All posts by Liam O'Donnell

Unity – How to make things see where they’re going

While developing a game, I wanted to enable characters to “see” where they’re going; that is, to tell them what they’re about to stumble into, without using colliders. The answer was to cast a Ray, angled slightly downward,  in front of the character, so he can “see” if he’s about to walk into a tree, or a river, before it happens. Continue reading Unity – How to make things see where they’re going

Unity project structure – reminds me of Flash Pro

unityThe more I play with Unity, the more it feels like the workflow of Flash Pro, whereby you attach scripts to instances of actors on the stage.

I’m not talking about the ‘pure code’ approach that all ActionScripters have become used to now; but the decentralised collection of independent scripts associated with timeline movieclip instances (behaviours, if you will).

So far, I’m liking it though. Unity (and its scripting IDE MonoDevelop) feels like all the best bits of Virtools, Flash Pro, FlashBuilder, Blender, Poser and 3D Studio MAX. I’m hoping that in future versions, Unity Editor and MonoDevelop will be more tightly integrated, or even combined. And, just maybe, replace JavaScript with a TypeScript option – although I like C# anyway.

For those who have played with any of the above and want a good tutorial to get stuck right into games development with Unity, this (intermediate level) tutorial is great.

Unity – what Virtools should have become

I’ve been playing around with the Unity game engine and keep having flashbacks to a little know 3-D game dev tool I used over 10 years ago – called Virtools.

virtools1virtools2

Most people will not have heard of Virtools, which itself was called NemoCreation in a previous life, until legal problems forced them to go away and rebrand. It was way ahead of its time, supporting real-time ray-tracing, hardware acceleration, full Havok physics an easy to integrate multi-player solution, long before the more popular Shockwave 3D and WildTangent had anything close.

The workflow was very similar to Unity and I had originally pinned a lot of hope on it. But, the platform was too restrictive, provided no sensible scripting alternatives and was prohibitively expensive to license. Getting hold of a trial license was notoriously difficult, too. So there were simply not enough people creating worthwhile content for it.

The licensing fubar and possibly the fact that it was way ahead of its time, were probably its death knell. But I tip my hat to what could have been.

David Beckham Academy games

‘Site of the Day’ winner at Adobe and Favourite Website Awards, also a runner-up at Creative Showcase.

I was asked by Tribal DDB to create this multi-award winning games site for a joint campaign between The David Beckham Academy and Volkswagen.

Play the game here

I used filmed action of Beckham himself and the video alpha channel support of Flash 8, which was rather new at the time. I was consulted on all aspects of filming and production. After we agreed game concepts, I met with the film crew at ‘Off The Radar’; I drew up the shot-list and we decided to shoot on HD at 50p, to get the cleanest possible key.

Tech used

  • Panasonic VariCam
  • Green screen at the Flash Studio Norte, Madrid
  • After Effects
  • Photoshop
  • Flash
  • A football

dba-green1dba20I went to Madrid for the green screen shoot with Beckham as visual effects supervisor and was responsible for treating and editing the footage for game production and related media.

I stitched some of the sequences together with morphs to create almost seamless blends dba-kick01between shots and added filters to the keyed out footage to match lighting and improve the compositing.
I coded a 3-D projection system in Flash and perspective-matched each scene, so that objects move around the screen convincingly. I worked with the designers at DDB, who created the backgrounds and UI elements. I included ‘Express Install’ capability for those users without Flash Player 8, so 95% users can upgrade painlessly from Flash Player 6 or 7. All the games are mouse-controlled and were tested by kids for usability and game balancing.