Unity Components: Scripts

One of the things I really enjoy about Unity is the way the engine handles objects in the game world. Everything you add to your game scene is inherently a Game Object, which is a data type built into the engine. The interesting part is the ability to attach different Components to any Game Object. For example, going to GameObject > Create Other > Cube will spawn a cube object in the scene with four pre-defined Components attached to it: Transform, Mesh Filter, Box Collider, and Mesh Renderer. But really it’s the same thing as if you had gone to GameObject > Create Empty and added those Components to the newly-created object manually. If you need to, you can even remove most of the Components. This allows a wide range of customization options for game objects within Unity.

Scripts are also considered Components that can be attached directly to Game Objects. They essentially provide the developer the ability to manipulate an object by giving allowing more control over it via a programming interface. From within a script, the developer can access any part of its parent Game Object, including its other Components and their properties.

Since all components except scripts have pre-determined names, accessing them through a script requires the knowledge of each Component’s corresponding property name within code. The entire list, along with every Component’s description, can be found in the official Unity documentation, but here they are in a nutshell:

  • Transform is accessed as transform
  • Rigid Body is accessed as rigidbody
  • Renderer is accessed as renderer
  • Camera is accessed as camera
  • Light is accessed as light
  • Animation is accessed as animation
  • Collider is accessed as collider
Script Example
Accessing the Mesh Renderer Component attached to this script's Game Object when the object is created at run-time.

In order to access another script on the current object, you’ll have to refer to the name of the script directly by passing it to the GetComponent method. For example, if I want to access the “CharacterController” script but I’m currently in the “Main” script, I would use GetComponent(CharacterController).propertyName.

Accessing Other Scripts
Use the other script's name in order to access it.

In the example above, you can see references to several components and properties within the thisOre GameObject. Its x- and y-coordinates can be found within the Transform Component attached to the object. Those properties are set to variables that have been determined in other locations, one of which is the height variable that is only accessible by retrieving it from thisOre’s “ICOre” script.

Scripts can access not only the Components within the Game Object to which they are attached, but also any Game Object in the scene. This essentially allows the developer full control over any aspect of their game, through code. There are many ways to access other objects. So far I’ve found that GameObject.Find and FindObjectOfType have been reliable for accessing specific objects and scripts, respectively.

Accessing Other Objects
Any object or script can be referenced easily when needed.

Being able to reference the properties and methods of Components within a script’s corresponding Game Object, as well as the properties and methods within other objects’ Components is vital for maintaining full control over your project. Luckily, Unity makes such things very easy to do, with clear instructions right on their site.

Finally, one of the best things about Unity’s scripting is that it allows any of three languages: JavaScript, C#, or Boo (a dialect of Python). As I come from primarily an ActionScript 3.0 background, it was a great surprise to find that writing in JavaScript is almost identical to the way I do things in AS3. I would imagine that other programmers who are interested in Unity but could be wary of having to learn an entirely new language may breathe a similar sigh of relief.

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