Unity 3D is a great game making engine that allows indie developers and larger companies focus on game design rather than building all the components a game needs to run. This is great, but there is still the issue of creating art for the game and for people like me that is always a problem.

Jamie Fristrom who is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for his game Energy hook explains how he was able to make a playable prototype that look alright using just Unity and Google Warehouse SketchUp models. The article at Gamasutra is worth a read as it goes into some great detail.

from kickstarter

Be warned though that it’s not just drag-and-drop from SketchUp into Unity as the models need some touching up to be able to run smoothly in Unity. Knowledge of SketchUp and Unity are obviously required before trying this all out. Plus, not all textures translate well into the game either.

So why even bother with this process? Fristrom outlines why you should care:

So this is a viable method of level construction for a variety of uses:

  • if you’re a hobbyist game developer

  • if you’re looking for placeholder assets to prototype with

  • if you’re looking for assets that will never be too close to the in-game camera (buildings in the distance; or a racing game where the off-track assets are whipping by at 100 mph)

  • if your game has a highly stylized non-photorealistic look

Doing this is unfortunately not appropriate for mobile development – even with Unity Pro, the performance of these assets are simply not good enough for mobile.

There are other ways to build an environment that may interest you too. Obviously, you can just use stock items and geometric shapes for testing the core of the game but often more is needed.

In the past I have used the Unity Asset Store and from some of the sites I’ve listed here to quickly create environments for cheap.

Unity’s history

If you’re like me you’ve wondered how Unity got so big so quickly and is so good at what it does. At Slashdot, they have a great article on the history and the creation of Unity 3D. It’s really neat to read about the design approach behind the software insofar that they were inspired by FinalCut Pro and how it opened up filmmaking to smaller teams.

Despite the big names using Unity3D, it’s the smaller developers that make Helgason especially proud. “Big companies could always make games, they would figure it out and buy technology or build it themselves,” he said, adding: “Where we really made a dent is making it so that these masses of people can not just build games but can build games using the same tools as the big guys.”