Make Your First Game This Summer at Philly GameWorks

This summer we have great topics lined up for people of all ages to make their first game.  Whether you have any computer programming experience or just want to see what using a game toolset looks like.

The best way to keep up to date with the events as they are scheduled is to join the meetup.  You can join us here: Philly GameWorks [Malvern] Game Development Group.

July 12 – Construct 2 – Make games with “no coding required”

Join us on July 12th, when we’ll be working with Construct 2 (RSVP here), a game toolset you can download for free today and start making 2D games that will run on web sites or on Windows, iOS, Android devices and more.  This toolset offers a “no-code” environment to make it friendly and easy to make the game you’ve dreamed of.  Come to this meetup and bring your laptop to learn how to get started.


Don’t sell this toolset short.  It is used by professional developers, too.  Games made with Construct 2 are available on many major marketplaces, including the Steam PC game service.

This is perfect for kids (we’re guessing around 8 and up), but the younger kids might enjoy working with an adult until they get a little experience.

Microsoft has two complete online video courses to help you get started at:

Game Development with Construct 2
Developing Windows 10 Games with Construct 2


August 9 – Make Fun Games With Scratch

On August 9th, you can learn to use MIT’s Scratch environment to make games (RSVP here).  This is perfect for kids and adults who attend the Kids Can Code night at Philly.NET in June.  But even if you don’t make it to that meetup, Mara Grigore will explain the basics of the Scratch programming environment and show you how to make your own games.

Scratch is perfect for young kids, as it teaches programming concepts through visual connections of blocks that perform commands.  You can watch everything happen right as you work, and you can optionally share your creations with the world.  Bring your Windows or Mac laptop (Flash is required for the online version) and join Mara as she helps you get started.


August 23 – Get Started with Unity 5 – Hands On

On August 23rd, we’ll reboot our group’s look into the Unity 5 engine (RSVP here).  Unity 5 is a leading cross-platform game development tool for 3D games.  Used for many professional games, it is a powerful engine to get started on your first 3D game.  At this meetup, we will create a simple 3D game and jumpstart your entry into making your first game.

Unity 3D Game Engine

Games can be made in Unity without any coding, but you can add more power to your games with scripts.  At the meetup, we’ll take a brief look at how you can use the C# programming language to make your creation come alive.  Discovering all that Unity has to offer will take more than one meetup, so look for future topics that drill down on specific features.

Join Philly GameWorks!

People of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to join Philly GameWorks.  We intend to serve the game development community in the Philadelphia area and help people make games.  The best way to keep up to date with the events as they are scheduled is to join the meetup.  You can join us here: Philly GameWorks [Malvern] Game Development Group.



Xbox One Dev Mode

That’s right, you can now use your retail Xbox One to develop apps and games.

There are several things you need to obtain and install, and you need to play with some pre-release developer tools, but you CAN build apps and test them on YOUR Xbox One.

When contrasting this with the old Creators Club for Xbox 360, there are a few interesting comparisons.  First, with the 360 you had to use the XNA Framework.  Now, the XNA Framework was so accessible and powerful that it lives on in spirit today in the Monogame platform.  But that was your only choice.

For information on downloading and setting up the pieces you need, start here:
UWP on Xbox One.

Getting Started

You particularly will need to follow the steps to get several items: Continue reading

Unity 3D Character Animation

On November 10 at Philly Gameworks, we introduced Character Animation in Unity.  The lab helped people animate their first humanoid character and then we shifted to a lab you can try online if you missed the lab or want to try again.

Here are resources you can use that we discussed at the lab:

Unity 4.0 Mechanim Tutorial on YouTube – This tutorial can be used as is with Unity 4.0, or you can open the sample file in Unity 5.0 and have the project converted.  From here you can learn the basics.

Setting up a Humanoid Avatar on Twitch – Shortly after our lab, Unity’s live online training on Twitch did a session on Character Animation.  Check out the recording.  The live broadcast starts early, and the training starts around the 22 minute mark.

Building Windows 10 Games with Unity 5 – Don’t let the name fool you.  This is first and foremost a Unity 5 course, and then some Windows 10 specific information is tacked on at the end.  Free and well worth a look.

Brackeys channel on YouTube –  All kinds of great Unity content.

Mixamo – Create Animated Characters you can use in Unity.  Now part of Adobe and it’s cloud offerings.  Currently free.

MakeHuman – Free and open source tools for 3D Character creation.

Kids Can Code! How Can I Teach My Children to Program?

