Article first published as Book Review: ‘Unity 3D UI Essentials’ on Blogcritics.
Packt Publishing’s Unity 3D UI Essentials by Simon Jackson is the author’s latest Unity 3D game development effort. There are quite a few options for those looking to get into game development, but Unity 3D is one of the most popular. While it’s true that the premier gaming middleware provider, Unreal has recently changed their pricing model, Unity 3D is also free, but doesn’t lay claim to any future earnings. First released in 2005, Unity 3d now boasts over 4 million registered users, and has just released Unity 5. New to the Unity game engine is a totally revamped user interface (UI) system.
Introduced in later releases of Unity 4, the new UI system is front and center in Unity 5. Simon Jackson’s Unity 3D UI Essentials does cover both versions of the Unity system. Unlike his previous book, Mastering Unity 2D Game Development, Unity 3d UI Essentials is more of a fast paced walkthrough of the new tools, than a full length practical application. That being said, the new book is only about half the length of the last one, and doesn’t require quite the same amount of C# coding knowledge. However, just because you don’t need to be a proficient coder, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the book is easy to read.
Unity 4’s original graphical user interface (GUI) was severely limited, so much so, that there are a number of Unity plug-ins available for purchase. When creating an app with Unity, it was pretty much assumed that you would need to purchase a third party plug-in to achieve an acceptable interface. That has largely changed with Unity 4.6 and 5. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of documentation available to master that system, and that is where this book comes in. While there are a good amount of topics covered, I did have some trouble with the overall format, and sometimes found the text more wordy than necessary.
The 240 pages of Unity 3D UI Essentials is broken into six chapters and an appendix. The first chapter reviews the legacy UI system and introduces the new additions. The second and third chapters tackle building layouts and controlling them. Four and Five address anchoring, scaling and utilizing the camera. Chapter Six is for those that want to dig a little deeper, by getting into the source code, which is followed by a few practical applications. While all of that sounds pretty straightforward, there is a bit a commentary, and theory in each section, which is likely to frustrate those looking for a simple manual-like format.
Unity 3D UI Essentials doesn’t require its readers to be master coders, but much of the book’s narrative is likely to talk above most beginners. That being said, this book certainly fills a void. There are a lot of new features in Unity 4.6 and beyond, and little real documentation to explain them all. While I would have preferred a more straightforward, manual-like approach or larger walkthrough format, there’s no denying this book’s utility. Whether you’re looking for an explanation of the new editor screens or for the code snippets to control them, Unity 3D UI Essentials has you covered.