Graphing Script - It's not exciting, but it needed to be made

A download link to my graphing asset is at the bottom of the post - if you want to try it out.

Game #2 will likely be centered around economics as well as climate (change). Deciding where to build a farm will likely be best done when looking at some climate data. Does it rain enough? Maybe too much? How hot does it get? Is the ground water polluted? Or looking at historical prices of commodities may help a player decide what type of business to pursue or how much they can afford to pay NPC employees. I don't want the game to be a data crunch fest, but data will be a part of the game. So naturally I'll be needing a way to visualize that data and graphs seem like a good way to do that. Pretty sure players don't want to read a list of float values.

Visualization - Basic line (scatter) graph

Graph Maker

I'd seen Graph Maker on the Unity Asset store and bookmarked it many months back. The reviews are pretty decent and it is definitely capable of a lot of heavy lifting. I'm aware of at least one reasonably successful game that has made use of it. So it seemed worth the risk of a few bucks. Graph maker clearly has had hundreds of hours poured into it. It's polished and feature rich.

All those features have also caused it to be fairly complicated. Each graph has several nested prefab elements each with scripts attached. The documentation is also a bit rough. As a new user the number one thing I want to know how to do is send the graph a list or array of my data and have it graph it.That's it. One simple function. So where is it?

I spent a while clicking around trying to figure out where the data was stored (turns out to be in the series prefab/script). I opened the documentation and couldn't find clear directions of how to send my data to the graph via script. I opened the scripts in search of the list or function that would import my data... Couldn't find what I was looking for.

There is a neat reflection script that can be attached to gameObjects and looks like it could do some handy stuff, but I couldn't get it to do what I wanted. All in all the asset looked way bigger than what I needed. Do I need radial graphs? I don't think so... 

The second thing I want to do is modify the appearance of the graph. The shear number of (nested) prefabs not to mention the number of settings in the main script it seemed like it was going to be a long battle to customize the looks of a graph.

So as I so often do, when I can't figure out an asset I start down the path of rolling my own asset. If you have more patience than I do, I know that Graph Maker is a good asset and will make pretty graphs for you. 

Rolling My Own

The goal of rolling my own graphing asset was to make something simple, lightweight and easy to use. As of writing this post my graphing asset has 6 prefabs and three scripts (one of which is a custom inspector to allow graph updates in edit mode - another detects mouse hovering). The prefabs largely consist of gameObjects with just an image component. A few such as "tick marks" or "axis labels" have children with Text components, but nothing gets more complex than that. Sending data to the graph is done with 1 of 3 functions. Pretty simple. 

Just send the data and let the graph do the rest.

In the end it's taken me way longer to roll my own graphing script then it would have taken to figure out Graph Maker. Is mine as pretty? No. Does mine do nice tweening animations? No. But I know how mine works and I know how to modify mine if I need to.

The feature list is short. It can switch between line (scatter) and bar graphs. The axes, points, connecting lines, and tick marks can all be tweaked in size and color. 

Bar graph of the same data as at the top of the post

Fonts, font size and font colors are all of course adjustable as well. Modification of the images was left out of the inspector/script and can be done with the prefabs. This was done for simplicity and the simple fact that changing images is less of a "tweak" than font size might be. 

I still have one feature to figure out and that's auto-scaling. Currently the axes will auto scale and adjust to fit the data, but the values displayed on the axes does not. I'd like to figure out some basic auto scaling to keep things simple - sure I can manually adjust the values in the inspector (or by script if I expose the variables or add a new function), but that's hard to do when the game is published... I like to be involved the community, but manually adjusting each player's graphs is a bit much. I'll keep the linked package up to date if anyone has ideas of how to auto scale I'd love to hear them.

Edit: The auto scaling is now working. 

Download (Free)

I may polish the asset a bit more and put it on the Unity Asset store, but that's a lot of work for not much of a return. Until then I'll happily handout a free download (box via Feel free to use it or modify it. Just don't flip it and sell it - don't steal my $12 in potential sales! If you do use it I'd love to hear about bugs or ways to improve it (but not bloat it). 

Not until writing this post did I realize I named my asset the same as the one I'd purchased. Oops.