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Unity 4 upgrades focus on triple-A, with a dash of web and mobile
Unity 4 upgrades focus on triple-A, with a dash of web and mobile
June 18, 2012 | By Frank Cifaldi

June 18, 2012 | By Frank Cifaldi
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Unity Technologies has lifted the lid on the upcoming Unity 4, a major upgrade to the game development platform that currently claims over 1 million registered users.

The upgrade brings an increase in visual fidelity to Unity games, DirectX 11 support, an enhanced exporting option to Flash, a preview of game deployment to Linux, and more.

The biggest change Unity is touting for this latest release is the addition of Mecanim, a suite of animation tools the company acquired last year. Mecanim allows developers to create animation blend trees and state machines within Unity itself. We haven't seen it ourselves yet, but over the phone Unity CEO David Helgason tells us that it's "super high performance," and that developers using it as part of a beta program have been impressed by its polished workflow.

"It solves a lot of things completely automatically, and figures out a lot of the beginning and end times, and how you group things, and so on," he says.

"Copious amounts" of animations for Mecanim will be available in the Unity Asset Store on day one, Helgason tells us.

With DirectX support, Unity 4 games should see increased shader capabilities and smoother models and environments (via tessellation). The company says mobile platforms will also see a boost of fidelity thanks to new features and optimizations. Promised improvements include real-time shadows, skinned mesh instancing, normal map baking, and a refined GPU profiler.

The release also finally brings Flash deployment, introduced in beta form last year, to a fully functional release. It also adds a preview of deployment to desktop Linux machines.

Additional features to be available in Unity 4.0, according to a list provided to us by Unity, include:
  • Shuriken particle system supports external forces, bent normals and automatic culling
  • 3D texture support
  • Navigation: dynamic obstacles and avoidance priority
  • Major optimizations in UnityGUI performance and memory usage
  • Dynamic fonts on all platforms with HTML-like markup
  • Remote Unity Web Player debugging
  • New Project Window workflows
  • Iterative lightmap baking
  • Refined component-based workflows
  • Extensible inspectors for custom classes
  • Improved Cubemap import pipeline
  • Geometry data improvements for huge memory and performance savings
  • Meshes can be constructed from non-triangle geometry - render points & lines efficiently
  • Search, live preview and buy Asset Store assets from the Project Window
Helgason says that upgrades and feature additions to Unity 4 should come at a quicker pace than they did for 3.

"Even with 8 or 9 releases in under two years…we feel like we haven't been doing enough and actually want to speed up our releases. The goal is to only have a small handful of months between release dates."

A release date for Unity 4 has not been set, though interested developers can pre-order it here. A demonstration of Unity 4 will take place at the Unite 2012 developer conference in Amsterdam this August.


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Comments


Jan Ekholm
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The headline made me wonder if Unity is moving away from the mobile space and targeting AAA games only. I'm in the process of actually starting to learn Unity, but I will not bother if it's only for PC and console games.

Thomas Grove
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Mobile is their bread and butter. Don't worry.

Daniel Gooding
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They are just making it available to upgrade to larger scale games on a development platform that people feel comfortable with as mobile teams grow, and ambitions get higher.

Marc Schaerer
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Another additional reason to look forward to Unite :)

Ian Morrison
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Built in support for elaborate animation logic is very good news for me, though I wonder if that means that in-game cinematics are going to become a bit easier to manage. After using tools like Unreal's Matinee editor, it's hard not to view Unity's animation system as primitive by comparison.

Victor Reynolds
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blah, why cater to AAA, when they cant get SVN integration right? There are a host of things that are broken, or don't work right, so why are they adding more stuff???? Why not fix what they got first?

Chris Hendricks
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It would certainly be in Unity's best interests to show big teams exactly how best to use their program. It always has been one of the bigger areas of weakness in what is, in general, an awesome program.

Dustin Chertoff
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Which part of svn integration doesn't work right for you? Since I enabled the external flag in project settings, I haven't had problems other than the usual stupid .unity file being binary and unmergable. Do you use their asset manager tool?

Victor Reynolds
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we tried it all, we coudlnt get an acceptable solution. We tried working with unity's new svn features, working behind its, back, a hybrid approach....nothing good came from it. We could never get to the point where a new user who doesn't have the project was able to get it from svn, and have it just work. lots of things would no longer be linked (aka, lots of "the script file or behavior is missing!" messages and broken prefabs) the rebuilding of the unity generated files. etc. A big mess.

All this is for a 3 man team!! So, if doing this for a 3 man team was a waste, no way we could get the rest of the company to follow suit....we gave up on it. we continue to use "sneaker net" to help with this...and its obviously a terrible solution.

i wont even get into all the crashing and freezing that our large project introduces, the memory leaks from the editor, or all the features that are "promised" but comes in, at best, half assed. So again, unity needs to stop trying to have new bullet points and fix their issues. The unity forums are in a an uproar about all of this stuff (esp the new pricing)

Darcy Nelson
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Sounds like user error to me.

E Zachary Knight
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Awesome news on the Linux front. As Brian Fargo said on twitter, this is happening because of Wasteland 2.

As soon as that is ready, Unity will be a major consideration for future game projects I may have.

Wyatt Epp
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I agree, but I really hope they reverse their position on porting the editor. Having to develop on a platform different from what you're targeting is sort of an unnecessary drag in the PC space.

E Zachary Knight
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I agree as well. I would love for the editor to run natively on Linux as well. But I am willing to take things in strides.

Luis Blondet
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Unity and their dev team is everything that is right with the game industry.

Thank you, Unity <3

Greg Quinn
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The best indie engine just got better.

Jeremy Alessi
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I don't think the indie moniker is relevant any more...

Bradley Johnson
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I misread the headline as, "You're about to pay a bunch of money for a Unity update."
But that's A-OK with me because it's a great engine.

Micah Betts
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Real time shadows on mobile finally!

Dustin Chertoff
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I really want a built in drag and drop GUI editor...

Jeremy Alessi
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Amen! There are a few good solutions on the Asset Store of course but still native is nice.

Ashkan Saeedi Mazdeh
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It might actually come but they always keep some stuff for the unite to announce. or they might announce in the blog one by one. A new GUI system i think will be available. Take a look at feedback.unity3d.com and you can see it's a wanted thing. It's the second feature.
I think destructable and APEX and other NVIDIA announced features at GDC will be in 4.0 , maybe some in 4.1 but mostly in 4.0

P.S Use NGUI from asset store. for now it's $45 .

Dustin Chertoff
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Thanks Ashkan! Wish I had known about NGUI earlier. That would have made some previous projects I worked on a cinch. Live and learn! Definitely going to pick NGUI up if no built-in support comes in 4.0.

Bruno Xavier
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Judging by the upgrade prices of Unity 4, it is not a indie friendly tool anymore.
New users pay less than loyal costumers to get the foot in, it just doesn't make sense.
For iOS there are cheaper tools nowadays, and Im not talking about fake freebies like UDK.

Edit: Unity once again listen to their costumers and dramatically lower their prices. Sweet!


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