How To Build a Scene in Unity

August 05 2022

Table of contents

    Unity Scenes is one of the first things you’ll need to understand about building your project on a platform that controls 60% of all AR/VR content and half of all mobile games.

    This guide will discuss the Unity editor, how it interacts with the Asset Store, and how to initiate and manage your Unity Scene.

    Here is the video if you prefer video format:

    Want to go deeper?

    Try Circuit Stream courses to get past the beginner stages of designing and developing in Unity to slap that “I’m Pro” badge on your chest.

    But, first, let’s understand the basics.

    5 Unity Editor Windows: Introduction to the Unity User Interface

    Unity editor windows allow you to control and set parameters for objects and scenes. You can use five editor windows, including these:

    1. Hierarchy Window
    2. Scene Window
    3. Project Window
    4. Inspector Window
    5. Console Window

    Let’s explore each of them.

    The Hierarchy Window

    You can view open scenes in the hierarchy window.

    For example, you can access the game objects in a scene by clicking the dropdown arrow to the left.

    You’ll see from the dropdown that we have serval game objects. If I right-click on any game objects, I’ll get a context menu.

    The context menu lets me do various things, like rename, duplicate, or delete the game object. And I can create new game objects.

    If I decide to create a new game object, it comes as a child of the game object I’d right-clicked. And I can rename that new game object, unparent it or reparent it.

    The Scene Window

    The scene window allows us to edit our game object in 2D and 3D spaces. So, we’re able to position, rotate, and scale them.

    You can select a single game object by left-clicking the object in the editor.

    And you can left-click and drag to select multiple game objects.

    You can use the right-click and the middle-click to pan your camera around. And you can zoom in with your middle mouse wheel or by holding down Alt+right-click and panning right and left.

    Pressing W will give you the movement gimbal, so you can move along each axis or both axis.

    You can press E for the rotation tool, or you can press R to scale.

    The Project Window

    The project window is just like your file explorer on your computer.

    You’d have My Projects > Assets or My Projects > Packages.

    In my Assets folder, I have Scenes, and in my Scenes folder, I have a sample Scene.

    This structure applies in the Unity Editor.

    The sample Scene is what I have open in the editor right now. Unity defines Packages. And we store all of the data in Assets, including our scripts, audio files, animations, and others.

    We keep these data organized in folders.

    You can add folders by right-clicking Assets, going to Create, and then Folder.

    You can create other items by following the Asset > Create path above, including C# Scripts, Visual scripting, Assembly Definition, etc.

    In the Scenes folder, you’d hardly read the folder name. To ensure you see the folder names, go to the bottom of the editor and then drag the scroll bar to the left.

    The Inspector Window

    The inspector windows let us alter the properties of anything we select in the Unity editor. For example, in my project window, I have this blue material.

    I clicked on it to reveal its properties in the inspector window.

    So, I can change that blue material’s color property to red by selecting the color palette and choosing my preferred color.

    I can select my MainCamera object in the hierarchy and view the individual components that make up the behavior of this game object.

    I can click to expand and change to properties of these components individually. Likewise, I can remove components by right-clicking and going to Remove Components.

    And you can add components by clicking on the Add Components tab and selecting the components you want to add.

    I can also disable or enable game objects using the checkbox in the top left.

    The Console Window

    We use the console window to know if something is wrong with our game. And we can also use it to print three different messages to ourselves to understand what our code is doing.

    The Console Window shows three sets of data.

    1. Logs
    2. Warnings
    3. Errors

    We can use the top-right buttons to show or hide these logs, warnings, and errors.

    Always keep errors visible and keep and watch out for them when you’re play-testing.

    Sometimes may be unable to play-test your game because of a compiler error. When this happens, remember to clear your console, and you’re left with the cause of the error.

    The Control Window will tell you exactly what’s wrong. And if you double-click on the error, it’ll take you to it on your code editor.

    Basic Toolbar Controls

    Play, pause, and play frame-by-frame are parts of the basic toolbar controls. Unfortunately, you can’t rearrange this part of Unity, and it’s not a window.

    Here’s a quick breakdown of the toolbar items’ functionalities.

    A is where you’d access your Unity Account from the Account dropdown menu.

    B is the cloud button that grants you access to Unity Services. These services include game monetization ads, cloud builder, cloud diagnostics, and more.

    C is Unity Collaborate. You can access this feature through the cloud button as well. However, when logged in to your Unity account, you might see a different toolbar item named Plastic SCM.

    Plastic SCM is a source code management and version control tool that helps teams collaborate and scale with any engine. It speeds up tasks involving large files and binaries and optimizes programmer and artist workflows.

    D is the game view's play, pause, and step buttons. Play controls allow you to play-test your game.

    E is the Undo History tool which you can use to undo or redo actions you perform on the Unity editor.

    F is the Search box.

    G is the layers dropdown menu, which controls the objects you see on the Scene view.

