Old newbie trying to understand 3d

I am trying to get a grasp on Unity during a 30-day trial (I’m 7 days in). The tutorials all seem to be teaching programming. I have been in software development for almost 50 years (wire board, punched cards, etc). So the scripts are not the issue (terminology and finding the right function are different but I can deal with it easily enough).

What I don’t understand is 3d characters/objects and moving them around on scenes. It looks like Mecanim is what is to be used, but it also looks like it will cost an additioanl $750/$1500 depending upon a sale. That is well outside my resources to “test out unity”. Even the short (50min) mecanim tutorial bears no relationship to what I have in my Unity 4.0.1 system.

How can I quickly/cheaply learn/prototype the 3d elements?

Thanks

95% of what you can do with Unity you don’t need Pro for. The 30 day ‘pro’ trial ends and it becomes free.

You can move things around without mechanim. Can be done with scripts, physics, and/or animation curves.

Before there was Mechanim there was The Locomotion System which is free and works with Unity free. BTW isn’t mechanim also part of Unity Free?

Anyway, no fear, you have time and it’s all quite doable for no money.

Mechanim is mostly for people with an animation background who want to drag-and-drop as much as possible. The “old” (4 months) animation system works terrific for programmers (ex: animation["run"].speed=mvSpd*0.4f; animation.CrossFade("run", 0.7f);

But, as DaveA writes, those are both only used for premade animations (run, jump, … .) Moving bullets, platforms, cars; opening doors … is all just regular code. Say you want a fish to swim. Use code to set the position/rotation, then play a pre-made wiggle if you have one.

A tricky part is getting used to splitting up code, attaching little scripts to objects and letting the system automatically run it all in a big event loop. Then, with cameras, just placing them “in the world” and seeing what they see. We know they have the whole view matrix thing, and Unity does that and exposes it, but we can ignore it. Then letting physics system auto-move 90% of stuff.

Then once you get used to Unity handling so much for you, you have to re-remember that you can still define regular classes and put them in arrays and linked-lists, just like regular programming. For a lot of code here, you wonder “why don’t they just use X? Will it not work?” Sure it will, but most game designers are artists/modellers with enough programming to get by.