Day 2 – A Mixed Bag

Well, I did it. I finished my first Unity game. it’s as basic and silly as one can imagine, but it plays. The game is, also wholly unoriginal – copied from a tutorial and built using provided code and assets. But, despite this not being part of the tutorial, the game compiled and ran on the desktop. So, there’s that.

The experience of getting it to play, and being fairly confident I could tweak things and expand on the game as presented in the tutorial, put me on a nice high. So, I immediately leaped into the next set of tutorials – Unity for 2D. The first video for the 2D tutorial might as well have been a bath of ice water.

Despite being labeled as beginner difficulty, that label most certainly refers to the quality of the game and not the content of the video. The first tutorial is a breakneck 30 minute run through of the new (when the video was produced) 2D interface for working in Unity. As I had no other frame of reference, I was bombarded by comparisons to unfamiliar concepts – such as the difference between textures and sprite, and how sprite animation works.

The volume and speed of new concepts threatened to put me back in student mode, so I did what I could to keep my mind in a more active learning environment – I started writing down questions and observations, tacking onto the notes I’d take during the first tutorial. My goal was to tie concepts together as quickly as they were thrown at me.

Thankfully, the follow up videos were slower in pace, shorter in length, and more focused in content. That being said, I’m still hesitant to call them tutorials. They’re less focused on teaching you how to do something, and more on introducing concepts and interface elements. By and large, they dealt with topics that I already either got (layers) or that I’m not yet ready to learn (animation).

The sum of the experience forced me to fall back on how I learned to shoot. By the time I got out of the Army, I was by no means an expert marksman. But I knew the M16 at a level one could almost call intimate. In basic training, before we ever put rounds down range, we learned all about what we were going to do. We learned how to take the M16 apart and put it back together. We learned what all the parts were called. We learned how to deal with errors. We learned how to shoot from a theoretical level – about breathing and stability and sight picture and trigger squeeze. When live rounds finally went in the mag, we were weren’t fluent with the modern rifle, but we were more than familiar.

I want to get to that level with Unity (and Mono). So, I picked up this “Unity 5 From Zero to Proficiency (Foundations)” by Patrick Felicia. At $5 in ebook form, it wasn’t much of a question. I managed to push through the intro and first two chapters (25% of the book) in about an hour, and so far it’s been an excellent investment. Felicia takes a the classic approach to chapter creation: he says what he’s going to tell you, tells it to you, and then tells you what he told you. So far, the chapters have ended with static quizzes that do a great job of testing whether I’ve grokked the content or not.

I’m hoping to wrap up the rest of the book this weekend before jumping into the Beginner level book. Hoping I can assemble the curriculum I need through just Felicia’s work, gaining enough experience to then start experimenting.

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