Beginner, Tutorials, Uncategorized, Unity3D

Unity3D Animated Pause Menu, Part 2: Animating the UI elements

Following the setup of all the UI elements for the pause menu in part one, we’re now going to create an animation for the transition between the unpaused and paused states of the game. As a reminder, here’s a preview of the finished state of the pause menu, showing the transition animation:

Pause menu animating in and out with example gameplay in background
Pause Menu in Action

Before we get started, let’s talk a little bit about animation in Unity3D. Unity’s animation system, Mecanim, uses curves to represent motion. Most commonly, these motion curves drive the movement of 3D models, but you can actually use Mecanim to animate any public property that Unity knows how to serialize. We’re going to use this to our advantage in our pause transition to move UI elements around the screen.

With Mecanim, you can either edit the curves directly, or use the keyframe-based dopesheet to specific values, and let Mecanim figure out the curves for you. In this case, we’ll be use the dopesheet as it’s easier to work with and we’re not going to be doing anything too complex.

Open the Animation window (⌘6 on OSX, ctrl-6 on Windows), select the Canvas game object in the hierarchy, and click the Create button. Doing this will prompt you to create a new Animation asset, as well as creating a new animator controller and adding an Animator to the Canvas game object if it doesn’t already have one. Note that you could technically animate the menu elements directly, but as we split them up to allow for more complex transitions, and because we want to later be able to animate multiple, discrete UI elements with one animator controller, we’re going to add the animator to the Canvas, which is the highest-level parent of a UI element.

After creating a new animation clip, we enter “record” mode by default, but first we want to set all our pause menu UI elements to their default (unpaused) state. Click the red Record circle exit record mode, then select the panel background, panel contents, and title text, and move them off-screen. To achieve the transition effect I wanted, I moved the panel background on the x axis to the right, the panel content on the x axis to the left, and the title text on the y axis up. They don’t have to be a huge distance off-screen, just enough so that they’re not visible during gameplay (you can use the Game window to check this, or enter play mode to try it out). My UI view now looks like this:

Current UI Setup
Current UI Setup

With our initial state set up, we’re ready to animate! Select the Canvas game object and pick your pause animation out of the dropdown menu if it’s not already selected, then hit the red button to enter Record mode. You know that it’s working properly when your editor play mode buttons turn red:

We’ll want to add three properties: Panel Background > Rect Transform > Anchored Position, Panel Content > Rect Transform > Anchored Position, and Title > Rect Transform > Anchored Position. This adds keyframes for each property at 0:00 and 1:00 (one second). If you played your animation now, it would do… a whole lot of nothing, because the beginning and ending keyframes have the same value, which is in effect saying “do nothing for one second”. Let’s change that. Drag the playback head (the red line) to the one second mark (clicking on the keyframe at the time you want to change won’t have the desired effect) and “zero out” the Anchored Position properties, setting each UI element in the pause menu to the position that it should be in when the game is paused. You can either set them in the Animation window directly, set the appropriate fields on the Rect Transform in the inspector (animated fields turn red as well when in record mode), or reposition the elements by hand in the scene view.

With that done, hit play in the animation window. You’ll see the different elements of your pause menu slide in, but one second to bring up a menu is almost painfully slow. Players are nothing if not impatient, so we need to make the transition snappy to avoid frustrating them. Plus, I think that, rather than all the motion happening at once, it will look better if the background flies into place first, followed by the text and buttons sliding in, followed by the logo dropping into place. Exit animation play mode, and adjust the animation by dragging the keyframes in the dopesheet. I found that about a quarter second per element (so, multiples of 0:15 on the timeline), with the next element starting its motion as the previous reached its destination, felt about right for the feel I wanted to achieve. Here’s a look at my finished dopesheet, about 50% through the full animation (as indicated by the red playback head line):

Completed Dopesheet

With that, we’ve completed the animation for our pause menu elements. The last thing to do is select the animation clip asset we’ve created and uncheck the Loop Time property in the inspector, as a preparation for creating the pause transition state machine in the next tutorial post. Thanks for following along!

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