I’ve just finished reading Learning 2D Game Development with Unity: A Hands-On Guide to Game Creation, and I really enjoyed it despite many issues with the actual text (I’ll try to cover everything here). I’m just starting to learn Unity3D for 2D game development, so I’ve only watched a few of the official videos and followed a few tutorials online (the best so far being from pixelnest.io). After reading this book, I felt way more competent at creating my own game than with tutorials I’ve done elsewhere.
That’s not to say there aren’t some problems with the actual book contents. Quite a few people also have had problems with the book based on the Amazon reviews. I think the greatest comment, and a sentiment I share, is that the book could benefit from a technical edit. I’m a professional software developer, and I struggled to follow what was going on at one point.
This leads me to a major issue I had with the book, dropping a star from my review: Chapter 7 (Setting up Player Physics and Colliders) belongs before Chapter 5 (The Basics of Movement and Player Control). I don’t know how something like this could have been missed, but there’s no excuse for a ‘follow along’ book to be anything but sequential in its content. I’ve self-published a programming book, so I know getting things in the correct order while writing and editing is difficult. I also know that it’s unlikely for an editor or even a technical reviewer to catch this (you literally have to be ‘following along’ to encounter this problem). I toyed with giving the book 4 stars because I loved the content so much, then I thought about how well presented other books I’ve given 4 star reviews are and this book isn’t presented at the same level. If you take my advice and read Chapter 7 before Chapter 5, you’ll have almost no problem with this book. I went through the entire book in about two weeks using Unity 5.
This leads me to another problem which reduced my review by a ½ star: Chapter 14 is incomplete. Chapter 14 covers a then-beta feature of UGUI control layout and interaction. Unfortunately, there is only a single page between adding your first element (a Mask) to the canvas and the end of the book. Had the book just ended there, I would have thought, “OK, that was very high level,” and probably shrugged off the last chapter. The summary of Chapter 14 says “We gave a brief overview of building a simple Options menu with some text elements, buttons, and graphics” and almost none of this was even covered in the chapter (possibly because I’m reading the ebook?). Again, this seems like it would have been caught with a good technical or even a copy edit.
Another 1½ stars get deducted for what others have emphasized as a general feeling of being ‘all over the place’ with the instructions. There are a few times where numbered lists go from selecting a GameObject and doing nothing to modifying some other GameObject and selecting the first GameObject, which then gets modified. I actually found some humor in this, because it reminds me of peer programming with an extremely caffeinated coworker. I couldn’t ignore this in the review, though, because it happened more than once. For another example, the ‘Creating Components’ section of Chapter 2 explains the steps for creating components in what read like commands (but are statements) and the following section defines the actual steps. If someone was to follow the command-like steps (not in list form) of the one section, then the actual command steps (in list form) of the following section, this would become very confusing.
I experienced a general feeling of the book being ‘all over the place’ through Chapter 4. This was where I realized that the end-of-chapter ‘Exercises’ were actually continuations of the chapter content. I’ve literally never read a book where an ‘Exercises’ section wasn’t supplemental content to further your understanding of the material within the chapter. Rather than an ‘Exercises’ section, this book really should have just labeled the section appropriately. DON’T SKIP EXERCISES or you’ll be skipping part of the content.
I will say that other reviewers on Amazon have had unnecessary problems with downloading companion code. The code is very clearly linked on the book’s preface and from the InformIT product page. Even if you were to purchase the book from Amazon or somewhere else, I don’t know where else you’d look for companion content than in the preface.
Please don’t read my review as negative, I’m only trying to point out the issues I’ve found with the book. If you follow all of the exercises, read Chapter 7 before Chapter 5, and pay attention to what you’re reading (some of the examples in the book have incorrect code which have been fixed in the companion content’s project files for the chapter), you’ll really enjoy this book. I enjoyed making the example 2D platformer throughout the book. I didn’t hate or dislike the book, but I also don’t think beginners should have to piece together the contents of a book just to ‘follow along’. All of this stuff could easily be resolved with an updated (and well edited) copy of the book.
One of the things I really enjoyed about this book is how options are explained concisely in a single place. This made me feel way more familiar with the Unity editor and the options for game components. While watching some of the official videos on Unity’s site, I felt like the speaker was moving way too quickly for most people to follow along in the editor while explaining very little about what every option meant. Many tutorials I’ve seen online explain the steps to make a simple game (often lacking sound effects, particle effects, or even most of Physics2D). This book does an excellent job of explaining the basics of everything used to make a 2D platformer game. In fact, if it wasn’t for the editing issues I mentioned earlier, I would have given this book 4.5 or 5 stars. It’s meant for beginners, and I feel like non-programmers and programmers can all easily digest the material.
I made a list of many mistakes I found while reading this book. I’ll be emailing the authors the list, so hopefully the addenda will be updated. I’d love to see the book updated for Unity 5.
Overall: ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)
- Editing: ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)
- Not ‘poorly’ edited, but very close. A lot of the mistakes could have easily been caught by having any non-technical reader proofread the contents.
- Presentation: ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)
- I gave three stars for presentation because there are some code snippets in the book that just won’t work. I’m not talking about issues like Unity 5 doesn’t have
this.rigidbody2Danymore, so you need to create a private variable and gain a reference in the Start or Awake function. I’m talking about things like the EnemyController’s Flip method flipping the instance and invoking flip on a colliding enemy instance, causing the two operations to cancel out. Then, there’s the issue of at least one image, Physics2D configuration, not matching the text in which the text says Player-Player is unchecked while the image shows Player-Enemy unchecked (using image settings makes your player invincible).
- Material: ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
- I enjoyed the material. Best of many tutorials I’ve followed. I give 4 stars because the book is very basic (it’s for beginners), yet doesn’t exactly introduce best practices. For example, the basic platformer developed in this game creates a single level in which 1×1 components are used for the scene’s map. There’s no mention of performant alternatives like using Tiled and Tiled2Unity to create a single mesh map. This *could* be because Tiled2Unity wasn’t out at the time of the writing, but I’d expect at least the acknowledgement of the performance limitations.
- Enjoyment: ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
- I thoroughly enjoyed the book. With my notes about following exercises and reading Chapter 7 before Chapter 5, I would recommend for beginners to read this book. One last caveat: if code in the book doesn’t seem to ‘work right’, try the code on the author’s companion site.