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RPS & Unity: Rock, Paper, ShotgUnity

Last month Jim did a pretty extensive interview with development suite Unity Technologies' co-founder Nicholas Francis. It got me thinking dangerous thinks, bold game design thinks well above my station. Jim and I started talking about those ideas, and following the news that the indie version of Unity was to become free that final arbiter of involvement – personal cost – was swayed. We would make a game.

Yes, I'm going to try and make an RPS game, in two months, using the freely available indie version of Unity3D. You're going to help, if you like. So begins Rock, Paper, ShotgUnity.

What makes me think we can even attempt this? Because Unity is an unusual tool for making games. From the outset it's designed to be easy to use, predominantly visual, focused on getting game assets in and working as quickly and painlessly as possible. In a former life as PC Format magazine's Games Editor, I once interviewed a a number of devs about modding and how things like CounterStrike really benefited from rapid, iterative design. Make something, let it be played with, see what works and what doesn't, tweak, play, tweak, play. Unity is like that. It demystifies the game-making process to the extent that, even if you've no previous experience in development or modding, you can download Unity and by following some simple tutorials have your own games up and running in hours. It's true, try it.

But Unity isn't some modern day SEUCK, it's the fully featured development suite behind dozens of pieces of indie excellence like Off-Road Velociraptor Safari or PuzzleBloom. It's fast becoming the engine of choice for iPhone games and when EA moved Tiger Woods PGA Tour online they chose Unity as the engine to do it.

So I'm going to have a go. Rock, Paper, ShotgUnity will be a First Person Shooter themed around the RPS website, just to see if that can be done, and we're going to chronicle the process here, in bi-weekly posts and on a special room in the forums. We're going to explore the process of game creation with the Unity tools and perhaps even inspire you to try it yourself.

Now, it's important to stress that I'm no coder. I feel the same way about logic as Neanderthals felt about lightning and Republicans feel about science - it's the proverbial square peg to the gaping round hole where my mind should be - so I'm going to make use of a lot of the free-to-use scripts that come flowing like logical mana from the Unity community and tutorial packages. This is the Ace up Unity's sleeve. It's surrounded and supported by a creative community that's filled with helpful types, all too willing to share their knowledge and even their code to help budding indie designers start along the road to development. Fortunately there are whole enclaves of the internet devoted entirely to Unity tuition, so this isn't going to be a tutorial, instead we're going to learn what it's actually like to make a game. We're going to stand on the shoulders of giants, and make something that works. In two months. Yes.

But what will Rock, Paper, ShotgUnity be? Well, I've already said it'll be a shooter – possibly not the easiest choice for our first project, but then I'm like that – but what's going to make it Rock, Paper, Shotgun-y? Well we'll start with weapons. A rock, a paper and an elephant. No wait, an elephant is too ambitious. Let's try a shotgun. The Rock will be a tool you can throw to distract enemies who'll follow it for a limited period of time. The Paper will be a newspaper, providing invisibility by operating on the childhood principle that 'if I can't see the scary things, they can't see me'. In other words you'll be able to sneak around behind the Daily Rag and be ignored by baddies, but then you won't be able to see what you're blundering into either. And finally, and this is a masterstroke, the shotgun, right, will let you shoot stuff. It's genius.

This weeks' aim is to get some of those basic mechanics in place. In other words a means of moving a character around the game world in a FPShooterly fashion, a test environment to move it around in and then getting that shotgun up and running. Come back Saturday, I'll let you know how that went...

If you're interested in contributing to the Rock, Paper, Shotgunity project, with code, art assets, sounds or just ideas, then keep reading. We're going to be setting up specific requests for content in the next few weeks. Swing by the Forums where we've prepared a special room, just for you. Maybe we'll even come up with a better name for it. Who knows!

This ongoing series is being written by RPS comrade in righteousness, James Carey. Responsibility for developing the RPS game lies largely with him, although we're all going to be poking our fingers into the fatty underbelly of his design. It's a dirty job, etc.

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