Beginner’s Guide: Create a Pong Clone in Unity: Part 4

Physics and Scripting 101

We’ve now got most of the groundwork out of the way and can start to dabble in physics and scripting, which will quickly start turning this abstract project into a game.

I will assume you have some amount of programming knowledge or experience, but if you don’t you can still follow along. I will explain what the code is doing.

I will use C# for the code, but if you’re familiar with any C-type language (e.g. Javascript) it should look pretty familiar to you.

I’ll use MonoDevelop for my instructions because that is available freely to all Unity users.

Ball Physics

Let’s start by giving the ball some physics behaviour. Physics is handled automatically by Unity, so we can get a lot of functionality for ‘free’ by using the physics engine.

The Play Button

Click the Play button in the main Unity window (near the top of the screen in the centre). This runs the current scene, though at the moment nothing happens. That’s to be expected since we haven’t implemented anything yet. Press Play again to return to editing mode.

If you make changes while in play mode those changes are undone when you exit play mode. This can be costly if you forget you’re in play mode and make changes! To remedy this you can make the Unity screen change colour when you’re in play mode. Go to Edit | Preferences… | Colors, then change the Play mode tint value. Test it out by going back to play mode.

Add a Rigidbody

What is a rigidbody 2d?

When a GameObject has a rigidbody, the built-in physics engine in Unity acts upon it automatically, giving it mass (e.g. for gravity to work on it).

Add the component

Add a RigidBody2D to the Ball GameObject:

  1. Select Ball in Hierarchy
  2. In Inspector click Add Component, select Physics 2D, then Rigidbody 2D.

Enter play mode and see what happens. The ball falls straight down! That is because the physics engine now acts upon the ball.

Remember to exit play mode before continuing. Any changes you make while in play mode are not saved!

Making the Ball Bounce

The ball falls with a thud (forget for now that we don’t actually want the ball to fall ‘down’ the screen at all). Let’s make our ball bouncy, and while we’re at it we’ll make the paddles and walls bouncy too. For that we’ll need a physics material.

Materials

A physics material gives physical properties to colliders. These properties affect interactions between different objects.

Create a Material

  • In the Assets folder, create a new folder called Materials.
  • In the Materials folder right-click and choose Create | Physics2D Material.
  • Rename this new material to ‘BouncyMaterial’.
  • Select BouncyMaterial in the Materials folder so it opens in Inspector.
  • Change the Bounciness property to 1, and the Friction property to 0:

pong4_1

Apply the Material

Select Ball in Hierarchy, then drag the new material into the Material field in the Circle Collider 2D in Inspector:

pong4_pic2

Now we want to make the walls bouncy too. Instead of doing it for all four walls we will simply make the prefab bouncy, which will then apply to each wall automatically.

  • Select WallPrefab in the Prefabs folder (to open it in Inspector).
  • Select the Materials folder and drag-and-drop the material from there to the prefab’s collider:

pong4_pic3

Do the same for PaddlePrefab.

Now hit the play button again and see what happens. If everything has gone according to plan the ball will now bounce! Great, we finally have some movement.

Defying Gravity

Because Pong is top-down we don’t want gravity. Gravity is a constant downward force applied to anything with a rigidbody, and we can change it via the physics settings.

From the menu choose Edit | Project Settings | Physics2D.

A Physics2DSettings pane appears in the Inspector. At the top of this pane are the gravity settings, which are X:0 and Y: -9.81 by default, Change that Y value to 0 to remove the influence of gravity:

Hit Play to test the ‘game’. The ball should no longer fall.

Exit Play mode.

Scripting

A script is a component like any other, so you create it like any other component.

  • Create a new folder within the Assets folder called Scripts.
  • Select the new folder, then right-click in the empty space and select Create | C# Script.
  • A script appears in the folder. Rename this script to BallScript (don’t put an extension, just call it BallScript).

Before we go on, attach this script to Ball:

  • Select Ball in Hierarchy
  • Drag-and-drop the script file onto the blank area at the bottom of the Inspector window.
I am giving everything very obvious names because it’s easier to keep track of them later. When you’re working with the code you need to know the difference between BallPrefab and BallScript, which is why I didn’t just call them both ‘Ball’.

Double-click BallScript to open it in MonoDevelop:

pong4_4

By default Unity scripts inherit MonoBehaviour, a special Unity class that contains a lot of automated functionality.

If you’re new to programming, inheriting means that a script automatically contains code from another script (sort of). In Unity MonoBehaviour scripts get a lot of automatic functionality that you don’t need to code yourself, such as detecting collisions). For a description of some of this code see my posts on beginner Unity scripting.

