My first impressions of Unity 5.6 and Facebook Gameroom

By April 3, 2017Development

Late last year I went to the Unity conference, Unite. While I was there hey were discussing the features of the upcoming 5.6 update. They definitely weren’t holding back – lots of UI improvements, drastic changes to lighting, and an update to the particle system. All good things.

But the thing that stuck with me, for some reason, was the launch of Facebook’s desktop gaming client, Facebook Gameroom. While I certainly didn’t have dreams of the original Facebook games rush, I have always considered Facebook to be a viable option for launching games. At the end of the day one of the biggest things that matters in gaming is having people play your games, and Facebook knows how to get players.

Getting started with Gameroom

I had previously installed Gameroom to check it out. There are quite a few good games in there, and Facebook has provided a handy wrapper for the older-style HTML games. The addition of downloadable titles just extends their already huge library.

The interface is a little sparse, but seeing as it targets a more casual core group than Steam, that’s probably a good thing. Best to start clean. Installing and playing games is a breeze. Most games appear to use the Freemium model, though Gameroom does support paid games, too.

Once I had downloaded Unity 5.6 and gotten familiar with it a bit I started looking into the new publishing settings. Setting up to publish for Gameroom was a bit of a hurdle since I hadn’t built a Facebook app since… ummm…. some time in the 80’s, maybe? 😉

Setting up a Facebook App

I went to the Facebook developer section and set up a new app.  It was fairly straightforward, until I got to the part of the tutorial where it told me to add “Gameroom Native” as a product. For some reason it wasn’t showing up for me. Turns out I had to add “Facebook Web Games” as a platform under basic settings – and then it started showing up for me.

I also had to add “localhost” as an app domain, that allows the Unity executable to make queries to Graph (the Facebook API).

Building and testing

Once I had the app set up on Facebook I went into my build settings in Unity and copied the appropriate keys into the build settings. Then I downloaded the Facebook package for Unity, installed it, and added even more settings. The code was fairly well documented and in fairly short order I had a build that could run in Gameroom.

To test it out in Gameroom just click on your user icon at the top right and select “[DEV] Debug Unity”. This allows you to run your Unity .exe file right in Gameroom. Overall the learning process took me about an hour to get to this point, I probably spent more time making the robot featured in the screenshots on this post.

I’ve named him Stu

I will definitely be testing this out more, and am eager to see if Facebook starts pushing VR developers towards Gameroom in the future – it seems like an obvious direction considering their ownership of Oculus. For now I’ll occasionally put in a bit more work on Robot City Sewer Stewards – the joke game that I feel I need to build.

I’ve named the main character Stu, and I will go into more depth on the game idea in a later post. For now it’s just good to be back to making games again.