Build an interstellar financial empire and prove your worth.

Project Universe is a game of interstellar exploration and commerce. Begin the game with a hand-me-down hauler and trade goods, freelance for powerful factions, and make a name for yourself by battling pirates and exploring the galaxy. Project Universe is a single player game currently in development for the PC using Unity.

YouTube Channel

Several development videos can be found on my Project Universe Playlist on YouTube

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Unity and Tools

Project Universe is being developed using Unity and several other tools.

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About The Project

Want to know more about the background behind Project Universe?

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The Fuzzy Elephant In The Room: Re-starting Blender

After having recovered some work I lost on Friday, I opted to put the programming aside for the weekend. By Sunday, however, I was thinking about what I could do that wasn’t programming. While I’m an OK developer, I absolutely suck at the art that I’m going to eventually need for this project. I have a few options, though. I could scour the Unity Asset Store and buy stuff. I have done that to a degree already, with Space for Unity and a few packages for particle effects, but the downside to that is that what’s available to me is available to everyone, and that runs the risk of making the project look like it came from a starter kit. I could hire an artist to make stuff for me. When it comes to hobbyist game development, there’s no shortage of developers, but there’s a black hole where artists should be. It’s easier for artists to make stuff and sell it through the Asset Store, and with so few bodies on-call, I’m sure they can pick and choose their work and charge what they need. I don’t know what that would cost, but considering I have a budget of $0, I don’t think I could find anyone in my price range.

I’m not a terrible artist, mind you, but doodling stuff as a past-time doesn’t come anywhere near the skills needed to create 3D art for a video game. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I downloaded Blender again (because free) and signed up for the subscription to again (sadly, I had a sub before, but didn’t even use it). I went through their Intro to Blender tutorial (also free), and then engaged a two part tutorial on making a fuzzy burlap elephant. At the hands of a professional, it wasn’t all that difficult. However, that’s a specific case; nothing is difficult when your hand is being held throughout the proceedings. The real challenges are legion:

  1.  Modeling is something that can be learned. Art is the…art…of observation and translation. You need to be able to see objects and understand their shapes, and be able to replicate those shapes. And everything starts from shapes. 3D modeling (at least the type I am familiar with) is all about taking a primitive shape and warping it to look like what you want to make. Considering how many people have taken a box of LEGO bricks and have made cars, houses, and thousands of other recognizable analogues, I firmly believe that this part is the “easy part” of 3D modeling.
  2. The tools can be learned, but takes some academic understanding. Blender is a complex mess. I haven’t tried using 3DSM or Maya in years, but considering the complexity of 3D modeling, I can only imagine. There’s a lot of tools, options, and operations available to make things quote easier unquote for the artist, but the artist needs to know how to use those tools, and how to use them effectively.
  3. Terminology is difficult. Like any technical discipline, 3D modeling comes with it’s own suite of terms, jargon, and concepts. Like a lot of disciplines in general, the ability to learn the terms hinges on an understanding of the concepts, and understanding the concepts usually involves understanding the expected outcome, and the potential pitfalls of doing it wrong. This actually loops back to being competent with item #1, and understanding item #2.
  4. Learning modeling is one thing, but learning modeling for game development is another. Maybe I can render a space ship that I like, but then I need to ensure that it’s fit for import into Unity. That means it needs to be structured correctly (tris over quads, correct texturing constraints, etc), needs to have animation for ambiance (blinking lights, thruster fire, other moving parts), and then it needs to work its way through the proper pipeline into the development application, with textures and materials and models all properly imported. Oh, and it needs to be of the correct scale, so the player ship isn’t pin-head sized, or the size of Jupiter.

Everything is daunting when you approach it with little to no knowledge of it. There’s so much to learn, including the most basic baby steps (i.e. the tedious parts), even before you can think about making anything interesting or useful. Meanwhile, there’s a world of professional output out there that serves both as an inspiration and a trap: work hard and some day you’ll be able to render like the pros. Try jumping the gun to render like that, and you’ll get tangled up in frustration, miss a lot of the foundation needed to be able to work independent of tutorials, and end up quitting the entire process.

The last step, then, is to stick with it. I keep up with my development skills because it’s also my day job (not game development, sadly), but why the heck would I need to render a fuzzy elephant on command? It has to be something that I end up doing just for the sake of doing, which I can totally do…but like anything else in adult life, I have to make time to do it.

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UnityVS Bought By Microsoft

Filed under “From Left Field”:

SyntaxTree, maker of UnityVS, announced today that they have been acquired by Microsoft.

UnityVS is an app that allows Unity developers who use Visual Studio to live-debug Unity scripts. Right now, developers can attach Monodevelop to the Unity.exe process, but Monodevelop lags behind VS in features and stability.

I’m very excited about this, as I prefer to use VS when working with Unity. I’ve had to jump back and forth between VS and Monodevelop for general development and debugging abilities, and have then had to grump my way through the weird and sometimes unresponsive break point system in Monodevelop.

UnityVS is going to be released for free from Microsoft once they get the branding and licensing agreements re-worked.

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Foundations #Playmaker #Unity #Gamedev

I really like Playmaker for Unity. It can shave off a lot of time when developing, but I’ve recently found that it’s not omnipresent.

Due to a — confusing mishap — I’ve gone back in time to a previous code base in which I’ve scrapped my scenes except for the initial main menu screen (new game, load game, load base data). That means I’ve had to re-create the initial post-menu scene from scratch, including player motion and the station trigger system.

I wanted to replicate my earlier design, but because of previous refactoring, I found that Playmaker was having a hard time getting references to scripts on !=Enabled objects when the Playmaker script was placed on an object in a prefab. I wanted to make the docking trigger a prefab so I could just drop it in there, but it wouldn’t see the UIManager script I needed in order to display the docking prompt (the docking prompt was !=Enabled).

So I decided to put Playmaker aside for the moment and get back to scripting. The triggering isn’t difficult. There’s events for Enter, Exit, and Stay, and I need all of them: Enter to display the prompt, Exit to hide it, and Stay to listen for the “F” key to dock. I put this script on the sphere trigger, set the collider to Is Trigger, hide the mesh, and it’s all done.

I think this is going to end up being more powerful, because now I can make special cases for NPCs that will be entering the trigger sphere. Should an NPC path take them into a sphere, they are considered to be docking as well. They should “vanish” to show that they’ve docked, and should “reappear” when it’s time for them to leave. I should be able to handle that with the trigger script, whereas with Playmaker that functionality would be more obfuscated and difficult to keep track of.

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