The “Unity” game engine has come a long way in the last ten years. Originally designed as development tool for Mac OS X, the software now supports over 15 platforms, and is the official development kit for Nintendo’s Wii U home console. Since the introduction of “Unity 4.0,” in 2012 the software program has switched to a new animation system based on organizing animation clips with a versatile state machine to control them. Whether you’re new to “Unity” or just haven’t gotten around to learning the “Mecanim” system, Packt Publishing’s new “Unity Character Animation with Mecanim” by Jamie Dean can be a big help.
“Unity Character Animation with Mecanim” is a 290-page lesson in basic “Unity” animation, that will give the reader a good foundation in designing games with humanoid characters. Jamie Dean is a game artist, developer, and instructor, with over 7 years of teaching experience and developing 3D content for video game projects. This book is written to utilize the new “Unity 5.x,” but most of what is covered can also be used in later versions of “Unity 4.x.” The default programming language is Java Script, but C# code is included in the downloadable files.
The book begins with having the reader import a premade zombie character, but then follows up that first chapter with a quick overview of modeling, and then creating a skeleton, or rigging, so that model can be animated. Once the basics are covered, the real work in “Unity Character Animation with Mecanim” starts. The third chapter gets into creating the first-person sample project, and covers all kinds of character interactions, including picking up objects. From there on, it’s all practical applications of the powerful “Mecanim” animation system in “Unity.”
“Unity Character Animation with Mecanim” covers a number of subjects like, motion capture data, masking, and even facial animations. Of course to make it all look realistic and fluid, you need to blend various animations through transitions, and Jamie Dean covers that too. The final couple of chapters cover implementing ragdoll physics, and implementing an enemy A.I., with obstacle detection, pathfinding, and range detection, using the “Unity” included “navMesh” system. Though “Unity Character Animation,” is by no means covers everything, by the end of the book, you should have good grasp of how to create your own first-person shooter.
Though the “Mecanim” system in “Unity” isn’t exactly new, there are plenty of developers that haven’t yet switched over, and “Unity Character Animation with Mecanim” by Jamie Dean is great tool to get you started. The book is pretty straightforward, and while I would have preferred C# instruction in the actual text, having the scripts in the download package is better than nothing. Considering that the “Unity” community is about evenly split between the two languages, the instruction books should probably address both camps equally. Regardless, if you’re looking for insight into “Unity’s” powerful animation system, Jamie Dean’s book is a great reference to have.