Disclosure: the links to the book in this post are affiliate links (more info here), this means that if you choose to buy the book through my link I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I am reviewing this book because I’m actually working through it, any income earned will help to support my creative projects, pay hosting fees etc.
I just picked up Sue Blackman’s book ‘Beginning 3D Game Development with Unity‘ at my local megabookstore. I think I paid a little more than I needed to, as the physical book can be found on Amazon for cheaper but I was impatient. It’s a big huge tome, about 1000 pages. I joked to my girlfriend that if it didn’t turn out to be good I could always use it as a weapon for bashing people to death. It contains a single project that you work through: creating a 3d point and click adventure game in Unity. I thought this sounded like a fun and fairly complex project and so decided to check it out. Having done three of the available free tutorials on the Unity site, a 3d platformer, a racing tutorial and a scripting tutorial, I wanted to continue with something that was a bit bigger and that makes use of some more advanced concepts. As I go through the book I’m going to do a running commentary on this site so you can follow my progress and also get a review of the book to decide if you think it will work for you. Also hopefully this will help to keep me motivated and on track in finishing the book and working through the examples! I am definitely guilty of having bought big how-to books in the past and trailed off midway. Hopefully you, faithful readers can help keep my feet to the fire in finishing the book and this review series!
Having just read the first chapter I like the book so far. Blackman speaks in an authoritative voice about the history of adventure games, basic game design considerations and provides a primer for 3D artists moving from creating pre-rendered 3D art to real-time games. I know a bit about some of the very basic concepts involved in creating 3D assets. Nonetheless I found Blackman’s explanation of real-time specific concepts like shared or averaged vertices and vertex vs. pixel lighting to be enlightening (no pun intended). Having a review of normal mapping and occlusion culling, which I sort of understood, was useful as well. Generally speaking for someone like me who knows some of the generalities of 3D having things re-explained in a straightforward way with a focus on real-time rendering has increased my confidence for tackling the more complex material to come.
Her discussion of game design was also helpful for me. Although some of it I had absorbed before from various sources I found that running through the list while thinking about my current idea really sparked off some inspiration. I had to put the book down and grab my laptop to take down some quick notes in Evernote. If nothing else this was very helpful as a little shot of inspiration. As someone who loves checklists running down her list of considerations for planning an idea really got my creative juices flowing and gave me some motivation to move to the next step.
She provided a nice four or five page history of the adventure genre, starting with text based games and moving through a brief history of point and click adventures. This included an interesting discussion about how the evolution of graphic technology affected the fate of the genre moving from text, to computer drawings, to pre-rendered 3d, to low res real time 3d and now into the current generation of HD real time 3d. Her argument is that the shift from pre-rendered games like Myst and Riven (which I really loved as a teenager, and even my dad, a total non-gamer liked) to the low res 3d of things like Lucasarts Grim Fandango hurt the adventure genre, both in terms of the visual effect produced and in the cost of production (lots more art assets to produce). With the advent of real time 3d, games like Doom made a lot more sense as they provided an exciting new immersive experience and didn’t rely on the visual beauty of lots of art assets to be successful. I find these kind of discussions of the intersection of art and technology very interesting and Blackman clearly has lived through these shifts and has a valuable perspective.
With the MASSIVE success of Doublefine’s Kickstarter campaign for their untitled new adventure game it seems that there is a real hunger for these types of adventure games. Now that the visual technology has improved and it is possible to do good looking adventure games in real time 3D I’m curious to see if we see a new resurgence in the genre. I think purely on the strength of the groundswell of support for Doublefine’s game we’ll see some developers re-evaluating the genre and perhaps dipping a toe in. The success of Doublefine’s campaign (and some other less dramatic and well publicized campaigns) feels like an important moment for the indie game development movement. I am pinning my hopes on this movement for the development of the artistic, deep and innovative games that I’d like to see so for me this is terrific news. I plan to do a series of posts on the crowd-sourcing movement for raising money for game development soon since I think although it’s a little less relevant to me and my fellow newbs on our quest it’s very inspiring in terms of hopes for the future, once we’ve made some stuff and established a following.
You can buy Sue Blackman’s Beginning 3D Game Development with Unity here from Amazon either as physical or kindle edition.
Other Links & Resources for this Post:
Blackman has a thread going for the book on the always helpful Unity3d.com Forums.
Find the free tutorials I mentioned on the Unity3d.com site here.
Evernote: awesome note taking software, free.
Doublefine’s Kickstarter page.