We had a very special night at Philly.NET tonight, and while Philly.NET doesn’t have an official blog, we here at Philly GameWorks think of ourselves as an offshoot meetup.  So I wanted to recap what went on tonight.

Philly.Net – Kids Can Code Night with Mara Grigore

At Philly.Net, we had a special night to invite younger kids to learn to create software and games.  We were lucky enough to have Mara Grigore, an eleven year old software developer, teach an audience of over one hundred (including at least forty kids) about learning to code.

Mara demonstrated games and visual animations she created with MIT’s Scratch language.  She also showed off controlling the robot Dash (from Wonder Workshop) with Blockly and her iPad.

Mara was a superstar among her peers.  Even during the dessert break, the kids couldn’t get enough of her wizardry as they crowded around her and Dash to see her control the robot.
She discussed a lot of different tools and languages you can use.  To make it easy for you, they are listed below:

Scratch – Official Scratch Site

Blockly – Blockly Information Site

Book: Help your kids with Computer Coding
Mara, and her dad Georgian, said this book was ideal for learning Scratch and as she advances the book later moves into learning Python.

Wonder Workshop – Dot and Dash robots that can be controlled by app, Blockly, or modern programming platforms like Java.


TechGirlz – Empowering middle school girls to excel in technology

Coded By Kids – Teaching inner city youth development skills and training teachers to do the same

Project Spark – with Samantha Gomez

Chris Gomez and his five year old daughter Samantha told the audience about Project Spark, a “game creation platform” available now on Xbox One and Windows.  You can get the app in the Windows store or the Xbox One Store and create game worlds that save online.  Samantha used the Kinect to record animations that were then used in the game!  Then Chris was able to show them off on his laptop at the meetup automatically… everything just saves for you in the cloud.

You can learn a lot about using Project Spark at their very own YouTube channel:

Project Spark YouTube Channel – Tutorials for using Project Spark, the game creator for Windows 8 (from the Store) and Xbox One.

More great learning for kids coming up at Philly GameWorks

Philly GameWorks is open to people of all ages who want to make their first game. However, to help kids learn to program and enjoy making games, we have two special meetings coming this year.

Join our Meetup here to be notified of more events for kids of ALL ages and game development experience.

Making games with Construct2 – July 28th. We’ll learn to use an awesome game development tool to make 2D games with no programming required that you can publish to app stores.

Making Minecraft Mods – September 22.  We’ll learn how to make mods for the #1 selling PC game of all time.

Make Games with your Kinect!

Tonight at Philly GameWorks, we were honored to have Amanda Lange teach us about how to develop for the awesome Kinect device.

The Kinect v2 shipped first with the Xbox One, and for a short time it was sold separately as the Kinect for Windows.  Now that there is a separate power adapter that lets you use your Kinect from your Xbox One with your PC, there will soon only be available to purchase the standalone Kinect for Xbox device, and you can also buy the power adapter and now have one device that will work for your Xbox One or your PC!

Phew, with that out of that way, we talked about a lot of things that you may want to check out.  To spare you from having to write them down, links are listed below.  If we forgot something, let us know in the comments or on Twitter @phillygameworks and we’ll make sure to get it to you.

Kinect Speech Bubbles from Shahed Chowdhuri

Visual Studio Community (free version you can use to make games today)

Kinect for Windows SDK

pyKinect: Kinect SDK package for Python

Programming Kinectv2 for Windows video series on Channel 9

GesturePak v2.0
Free library that helps you record gestures with your Kinect that you can detect later

Cesium: A WebGL engine for globes and maps

With support across all browsers and all desktop and mobile platforms, WebGL now truly brings 3D to the web.

On April 9th we are hosting Matthew Amato at Philly GameWorks.  He will introduce the Cesium engine to us. an open-source WebGL engine for 3D globes and 2D maps. With live demos and short code examples, he’ll showcase its major features and parallels with a typical game engine.

Some developers go down to the metal and use WebGL directly; however, most use WebGL through higher-level JavaScript libraries for graphics engines, game engines, etc.   We’ve seen BabylonJS already and by checking out Cesium we hope you’ll get an understanding for what WebGL can do for you overall and how you can best take advantage of the higher level abstractions being built on top of it.

Check out the meetup at:

Review: Unity 3D UI Essentials

[UPDATE: This post was updated to correctly identify the names of the various Unity components for building user interface.  Previously, Unity has supported a GUI system that is now referred to as the “legacy GUI” or just “GUI” system.  The new system is called the UI system.  Unity documentation is still available for both systems and the older system remains.  As noted in the review, the author of the book covers both systems and I wanted to make sure I more correctly used the terminology in the review.  No other content was modified in the review.]