    H is the view layout. It controls the Views arrangement so you can change, save, or load layouts from the Layout dropdown menu. It allows you to customize your workspace.

    Transform Tools

    You can use transform tools to navigate and control game objects in a scene. They help builders move, scale, and rotate game objects.

    Gizmo Toggles

    Lets you decide between global or local space navigation and allows you to change your game object’s center or pivot position.

    Here’s the gizmo button in the scene view.

    Here’s it in the game view.

    When you click the dropdown menu, you get a wide range of functions in scripts and built-in components.

    What’s the Unity Asset Store?

    The Unity Asset store helps you avoid building everything from scratch when working on projects. So, you can save the time and energy you’d have invested in creating these assets.

    The Assets store has a wide range of assets on it. So, programmers and designers can create the emotional effects they want to see in their games without expensive time investments.

    You can consider the Asset Store a toybox and a security blanket in one.

    Also, the Asset Store provides a community for developers to learn from each other and collaborate on projects.

    How to Add Assets to the Unity Editor from the Asset Store to Build Scenes

    Let’s look at a step-by-step approach to adding assets to your Unity editor from the Asset Store.

    But, what’s an asset?

    What’s a Unity Asset?

    An asset is anything you bring into your project. It could be items outside the Unity editor like 3D models, images, sound effects, music, shaders, particle systems, codes, etc.

    However, you can create some assets in Unity like Render texture, Animator controller, and Audio mixer.

    You’ll typically find your assets inside your asset’s folder in your project window.

    8 Unity Asset Categories

    Let’s discuss the different asset types you can download from the Unity Asset Store.

    2D Assets and Image Files

    Unity supports PSD, TIF, JPG, BMP, and PNG. The images you import will appear in the asset’s textures folder image files.

    Other 2D assets include fonts, characters, materials, user interface(UI) elements, and sprites. Unity has nearly 9,500 2D assets in its repository.

    FBX and 3D Model Files

    FBX SDK lets you convert 3DS, DAE, OBJ, and DXF file types to FBX. Also, you can bring in 3D models from AutoCAD, Roblox Studio, Maya, Blender, Cinema 4D, and other software solutions that support FBX files.

    Unity has a repository of more than 43,000 3D assets, with new releases added often.

    Tools

    The Tools category has 21 subcategories, which includes camera, animation, GUI, AI, audio, visual scripting, physics, particles, and modelling.

    The Unity tools repository has more than 9,900 tools across all subcategories.

    Audio Files

    Unity has three audio file categories:

    • Ambient
    • Music
    • Sound FX

    The Asset Store has 750 ambient audio assets divided across the Noise, Urban, Nature, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy subcategories.

    Sound FX and Music assets dominate this category type. The music assets category has more than 4,400 subcategories, spread across electronic, orchestral, pop, rock, and world genres.

    Unity has more than 3,300 sound effects for animal, creature, foley, transportation, voices, and weapon subcategories.

    Essentials

    Unity Essentials assets are the least populated asset group. It has five subcategories and 47 assets, including 40 tutorial packs.

    Templates

    You can choose from more than 2,900 templates under three categories: packs, systems, and tutorials. More than 600 templates have a five-star rating from users, and 90 out of them are free assets.

    So, you have more than enough template assets to start without paying.

    Visual Effects (VFX)

    Visual effects fall into two subcategories—particles and shaders. This asset category houses more than 3,000 assets, with nearly 800 of them rated five-star, and over 130 of those top-rate assets are free assets.

    Add-Ons

    You can access machine learning, service, and applications as add-ons. The platform has 116 add-ons, and 45 of them are free assets.

    You can monetize or promote your game with Unity ads across Unity, iOS, and Android platforms.

    How to Access and Add an Asset from the Asset Store to Unity Editor

    Before Unity version 2020.1 launched in July 2020, users of versions 2020 and older would need to access the Asset Store on the web through the Unity desktop application.

    But the new release simplified that process. So, users can access the Asset Store on the web without relying on the Unity application.

    Based on the new update, you’ll take these steps to access and add assets from the Asset Store to your Unity editor.

    1. Go to assetstore.unity.com
    2. Type in the keyword for the asset you want to use
    3. Search for a matching asset store
    4. Upload assets to your Unity project

    Let me show you how to do it step by step.

    How to Find Assets

    Go to the Asset Store and type in the keyword for the asset you want for your project.

    So, for example, let’s say we’re looking for a Kayak asset. Enter the keyword “Kayak” into the Unity Asset Store search box and hit enter, or choose from the keyword suggestions.

    This will leave you with all types of assets—3D models, kayak sounds, kayak graphics, kayak animations, and more.

    So you might want to refine your results a little bit. You can filter your results using the filter options on the right of your screen.

    For example, tick the Free Assets box only if you want free assets only.

    You can choose multiple parameters to narrow your asset choices down to the ones you want to use. For example, you can sort your results by popularity, ratings, prices, and more.

    How to Import Your Assets to Unity

    When you find the asset you’d want to import into your Unity editor, you can click on it for more information about the asset.

