to FPSC nor a particularly good game creator. To this date it lacks dynamic shadows, it has abysmal performance and barely integrated features.
I have been very loyal to TGC throughout the years and greatly enjoyed the community but with GG simply not delivering on what it promised and with so little strides of progress in the 5 years or so I have been supporting it I … well… I simply grew tired of working for months on ideas of mine only to shelve them. No matter how many custom media I design, no matter how many workarounds I come up with to make my game seem to be more than it is and to make it seem like it runs on an engine more competent than it really is. The end result would simply always be lacking, always be awkward and the player would always notice the bad performance and awkward rendering long before he might notice all the work I have put in. So it was time for me to leave.
Initially I was trying to use the Source engine, as I could use all the prefabs from monolithic titans such as HL² for my game. This means basic gameplay scripts, working AI out of the box and a decent FPS controller. Sadly, source is ancient by now and you can tell that importing my media would have taken me ages of painstaking work. And I had enough of that converting my stuff for Game Guru. There is a reason why the majority of source games use valve’s assets and maybe one or 2 custom props.
Unreal Engine 4 would overheat my laptop and cry engine was simply not approachable for me. So!
Inspired by the visual fidelity of “Escape from Tarkov” and by IcePickLodges Pathologic remake I jumped into Unity. There where other reasons that made me choose the engine.
First of all, its free! Second I have seen well known artists such as rolfy, whom’s work I’ve always used and enjoyed make great, studio like things in it. Third it did not overheat my laptop (altough, after years! I finally had the fund to upgrade to a decent rig).Fourth: Importing and setting up my media was a breeze and the engine is very versatile when it comes to meshes, collision, physics and materials.
First Unity Prototype. This did not run perfectly as I was unaware of basic optimisation but I was amazed that I had this working within a couple of days.
2nd Unity Prototype. Getting there!
Misconceptions about using a “real” engine.
Chances are that if you are currently using some creator (FPSC; GG; RPGM) that you believe that you could not achieve the same quality in a proper engine. This used to be true as not so long ago, using a big name engine like the unreal engine was very technical.
However, with the industry basically being free and accessible for hobbyists now and so many templates and media on the market, this is simply no longer true.
Is it harder to make a game in Unity than it is in Game Guru? No. The learning curve is a little steeper at first but you will be able to make an actual game. Using GG is only easy if you “drag and drop” a few mismatching props in a map (you would be surprised how many people honestly believe something like that is worth selling on steam, oh my!) but once you start to do custom work you will find it incredibly hard to impossible to have it all run in a working, compiled game! (If you have eyes in your skull you will likely not be willing to settle for an engine that supports PBR shading but no proper lighting anyway.)
So no, its not really that much harder to work in Unity.
Here is a list of everything I previously assumed:
* I will need to code to get anything done.
Not true, you will need to be able to read scripts and modify existing ones. The community is generous and offers many free scripts for you to get basic gameplay going and there are brilliant templates that basically set you up with everything you need to jump start development.
I was sure that if I use unity, I will need weeks to have an FPS controller running, but I didn’t as there was a brilliant one free to download by armed unity. LINK
This will add movment, climbing, swimming,explosions, weapons, vehicle controls and menues right off the bat.
* Making a game in an engine is extremely technical and takes a long time.
It is faster than using FPSC or GG simply because all tools actually work once you have mastered them. You will likely need longer to finish a project simply because now you can do a hundred times more things. I am positive I could make a full FPS game like Redacted² about as fast in Unity as I did in GG. (see archive)
* Importing media is difficult.
Its extremely easy and fast!
* Levels might be easy to do but gameplay is difficult.
Well, lets be honest here… Most game guru games, especially really terrible ones sold on steam, have 2 gameplay mechanics: 1. Shoot the barely reacting AI and 2. Hunt the key. (search for the key is the worst gameplay mechanic, double so if you have to backtrack the entire level. If your “hyper immersive, survival horror, story driven zombie game consists of “search the key for the door” you might want to consider getting real. Nobody enjoys this.) Sprinkled in are a few audio clips and on-screen messages and its done.
You can basically do this out of the box in any other engine in the same amount of time. Basic gameplay like doors, pickups, keys and lifts are really easy to realize in any engine. You dont have to stagnate using a lackluster product just because it gives you the illusion of being easy to use!
Naturally, things like inventory scripts and more complex gameplay such as dialogue or chains of events are hard to do. This is true. But since it all is such a fun learning by doing experience, I can only recommend: Try it anyway. Go ahead and download the engine that resonates the most with you and give it a solid try. At least for about a week. If it really is not your cup of tea, you can always just go back to your favorite creator software. Good stuff can come from those too.