The two default methods are Start() and Update(). Start() executes automatically when the scene begins, and Update() runs automatically once per frame.

Modifying the Script

I’ll go through the script piece-by-piece, and then give the whole script in one big lump at the end. If you have any issues, just copy the whole script and replace the entire contents with it.

Add this code between the public class BallScript line and the void Start():

[SerializeField]
float forceValue = 4.5f;

This creates a field (a variable) called forceValue of type float.

A float variable is a number with a decimal point, like 3.7. Note the ‘f’ after the value, which is required in C#.

We will use forceValue to add a force to make the ball move. [SerializeField] tells Unity that this variable should be changeable via the Inspector window, so we can modify the force from Unity. Save that script (Ctrl-S in MonoDevelop).

Unity doesn’t detect script changes until you have saved the script.

Then go back to Unity and select Ball to see it in the Inspector:

You can change that 4.5 value in the Inspector, and it will apply to this instance of the script (you could attach this script to multiple balls, and give each one a unique force value). You can use this to tweak the game later.

Instead of [SerializeField] you can make variables public, which has the same effect of making them accessible in Inspector, but you should avoid using public variables unless they need to be public.

C# is case sensitive. If your code has errors, double-check the spelling and capitalisation. For example Rigidbody2D is very different to rigidbody2D, and if you call a variable myBody you can’t refer to it as MyBody.

Next, add the following to the scripts below the forceValue variable:

Rigidbody2D myBody;

Then, in the Start() method, between the curly braces, add:

myBody = GetComponent<Rigidbody2D>();

These lines create a new variable called myBody, and then assigns a reference to the ball’s GameObject’s rigidbody to that variable. After the Start() method has run we can then refer to rigidbody2D as ‘myBody’ for reasons we’ll investigate in future parts of this tutorial.

Still in the Start() method, add the following line after the previous line (but still before the closing curly bracket):

myBody.AddForce (new Vector2 (forceValue * 50, 50));

This line applies a force (a push) to the ball to get the game started. The Unity physics engine automatically calculates the ball’s movement.

Save the script and go back to Unity and hit the Play button. The ball should start moving towards one of the player paddles, and bounce around a little. Now we’re getting somewhere!

Final BallScript Script

Here’s the full script as it currently stands. You can paste this into BallScript.cs, but if you’ve been following along with no issues there is no need:

using UnityEngine;
using System.Collections;

public class BallScript : MonoBehaviour {
    [SerializeField]
    float forceValue = 4.5f;

    Rigidbody2D myBody;
    // Use this for initialization
    void Start () {
        myBody = GetComponent<Rigidbody2D>();
        myBody.AddForce (new Vector2 (forceValue * 50, 50));
    }

    // Update is called once per frame
    void Update () {

    }
}

Recap

We learned a little about physics – that a rigidbody gives objects physical properties that Unity acts on via its physics engine. We also learned that gravity is just a constant downward force, which we turned off to make our game top-down. We also added a force to push our ball.

In our first scripting exercise we used [SerializeField] to make variables editable from the Inspector, and we got started learning about MonoBehaviour.

Make sure to save your project and scene. Things will really start to come together when we get some player input to move those paddles up and down and start hitting that ball around in the next part.

Continue to Part 5.

10 thoughts on “Beginner’s Guide: Create a Pong Clone in Unity: Part 4

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  3. Dave

    Hello, I’m having an issue where my ball is bouncing off the left and right walls (and paddles) perfectly but isn’t changing direction when it hits the top wall.

    I’ve copied your script perfectly, even tried copy/pasting. but I can’t figure it out. My walls all have the same properties, colliders etc. Do you know why this would be?

    Any help is appreciated, Dave

    Reply
    1. Damien Post author

      Sorry for the late reply (your message got picked up by the spam filter!). What exactly happens when the ball hits the top ball? Does it behave the same on the bottom wall? Do you have the bouncy material set up on the walls? Try downloading the complete project and see if that works as you expect.

      Reply
      1. UnityNooblet

        Same issue happens to me – ball hits the ceiling and sticks, but in my case it only occurs if ‘Force Value’ is set to a smaller number, apparently below 4.2.

        Reply
        1. Damien Post author

          I think this is just a side effect of the physics simulation. I think the ball is moving correctly, but the vertical movement can become so slight that it’s effectively zero to the physics engine, so the ball just moves horizontally. There is not enough bounce/force to push the ball away from the top wall.

          Reply
    1. ZX

      I’m having the same problem with the ball getting stuck at the top, and it looks like no-one’s solved it yet. Any solutions since the last comment in May 2016?

      Reply
  4. Ian Hollender

    Wow; I think I just pushed the “edit collider button” on the ball and it all now works!!!!

    Reply

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