Game Development Tools: PlayMaker for Unity
January 19, 2015 12:20 am
The game development scene has opened up a lot in recent years. Better and easier to use tools have been released and are now available to pretty much anyone. One of the most interesting tools around is Unity, a game engine I wrote about some months ago. That time I mentioned the Asset Store, and this time I will tell you about a very interesting Unity tool called PlayMaker.
PlayMaker is a Unity plugin that lets you use state machines and visual programming to do pretty much anything, from character controls to in-game events. Since you are using visual programming you don’t really need to focus on specific programming syntax or formatting. This is not to say you can just throw in functions randomly and expect it to work.
The basic workflow goes like this: you add a new PlayMaker component to your object and add actions one after another to get the result you want. You can also create variables and store values in them to be used later, and you can also fire up events to actívate other state machines that include their own series of actions. Adding actions is the equivalent to writing lines of code, and firing up events is similar to calling functions in code.
The plugin includes a huge variety of actions organized under different categories, and they let you do anything from moving or rotating objects, to creating or modifying game objects. PlayMaker actions are also open-source, so you can modify existing actions or create new ones. I think this is especially useful, since you can create new actions to extend the functionality of the software, and distribute those actions so others can take advantage of them as well.
Since PlayMaker uses state machines, you can jump from one state to the next to create a variety of scenarios. For example, say your character is running but at some point you want it to climb. You can use a condition (or a trigger) to switch to a climbing state. You can even use a condition in one object to activate a state machine in another object. For example, you can use the collision with a trigger to activate a door opening animation somewhere else.
Another cool feature is the ability to store your state machines as templates, so you can easily import them to any object or scene you’re working on. This can be very useful when you need to quickly replicate functionality for different objects, or when you need to add some already-made functionality to objects in a new scene. Of course, you can also save the entire object as a prefab into your Unity Project directories, but saving a state machine as a template means you can add the same functionality to different objects, while a prefab is a specific object.
PlayMaker looks like a simple tool at first, and some people may be inclined to think it’s not programming, or just not as powerful as “real” programming. Just so you know, visual proramming is a method used for programable controllers, and those are used to control intelligent buildings, factories and other things.
If you visit the developer’s website, you’ll notice there are a lot of add-ons available (some free, some paid). It is very nice to see the ecosystem around PlayMaker, since it shows other people are supporting the software and expanding its functionality. What’s interesting is that other developers selling their own tools (like saving utilities or physics utilities) add PlayMaker support, so you can take advantage of visual programming when working with them.
PlayMaker is a very powerful tool and it can help you to either solve specific portions of your project, or even help you make entire games. If you are already using Unity and you are not fan of writing code, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get PlayMaker at this very moment.
A project I'm working on, using playMaker
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Sergio Aris Rosa [nemirc], is Sr. Staff Writer for the Renderosity Front Page News. Sergio discusses on computer graphics software, animation techniques, and technology. He also hosts interviews with professionals in the animation and cinematography fields. You can follow him on Twitter, and if you want to see what he's up to you can visit his blog.
January 19, 2015
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Hi infinity10. I am not familiar on how visual novel games are made, but I think they are about dialogues and multiple selections, right? PlayMaker can handle that, but I think you have a point and maybe it'd be a little overkill. There are visual novel tookits in the Unity Asset Store, though, including one that's free (albeit limited compared to its paid counterpart).