In the initial stages of the project, we decided that this time around we were going to integrate the animation students more into the development process of the project. Most of the animators in our team, if not all of them, were completely unfamiliar with navigating around the user interface in the UNITY3D game engine. They also found the workflow relatively foreign and were pretty slow when it came to working on scenes inside the engine. In order to solve this, we decided to make use of UNITY’s more unused sections of the APIs and we decided to extend the capabilities of the engine and put in our own custom tools which provided functionality which was specific to speeding up development time.
One of the main tools that we worked on first was a prefab replacement tool. The logic behind this was to make sure that scenes were fully comprised of prefabs. By doing this, and making use of the tool, people editing the scene could replace prefabs with relative ease. Use cases involved adding in newer updated objects, completely different prefabs, etc.
This sped up development time by allowing animators to work on scenes faster and it improved their workflow.
Moving on, another tool which was focused on improving the workflow of the animators was a material tool. This allowed animators to assign textures to a list, choose the shader for the material, and the name, then create the material with a simple click of a button. This made it easier as they didn’t have to create the material by hand and go through the process of assigning maps to specific object areas.
Aside from this, but closely related to it, we managed to add an automatic functionality which handled remapping materials to newly imported models in the game. When animators imported new models, we found that they were getting annoyed with having to remake the materials and so on. With the combination of the material creation tool and the automatic material remapping, animators would basically have to just make the materials beforehand and they would be remapped as long as they had the right name when the model is imported.
The last tool that we worked on was to help us (The developers!) mainly. This tool mainly focused on setting up the scene in terms of the gameplay elements in the heirarchy. Since there are common items between gameplay scenes, the tool allowed us to simply click buttons and set them up quickly rather than having to remember the settings and different components for the various common elements.