Tuesday, November 5, 2013


I knew I should get some work done over the weekend, but I couldn't bring myself to fire up the old platformer so, still slightly hungover from a marathon Path of Exile session, I set myself this question: what could I do in Unity to cobble together the basics of a 3/4-top-downish, click to move-or-kill-or-loot type game? I've been daydreaming of various lo-fi recombinations of Zelda DNA for a long time, and a cold grey Sunday seemed like the proper time to take a swing at it.

Predictably, I didn't get far enough to call the result a game, but it's certainly something that can be clicked around in, which you can do here if you so desire. A few notes follow on how it went down, what I learned and what might come after.

I flipped my tile grid from the platformer on its side, and was able to neatly arrange some colored quads as crude terrain. The tile map code will allow me to paint big maps easily, if that becomes something I'd want to do. A third person follow camera was as easy as creating a camera, positioning the view where I wanted it, and making that gameObject a child of the player. Snap!

The Diablo cursor that travels all over a 3d map in response to a 2d mouse position also turned out to be a lot easier than I anticipated, and doesn't even require a bunch of funky juggling of world and screen coords. All it takes is a raycast through the player follow camera. The conveniently provided Ignore Raycast Layer also saved me some trouble. The entire thing is two lines:

screenPos = Input.mousePosition;
mouseRay = this.camera.ScreenPointToRay(screenPos);

transform.LookAt... seriously? You can do this? I'm going to try to pretend all that time I wasted on older projects doing Quaternion math just never happened.

Vector3.MoveTowards is also pleasingly simple. You don't unfortunately get any easing this way, and poking around in the math library always gives me a headache, so I eventually hacked in something I could live with: if the player is within 1 or 2 units of the destination, their speed is halved. This almost looks like a lerp if you kind of squint at it. 

Some weapon experiments quickly led me to the rigidbody system. The idea of a Zel-diablo-like with real physics projectiles is intriguing, though I'm not sure it will ultimately be worth doing. My first attempts featured arrows that tumbled like poorly winged footballs, which is kind of interesting on its own.. what about a game where you start out as a completely inept archer? 

The main idea I wanted to bring to life here was a mental image of the player confronted by something like a rampaging bear, which would continue to approach as the player peppered it with arrows, but the arrows would remain sticking out of the bear. The end result looks more like a purple refrigerator, and the arrows tend not to get "captured" until they've passed entirely through the target, but some of the idea made it through. When an arrow hits the purple thing, its OnCollisionEnter function grabs the arrow's rigidbody and sets it to kinematic, which disables forces, then sets the arrow's transform as a child of the enemy. Instant porcupine effect!

There are unlimited possibilities here, beyond "bair-baiting simulator", and I hope to eventually make this into something more impressive, but I think it stands as a good example of what you can do by stumbling around in Unity for a few hours with a vague idea or two. Time to shelve it and return, slightly refreshed, to the primary project.  

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