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The road to 2021: Visual scripting in Unity

February 4, 2021 in Technology | 4 min. read
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We recently shared our roadmap plans for 2021. Now, we invite you inside Unity to meet some of the teams working toward these goals. In this fourth post of our new series, we meet with the Visual Scripting team. Our Unity 2021 roadmap explains our priorities for this year. Thanks to the excellent feedback we’ve gathered since that blog post, we’re even more committed to updating production-ready features and delivering new key features. Not only that, we’re determined to improve workflows and your overall quality of life when working in the Editor. A key element of our roadmap is communicating with you, our users, about how we plan to put this into practice. By giving you behind-the-scenes looks at our processes, we hope to help you better understand how Unity is working to empower creators. Meet Development Manager Adam Blahuta and Technical Lead Theo Richart from the Visual Scripting team. They’ll help us to understand what visual scripting is and why it’s one of the top six priorities for Unity in 2021. If you’ve played Warhammer: Underworlds Online, then you’ve experienced visual scripting at work. Think of visual scripting as the workflow to create logic for games and apps without writing any code. This workflow uses visual, node-based graphs that both programmers and nonprogrammers can use to design logic or to quickly create prototypes.

This freedom to streamline creativity matters more than ever today, as we’re constantly reminded of the struggle for work/life balance in the industry. Adam shares how visual scripting could’ve changed his entire team’s workflow on previous projects: “I wanted to go back in time and bring visual scripting with me. I wanted to help the dejected level designer who I’d told for the upteenth time that another interactable he needed to get his scene ready for review wouldn’t get done right away because the developers were busy with other features. I wanted to beg for forgiveness for mangling my artist’s UI with my terrible integration of his vision. I wanted to get the precious hours of my team’s life back stressing over iOS hotfix submissions that could have been avoided if we’d just had the means to push logic to the server directly.” By increasing the accessibility of visual scripting in the present, we open up opportunities for other use cases where coding has been the go-to digital solution. Could visual scripting be the way we connect with students in important sciences like robotics? We’re just scratching the surface of its potential. The magic of Unity is that once we put it in the hands of our community, you’re the ones that will really make it sing. It’s important to note that visual scripting isn’t meant to replace coding entirely. It enables more seamless collaboration between programmers and nontechnical team members like artists and designers. Think of visual scripting as a high-speed commuter train. You know you need to get from point A to point B, and by cutting out unnecessary stops and delays, you get to your destination a lot faster. “A good visual scripting solution is tantamount to giving control to users so they can more actively contribute to the game’s execution. Without it, the programmers become the bottleneck of all gameplay and artistic endeavors,” says Theo. “For users who have no access to programmers, the eventual goal is to ship visual scripting with an extensive library of high-level nodes like that, that can be repurposed for each project. We’ll announce more as we get closer to when.” You can use visual scripting to:

  • Create scripted events like dialog between characters
  • Define new player skills
  • Produce VFX 
  • Add traps to levels
  • Insert nodes like spawning guards
  • Adjust trigger boxes
  • Pick the right animation for the scene
  • And more!

If you love writing code, you can still use visual scripting and code – the nodes are there if you need them, so you don’t have to choose either/or when it comes to how you work best. You can also use visual scripting to create templates for later projects.  For all of these reasons, Unity is accelerating the development of tools and features for artists. Making the entire process of creating real-time, interactive graphics, content and experiences more intuitive and accessible for visually oriented creators a priority for 2021.

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TL;DR: With visual scripting, you can streamline your creative process by having the option to use nodes to create quick actions, rather than coding.  We hope that you’ve enjoyed seeing the benefits that Visual Scripting can bring to your projects and look forward to hearing your feedback. Head over to our forums to get more information and to ask questions.

February 4, 2021 in Technology | 4 min. read
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