Friday Facts 15: Unity 2021.3 tips

Unity game development engine can take some getting used to, no matter your background. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned recently that might help you. Documenting them will help me later when I google them and find my own article!

Separate UI and game world mouse clicks

I’ll describe the problem and then the solution. I have UI elements built with UIToolkit on top of the things in my Scene and I don’t want a click on the UI to also click through to whatever is behind. I would be weird to click “sign peace treaty” and unintentionally order troops to attack the town in the same move, right?

Here’s a sample UI in a 2D world. I’m making a game based on Populous, RimWorld and Prison Architect. Little people moving around doing their best and I sometimes nudge them.

In the UIToolkit elements are placed with the same rules and webpages with CSS. Here’s the UIToolkit view of my HUD. I’ve highlighted the #Background element, which says all child elements are aligned to the bottom – that’s how I get the buttons way down there.

Elsewhere, with no obvious connection in the system, there’s PlayerControls, an Input Action Asset – a map between human input devices and actions in game. In has an event called Click mapped to things like the game controller X button and the mouse left button. Still further away in my GameController I have the same PlayerControls as a Component where the Click event calls GameController.OnLeftClick.

The code for GameController.OnLeftClick is a stub for now.

// only get here if the click is NOT on the UI, please.
public void OnLeftClick() {

After many hours of searching I found a way to detect when the cursor is over a UI element. It is EventSystem.current.IsPointerOverGameObject(). Unfortunately you can’t put this in an InputAction event or you’ll get a nasty warning message.

Calling IsPointerOverGameObject() from within event processing (such as from InputAction callbacks) will not work as expected; it will query UI state from the last frame
UnityEngine.EventSystems.EventSystem:IsPointerOverGameObject ()

This fix is to put the code is in GameController.Update() and use it to disable the InputEvents when appropriate.

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

private void DoNotClickUIAndGameAtSameTime() {
    PlayerInput inputSystem = GetComponent<PlayerInput>();
    if (EventSystem.current.IsPointerOverGameObject()) {
    } else {

I’m a big fan of small methods that do one job each. I hope you are too! It’s much easier to debug.

Ok, so this completely disables all game input when a cursor is over the UI elements. New problem! Remember that #Background element? It fills the entire screen. Everything is UI! Fortunately the fix is easy.

Setting the background elements to Picking Mode: Ignore will let your mouse pass through and poke at your game. Nice!

Oof, this is already so long I’ll save my next tip for a future post.