In August of 2014, Unity 4.6 was released.  Along with it came the long awaited tooling updates for the new UI system.  Prior to Unity 4.6, many experienced Unity game devs turned to the Asset Store to buy packages that assisted in creating top-notch user interface components.  The folks at Unity promised an overhaul to help the new and seasoned Unity game developer.

[Note: Unity 5 was just released, and that does NOTHING to invalidate the educational content of this new book.  The focus of Unity 4.6 was the new UI system and Unity 5 focused on many other improvements instead.]

Simon Jackson’s new book, Unity 3D UI Essentials, details how you can get to work using the new toolset, and it’s available now from Packt Publishing.  Simon was an influential XNA MVP and is currently an ID@Xbox MVP, which is Microsoft’s current class of professional experts on game development for Microsoft platforms.  He has a love for all kinds of game development platforms and tools.  Besides teaching others how great Unity is, he contributes to the MonoGame project.  So he brings a broad perspective of cross platform game development to the new Unity UI system.

I broke the book into three general parts: 1) A look back at the legacy GUI system of old, 2) Learning the new UI system, 3) A UI example walkthrough and advanced look under-the-hood. 

The Old Days and Old Ways of Unity GUI

First, Simon starts off by actually taking you back to the legacy GUI system we had prior to Unity 4.6.  Previously, all that was built into the framework were controls that you could update in your scripts inside a specific OnGUI() overrideable method.

The All New Unity UI System

Then Simon moves on to the second part of the book where he introduces the new UI system.  The book explains how to use the new Rect Transform component that is part of every new UI component you add to your scenes.  It is much like the common Transform, but has extra properties to help you position and scale your user interface elements.  This gives you the chance to make your interface look great on different size screens.

In this middle portion of the book you’ll also learn about the new controls and how to anchor them so they seem to stick to the parts of the screen you want them to.  Your HUD panels on the sides and bottom of the screens will stay anchored and proportional, for example, by placing the new Anchors in appropriate patterns.

A Complete Tutorial and Diving Under the Hood

I loved the last part of the book where Simon introduces you to the new Canvas component that offers exciting ways to easily render your user interface.  You can use the overlay rendering to lay components on the screen or position them in your 3D world, perhaps even choosing a Camera object to render them.  I was able to create a clickable toggle button set in 3D space on a slightly transparent image panel that looked like this:


I even set the panel in motion so it very slowly rotated back and forth, giving a tiny bit of kinetic energy to the UI.  And yes, even as the panel rocks back and forth, the checkbox clicks just fine.  The new Unity UI components take care of the 3D picking.

In Chapter 5, you’ll follow a fun tutorial where you recreate the scene on the cover of the book.  Besides being a great way to wrap together all the key elements of the new UI system, you’ll learn a few neat tricks about how to create beautiful effects using multiple cameras in a scene.  For example, when you look at the cover and see the spaceship with it’s flume pouring out the back of the engines, would you have guessed Simon created it by attaching a camera to a fixed position behind a moving spaceship?  It’s the kind of thinking that comes from experience and you’ll learn a little something just by going through the exercise.

Finally the book wraps up by showing you how to work with the source code for all the new components and extend them yourself.  This part of the book will be your deep dive into the internals of how the new Unity UI engine works.  As usual, it won’t just be about helping you learn the new UI, but learning quite a bit about how Unity functions as a whole.

As you can see below, I felt ready to try lots of new things with the different controls after reading the book.

More exploration after reading the book

Simon Jackson is someone you’ll want to follow for more than just learning about the Unity UI environment.  Follow him on twitter (@SimonDarksideJ) and he often posts great content found elsewhere on the web.  His blog is a treasure trove of resources on game development topics including Unity, MonoGame, and more.  He’s also a great friend to Philly GameWorks as two lucky winners got a copy of this new book at our last meetup.

So what are you waiting for?  THE essential resource to learn about Unity’s new UI tools is Unity 3D UI Essentials by Simon Jackson.


Disclosure: Philly GameWorks and the author of this post (Chris Gomez) gets NOTHING for promoting this book or if you buy this book. No affiliate relationship was set up for the links to the book on this page.  This is merely my review of the material after having had some time to read and understand the book.  I did NOT receive a copy of the book to review.  I paid for the book that I reviewed.  I did reach out to ask for copies to give away for the benefit of the group membership that attended our workshop on the Unity UI in Unity 4.6 and later.