    If you want to learn more about the asset before buying it, click the View Full Details button.

    Click Add to Cart for assets with a purchase price or the Add to My Assets for free assets to initiate the process of importing the asset to Unity.

    Accept the terms of service and EULA.

    You’ll receive a notification showing Added to My Assets, with two buttons asking to either Open in Unity or Go to My Assets.

    I’ll choose Open in Unity, which opens the Package Manager.

    And I’ll click the download button at the bottom of the Package Manager window.

    Select the Import button to open the import window.

    When the Import window opens, choose the Asset properties you want to import for this project, and then click the Import button at the bottom of the page.

    Wait for the asset to load on your Unity editor.

    You’ll find the new asset in your project window under Assets. So, for example, we imported a kayak asset package, Alstra Infinite, and you’ll find it in the asset folder.

    When you click the asset, you’ll find its Boats LowPoly folder.

    How to Fix Object Rendering Issues

    You will need to fix its object rendering if you import a package with assets from the legacy render pipeline into a scene designed for the universal render pipeline.

    Follow this step to correct the mismatching render pipeline:

    1. Go to edit
    2. Render pipeline
    3. Universal render pipeline
    4. Upgrade project materials to universal RP materials
    5. Click proceed

    If you’ve downloaded any asset but didn’t use it in your project build, it will not be included in the final app you built. And they will not contribute to the file size.

    What’s a Unity Scene?

    Scenes hold game objects together. So, you’ll position your game obstacles, decorations, and environments in a scene by designing and creating each game piece.

    You can use scenes to create main menus, individual game levels, and other elements. Consider a unique scene file as an independent game level.

    Each time you start a new project in Unity, you’ll initiate a new, unsaved, and untitled Scene in your scene view. Then, depending on the template you choose—3D, 2D, AR, VR, LEGO, FPS, or others—you’ll see default objects for that template in your scene view.

    You can save scenes into your Assets in your Scene window by going to File > Save Scene from the menu or pressing Ctrl/Cmd + S.

    You can open a scene by double-clicking the scene asset in the project window. If the scene you’re working on has unsaved changed, you’ll get a prompt to save or discard the changes you’ve made.

    Unity allows you to edit multiple scenes at the same time.

    3 Ways to Create New Scenes in Unity

    You can create new scenes in Unity in three ways: using a new scene dialog, the project window, the menu, or the C# script.

    Let’s explore each of them.

    1. Use a New Scene Dialog

    Using your project's scene templates, you can create new scenes from the New Scene dialog. Also, you can find and manage scene templates with the New Scene dialog.

    Go to File and click New Scene to call the New Scene dialog. You can also call up the dialog box with Ctr/Cmd + N.

    Select a template from the list.

    Enable Load Additively if you want Unity to load your new scene additively.

    Additive loading is for multi-scene editing, where Unity loads the scene in addition to your other open scene.

    Click create to create the new scene.

    Unity would load a new scene in memory but won’t save it if a template doesn’t have cloneable dependencies.

    Conversely, Unity would ask you to choose a location to save your project if the template has cloneable dependencies. So, Unity would create a folder in that location with the same name as the new scene when you save that scene.

    It would then clone the scene’s cloneable dependencies into that new folder. So, the new scene would use the cloned assets in place of the original asset of the template scene.

    2. Create a Scene with the Project Window or Menu without Opening a New Scene Dialog

    Here’s how to create a new scene from your Project window without opening the New Scene dialog.

    Follow these steps:

    Go to the folder where you want to create the new scene and right-click that folder in the left-hand pane. Or you can right-click an empty area in the right-hand pane. Then, in the context menu, choose Create > Scene.

    You can also use the menu, Assets > Create > Scene to create a new scene without opening the New Scene dialog.

    Unity would automatically copy a project’s Basic template and include the new scene in the folder when you create a new scene from the menu.

    3. Use a C# Script to Create a Scene from a Specific Template Directly

    The Instantiate method allows you to use a specific scene template to create a new scene with C# Script.

    This is a more technical route to creating scenes; you can learn more about it here.

    How to Load and Save Your Scene in Unity

    Double-click the scene asset in your project window if you want to load or open a scene. Then, go to File and then New Scene from the menu that appears.

    From your menu, go to File > Open Recent Scene, and then The File Name.

    You can save a scene you’re working on right now by choosing File > Save Scene, or you can press Cmd + S (in macOS) or Ctrl + S (in Windows)

    Start Building in Unity

    Now that you understand the fundamental steps to building a scene in Unity, you may want to try it quickly.

    If you’d like to take your Unity development to the next level, check out Unity Developer Bootcamp — the most thorough and complete online course to learn real-time 3d development for Unity.

    Learners from top organizations like VMWare, Nike, Deloitte, Tesla, Apple, and several other top-flight companies have used Circuit Stream to start their Unity journey. So you’re in good company.

    Download the Unity Bootcamp syllabus

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