Game development is a growing industry. Many people have a strong desire to learn the skills necessary to build their own games. Due to the number of disciplines needed to build a game, I can understand why there may be people who are avoiding some technical skills that would take a significant amount of time to learn.
So, does Unity require coding?
Unity does not require coding. Coding will give a game developer flexibility to create custom features within their project, but there are many other games that can be built using other features built into Unity.
Even though you technically can build a game in Unity without knowing a single line of code, is it really a good idea? We are going to dive into some of my own thoughts on why you may still want to invest some time into learning the skill, even if it’s just the basics.
Should I Learn to Code Before Using Unity?
My students regularly use Unity without knowing how to code. Unity is a game engine that is not only about coding but combining all forms of technical skills together to build a game. In other words, 3D designers working on a game should utilize Unity to get their models and animations into a project. It’s not only the programmer of a team using the Unity software.
You can build a beautiful environment in Unity without ever knowing a single line of code. I have seen some industries, such as architecture, utilize Unity to build awesome environments and showcase homes without writing a single line of code.
Ultimately, coding is something you will need in order to stray away from a lot of the basic things. As an example, how would you implement a scoring system into your game? Or, what about a timer? There are probably assets in the Unity Asset Store that could help you with these types of things, but you may feel at a disadvantage without knowing some of the basics of programming. I do believe it is important for game designers to know how to code.
I do recommend that if you have intentions to build a full game in Unity that at some point you work towards learning to program in Unity. Unity has quite a few resources on this topic and there are a lot of awesome YouTube channels that focus on this area. You might check out Unity’s Learn section, which has a section on becoming a Junior Programmer in Unity. My students go through the “Create With Code” portion of that and others in the industry swear it is a great foundation for Unity programming.
I also recommend that you start getting more familiar with Unity a bit before you learn the code portion. Simply understanding the layout of Unity and having some basic understanding of where to find files, how to get a model into the scene, and feeling like you understand how components work will go a long way in the programming side as well.
How to Build a Game in Unity Without Knowing How to Code
There are all sorts of assets in the Unity Asset Store. If I were to build a game today without a single line of code, I would be digging through the assets available to find something that would work. Let’s walk through an example together to see what could potentially be done.
Let’s say I wanted to build a first-person shooter (FPS). I wanted it to have first-person shooter elements but also be an RPG component.
A few things I know I need immediately:
- A character controller
- Ability to pick up items
- A way to show dialogue
- An inventory system
I’m fairly certain there are these types of assets out there. Here is what I came across:
I would use this asset to help control a character and have them move around the scene. It also has some weapon integration into it so that I can easily add my own weapons. Lastly, it also has a “Pick Up” ability so that I can pick up items around my scene. I have this asset and have used it in class before. It is very flexible for almost any first-person system
Conveniently enough, there is a customizable dialogue system asset that works for both 2D and 3D environments. I have not personally used this asset, but it looks like a great place to start when it comes to dialogue without knowing any programming.
Again, not an asset I have used but I did look through it pretty heavily and it has a lot of features that I would love to have if I were to need an inventory system. Inventory systems are fairly time-consuming to build. I’m contemplating purchasing this asset for my own projects moving forward!
That being said, for our example, I think the price tag would be well worth it not having to code a custom one, especially if you weren’t familiar with where to even begin on creating one.
With these three assets alone and my own art skills, I am confident I could build a pretty cool game without knowing a single line of code. I could tell an awesome story and rely on my art skills to make the game feel custom and unique. It goes to show that you can build a really cool project by focusing on what you do best and using the resources available.
What Are the Disadvantages of Not Knowing How to Code in Unity?
- A custom feature in your game would be impossible.
- You are limited to what you can do within your game based on the assets you are using.
- Developing a game from paid assets will require money upfront to find quality assets.
- You are having to rely on others to ensure the assets you purchase work in new versions of Unity.
- You are limiting your own skillset intentionally.
- Your game will be larger in filesize with unneeded features of downloaded assets.
Ultimately, it can be done. The question becomes, should it be done? If you talk to guys like Thomas Brush who have built really successful games, he would say that you should use all the resources you have available to you to build your project as quickly as you can. You shouldn’t be too worried early on about optimization and ensuring everything is as perfect as it could be.
I tend to agree with him. If you are someone who doesn’t know anything about coding and you really want to build a game, but coding scares you, then I would not let it deter you from starting a project. There are too many options out there to simply avoid it.
At the same time, I would encourage you to not let coding scare you. Honestly, once you get your head wrapped around a lot of the basics, it does get a lot easier. Your first script won’t be perfect. Just like art, you may revisit it and be slightly embarrassed by it. However, it can frequently improve with time. I think you will start to appreciate the endless possibilities it can provide you on your projects.