UNIGINE 2.11: Engine Updates & Free Edition

UNIGINE 2.11: Engine Updates & Free Edition

Denis Shergin, CEO at UNIGINE, talked about the improvements and new features they've added to UNIGINE Engine including the new terrain system, multi-channel rendering system upgrade, and a free version of the software UNIGINE 2 Community Edition.

Improvements and New Features

Last year we had a major goal of making the engine and tools as friendly for newcomers as possible. This resulted in a lot of usability improvements for the editor. The team introduced the project build tool, editor plugins system, texture profiler, asset dependency tracking, cleaner tool. When you work on large projects in a team of 3D artists, you definitely need all of this. Based on the feedback from the internal production team and our customers, the editor team spent months polishing these “invisible” everyday actions which contribute the major part to the artist's productivity: placement tools, navigating through assets, adjusting materials, optimizing performance, etc.

For programmers, we focused on streamlining our main C++ API, and completely reworked the C# API, together with the introduction of Component System for faster creation of logic. The one-time cost for this was major API migration in 2.10, but I’m happy to see that our customers made the transition very quickly. The workflow is very easy now - from starting the project to publishing the final build.

We use our SDK internally every day for many different projects, so it helps a lot to test all the changes early to see how they might improve the lives of other developers. We also have internal hackathons which are a nice quality indicator. Recently, I asked some non-programmers (QA engineers, technical writers) to participate, and even they were able to produce some projects with the updated API and simplified workflow.

Aside from these two large efforts (editor and API simplification) the team also delivered a long-awaited terrain system upgrade.

UNIGINE Engine was always providing very good terrain capabilities, but this time we have a new masterpiece. ObjectLandscapeTerrain system in UNIGINE Engine fulfills a very challenging combination of requirements: very dense details (down to 1 mm per pixel) together with huge terrain size (up to 10,000x10,000 km), real-time terrain geometry modification, non-destructive team collaboration, and binoculars/scope support (up to x20 zoom). It took more than 2 years of development, but our users love the result.

In order to introduce the new terrain, we had to improve the asynchronous data streaming system a lot. Now it utilizes every available CPU core without performance spikes. Our customers usually deal with huge scenes of thousands of kilometers in size, filled with heavy content, so this was very helpful.

Last year we pulled only 3 major releases instead of the planned 4, but they were extremely feature-packed, especially 2.10 one. Other important rendering improvements were reworked shadows (better penumbra, cached shadows system), reflections (additive blending for environment probes, occluded reflections clipping, multi-scattered specular reflections), revamped screen-space subsurface scattering, improved tone mapping (twice).

We also worked on the Fox Hole archviz demo, I’m happy to see the final quality in the VR mode. Other works are unfortunately under NDAs with customers.

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UNIGINE 2.11 Update

UNIGINE 2.11 brings even more performance thanks to several months of optimizations. This will be especially noticeable on complex projects with large amounts of objects per frame. Even better use of multiple CPU cores, further file system speedup.

We've significantly improved shading for particle systems. The translucency effect became even more true-to-life with the ability to set a translucency radius to imitate different smoke density. Shadows cast by particles are now translucent, so denser smoke areas will produce darker shadows than the ones having a low density. Normal mapping support providing additional volume and more details were added as well.

For our customers from the simulation and training industry the major upgrade of Syncker, our multi-channel rendering system, is extremely interesting. It has been completely revamped ensuring even more robust and reliable frame-to-frame synchronization between several PCs working as a real-time network cluster to form a super-resolution image. This is important for professional immersive displays, like huge domes in a flight simulator.

Other than that, we tried to make the 2.11 release very stable, and easy to understand in order to launch the Community edition of the SDK.

UNIGINE 2 Community Edition

The UNIGINE 2 Community uses the same core technology as other editions (Engineering and Sim), which are more focused on the enterprise area. But Community has some limitations: it doesn’t support 64-bit precision of coordinates, has no support for GIS and CAD data formats, doesn’t support distributed network simulators, lacks some high-level simulation systems, doesn’t support projection onto curved screens, and can’t be embedded into other apps as a viewport. Also, it cannot be used in some industries: defense, gambling, energy, mining, oil & gas. Other than that developers get the same C++ and C# API, as well as the scene editor.

The great thing about the Community edition is that it is completely free (and has no royalty obligations) for several cases:

  • Non-commercial projects
  • Academic use (education only)
  • Revenue or funding less than $100K in the last 12 months

There is also a Community Pro subscription option, which is technically exactly the same as the Community version but has no limitations on the revenue/funding.

I think this is a big deal as we were asked so many times to introduce a free version, and here it is, available for download now.

Future Development

We have several major improvements in the work at the moment, including the following ones:

  • Better clouds and weather
  • More flexible control of particle systems
  • New SDK browser tool
  • Full 3D planet system
  • New Landscape Tool

Also, we are thinking about node-based editing for materials and logic. Another major effort is the asset store. As always, there will be a lot of customer-inspired features (sometimes it is up to 50% of the release notes). In the end, we are working to give them the tools for their tasks.

After 15 years since the beginning of UNIGINE history, I’m really excited to see the wave of newcomers, this is definitely a pivotal point for the community of UNIGINE developers.

Give UNIGINE 2 Community a try, download it from unigine.com for free.

Denis Shergin, CEO at UNIGINE

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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