Puzzle Platformer Stage Creator for Unity

I returned to work on Fail to Win and decided to build myself some better tools. So I started build a stage creator. It is front-facing, so it makes it possible for players to design and save their own puzzles, something I plan to include in the release of Fail to Win. I figured, though, that there isn’t anything quite like this on the Asset Store currently, so once I’m done, I’ll make it available for purchase as a framework for creating 3D puzzle platformers.

All of the above were built using the stage creator. Each stage is a single mesh with no hidden geometry. The stage can be saved as a JSON file and then loaded into the game later. The developer can configure the stage creator to pick what is exposed to the in-game stage creator (list of props, stage size, etc.).

There is still a lot more to come. Currently, I’m working on finishing prop placement and play-testing. If you are a Unity developer, please let me know what you think and what you might like to see in this framework. If you are a gamer, I’m interested in your thoughts on player-generated content and stage creators.

Ten Super Helpful Unity Assets

As I’ve been working on Nebula Gladiator VRFly Around and Zap Aliens,  and Fail to Win, I’ve relied heavily on the Unity Asset Store. It is a great way to avoid reinventing to wheel. Unity itself all the basic tools you need (physics, animation, etc.), but to get a good starting point for your game, it is pretty much essential to add some packages from the Asset Store. Many of the packages cost a small amount (I have five packages ranging between 5 and 20 dollars), but many are free as well. Anyway, I’ve played around with a lot of Unity packages and found a few to be particularly useful. I’ve limited this list to just code and effect packages, since those tend to be more generally applicable.

1. Ragdoll and Transition to Mecanim

This is what I’m using for the ragdoll transitions in Fail to Win. In a 3D game where your avatar can get hurt (which is almost all of them), using ragdolls is a lot easier than creating death animations. It also tends to respond better to forces than pre-set animations. This tool by BzSoft, makes it even easier by automatically turning a character into a ragdoll when, for example, you fall from a really high ledge. Then, when things calm down, the avatar get back onto his or her feet. Also, it’s free.

2. Procedural Lightning

I am using this to do the zapping part of Fly Around and Zap Aliens. I used to have a simpler procedural lightning effect, but this looks way better. It has a surprising amount of configuration, so if you need anything that even somewhat resembles lightning or sparks, you can probably use this. Despite that, it is super easy to set up. It only costs $9.

3. Log Viewer

This solved a frustrating problem. I tested everything in the Editor, and it worked great. Then I made a build and deployed it to my phone. I opened it up to find the game broken. I could dig around and find the log file, but finding problems that way takes more time, and you may have to dig through a lot more. I then added this to my project and could open the log from my phone with a simple circle swipe gesture. It looks like the Unity console. It also displays the frame rate, memory usage, and other stats. This could be super useful for collecting information from beta testers. This package is free.

4. ProBuilder

So, I’m not much of an artist, and even if I was, I wouldn’t want to go into Blender or Maya and design a level just to test a simple idea. So I spent a lot of time carefully aligning primitives (mostly cubes) into rooms. The Standard Assets Prototyping package helped a little, but it still lacked the kind of control I needed. ProBuilder is a free package that lets you model directly withing the Editor. Granted, it would not be ideal for anything as complex as character design, but it is fantastic for level design.

5. FinalIK

This is the priciest package I’ve listed so far as $90, but if your game involves a lot running around and climbing on stuff, this may make your animations look a thousand times better. I got tired of having floating feet when walking on slopes, so I was really excited to finally have a way to fit my animations seamlessly to the stage just like in AAA games. This package does a lot more than stick feet to floors. Climbing, opening doors, pressing buttons, and pretty much anything else that involves animation and an avatar’s surrounding are going to look a lot better with FinalIK. I’m even using it in Fly Around and Zap Aliens, although I had to be sure to turn it off every time you become a ragdoll; otherwise, weird stuff happens.

6. Mesh Slicer

Another BzSoft package that makes it easy to create a more fun game. It lets you cut a mesh along a plane, or even along the path of a knife (or sword). It is a super satisfying effect in VR. That’s why I added it to Nebula Gladiator VR. A VR sword isn’t going to meet any resistance except maybe when a family member or roommate walks through the living room at the wrong time and gets hit with a controller, so a VR sword should cut cleanly through anything it hits. It got even better when I wrote a simple script that forces the pieces to fly away from each other after being cut.

7. Head Look Controller

I’m amazed this package still works, since it hasn’t been updated since 2010. It is free, and simply makes people look at stuff. There may be some other similar packages that do the same thing and are more up to date, but most of the time, this package should be all you need. It is super easy to set up and is another subtle effect that really makes a game look so much better.

8. MK Glow

It is a nice-looking glow effect that can be added either to individual objects or to a whole scene. I’m probably going to add it to Fly Around and Zap Aliens soon. I’ve played around with it before, and it is really easy to set up. They even have a free version. The upgraded version is only $10, and offers some extra control, but the free version is already super useful.

9. Unity Particle Pack

This is a Unity Essentials pack, so there’s a good chance you have already been using it, but I had to list it here because of how useful it is. I am using its explosions in Fail to Win, but a lot of its more subtle effects like dust and sparks can add the right kind of detail to a game. Most games are going to have a good reason to use at least one of those effects.

10. Post Processing Stack

Another Unity Essentials package, but worth mentioning. When used right, this could help make your game look less like an obvious computer rendering and more like a cinematic masterpiece. I discovered it doesn’t work so well on mobile, but on other platforms, it helps give the finishing touches.

A Final Note

Many of these tools were things I discovered when I was noticing details in my games that made them seem like ugly amateur indie games instead of modern quality masterpieces. Thank you to all the creators of these tools. The asset store is a fantastic resource. I’ve both sold and purchased tools on the asset store, and the system is great. I, of course, haven’t tried everything on the asset store (there are thousands!), so I’m curious if any of my Unity gamedev readers here have used a Unity package they consider a must-have. If so, please share in the comments below.

Sphere Distort

Next time you want to make a game with small planets, save some time and effort from modeling scenery around a sphere. Sphere Distort takes regular Cartesian meshes and wraps them around the surface of a sphere. Now you can recycle some models from your non-spherical projects.

Check it out on the Unity Asset Store.

Radar Arrows

Radar Arrows make it easier for players to find things (enemies, destinations, other players, etc.). If the object is on-screen, you can have an arrow of a constant size hover above that object, making it easier to spot. If the object is off-screen, the arrow will appear on the edge of the screen, pointing to where the object appears off-screen.

Check it out at the Unity Asset Store.

Or try out the web demo.

Maze Creator

This script uses either depth-first search or Prim’s algorithm to generate complex mazes either in the editor or at run-time. It can also scatter obstacles or enemies throughout the maze. Its clean interface and flexibility allows you to use complex artwork and avoid a blocky look. You can generate mazes from scratch or define certain paths your maze must follow and let Maze Creator fill in the rest.

Check it out at the Unity Asset Store.

You can also download the demo for Windows.