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Unity 2018.1 is finally here! The new version is also the start of a new cycle, so you can now expect much more from the engine. First, there are the Scriptable Render Pipeline and the C# Job System, two of the major features that will help you get beautiful graphics and increase the runtime performance of Unity. But that’s not it. Let’s study the update in detail.
Scriptable Render Pipeline (SRP) (Preview)
Unity’s built-in rendering modes offer a compelling pipeline for creating a wide range of games. With the evolution and growing diversity of platforms (performance, architecture, form factors), however, we wanted to provide a more powerful and flexible rendering pipeline.
Available in Preview with Unity 2018.1, the new Scriptable Render Pipeline (SRP) places the power of modern hardware and GPUs directly into the hands of developers and technical artists, without having to digest millions of lines of C++ engine code.
SRP will allow you to easily customize the rendering pipeline via C# code and material shaders. This gives you maximum control without all the complexity and challenges of writing or modifying a complete C++ rendering pipeline.
Unity provides several built-in rendering modes, which are sufficient for the majority of smaller games. However, SRP allows you to go beyond what comes out-of-the-box to tailor the rendering process based on your specific needs and to optimize performance for the specific hardware of your target platform.
SRP offers a new way of rendering in Unity. We’re going from a black-box model to one where most things are in C#, a more open system where users can write their own pipelines or customize templates for their needs. We’re releasing two initial pipelines in 18.1 in addition to the built-in rendering engine.
Book of the Dead, a first-person interactive demo shows what is possible when using the new Scriptable Render Pipeline.
You can learn more about the Scriptable Render Pipeline (SRP) and how to get started in our recent blog post.
High Definition Render Pipeline (HD RP) (Preview)
For high-end visuals on PCs and consoles
The HD RP is a modern renderer that will support a limited set of platforms (PC DX11+, PS4, Xbox One, Metal, Vulkan — no XR support yet).
The HD RP targets high-end PCs and consoles and prioritizes stunning, high definition visuals. The tradeoff here is that HD RP will not work on less powerful platforms, and there will be some learning and re-tooling required.
The renderer is a hybrid Tile/Cluster Forward/Deferred renderer with features parity between Forward and Deferred. Its features include volumetric lighting (in progress), unified lighting (the same lighting for opaque/transparent/volumetric), new light shapes (point lights now have line and rectangle options, spotlights now have box and pyramid options), and decals.
The Lightweight Render Pipeline (LW RP) (Preview)
Fewer draw calls
The LW RP is a single-pass forward renderer that uses fewer draw calls. Using the LW RP will decrease the draw call count on your project when compared to using the built-in rendering pipeline. While it supports all platforms, it is an ideal solution for mobile, and performance-hungry applications like XR. The trade-off here is that, as with the HD RP, switching to the new SRP workflow will require a learning curve, and it’s worth keeping in mind that some third-party tools are not yet compatible with it.
The LW RP has its own process for rendering and therefore requires shaders written with it in mind. We have developed a new set of Standard Shaders that are located under the Lightweight Pipeline group in the material’s shader+selection dropdown. These include a Standard PBR shader, a Non-PBR Standard shader with a simplified lighting model, a Standard Terrain shader and a Standard Unlit shader. It’s worth noting that all Unity’s unlit stock shaders already work with the LW RP. This includes legacy particles, UI, skybox, and sprite shader.
Download the LW RP using the Package Manager, and learn more about the LW RP and how to get started by reading our recent blog post.
Templates: jump-start your creation process
Templates provide pre-selected settings based on common best practices for projects, depending on whether they are 2D, 3D, high-end platforms, such as PC/consoles, or lightweight platforms, such as mobile. That way, you don’t have to worry about setting up the basics, and you have a better out-of-the-box experience.
Templates ship with optimized Unity project settings, as well as some prefabs and assets to get you started. You don’t have to worry about changing many of the default settings in Unity when you start a new project because they are already pre-set for a target game-type or level of visual fidelity.
Not only does this make it faster to get started, it also introduces you to settings, which you otherwise might not have discovered, and to new features, like Scriptable Render Pipeline, Shader Graph, and the Post-Processing Stack.
Shader Graph: easy shader authoring for everyone
Authoring shaders in Unity have traditionally been the realm of people with some programming ability. In 2018 we are changing this!
Shader Graph enables you to build your shaders visually using a designer tool — without writing one line of code. Instead, you create and connect nodes in a graph network with easy drag-and-drop usability. You can see the results immediately and then iterate, making it simple for new users to become involved in shader creation.
The Shader Graph system:
- Is designed to work with the LW render pipeline (HD render pipeline coming soon)
- Can be extended to work with any custom render pipeline
- Has an open architecture that allows for custom nodes to be written
The Progressive Lightmapper offers great results for baked lights, and improves the workflow for lighting artists, enabling them to iterate quickly and predictably by providing progressive updates in the Unity Editor.
While originally released as a “preview” feature in version 5.6, it has been improved with more features in each subsequent release. In 2018.1, it comes out of preview mode and includes memory optimizations for baking large scenes.
As of 2018.1, the Progressive Lightmapper also helps power users via the Custom Bakes API. This enables access to data within the baking solution for the development of new lighting tools, such as the Occlusion Probes system used to create the first-person interactive experience in Book of the Dead.
Post-Processing Stack v2
The Post-Processing Stack enables you to apply realistic filters to scenes using professional-grade controls. The artist-friendly interface makes it easy to create and fine-tune high-quality visuals for dramatic and realistic effect.
Coming out of beta in 2018.1, we’ve added the most requested features and have fixed as many bugs as possible. We’re also improving our XR support by adding mobile-specific paths, volume blending, and a complete framework for custom user-effects.
This version of the Post-Processing Stack will be shipped as the first of many upcoming packages, which will give users the plug-in flexibility of an Asset Store pack, but with the update-ability of a core Unity feature.
In 2018.1 the Post-Processing Stack has been improved to feature higher-quality effects, automatic volume blending with a powerful override stack, and a flexible framework to write and distribute your own custom effects. It’s compatible with the LW RP, HD RP, and built-in rendering pipelines.
Dynamic Resolution for PS4
Dynamic Resolution was first introduced in Unity for Xbox One in 2017.3. Now we are bringing the same functionality to PS4. The feature helps users dynamically manage their GPU budget. For example, it may be desirable for a game to hit high resolutions (such as 4K) in some scenarios. At other times, however, it is preferable for the resolution to drop in order to allow for GPU performance to increase.
Users can select which render textures and cameras will participate in Dynamic Resolution from the Unity Editor and then scale the resolution of those items at runtime from a single script call. This combined with the information provided by the FrameTimingManager allows users to produce scripts that can automatically balance their GPU load by changing the resolution of their chosen render targets. Internally the system uses no more memory for render targets that would be allocated if Dynamic Resolution were not in use, and no significant CPU performance overhead is incurred when changing the resolution.
Note: Users should be sure to check that their titles can become GPU-bound before adopting Dynamic Resolution as it will be of no benefit in CPU-bound scenarios.
GPU Instancing: Support for GI
GPU Instancing now supports fetching of Global Illumination data for each instance. This can be achieved either by allowing Unity render loops to automatically batch LightProbe-lit or Lightmap-lit objects or by manually calling the new APIs to extract the LightProbe data baked with the scene into a MaterialPropertyBlock object used later for instanced rendering.
Lightmap UV overlap visualization
This feature addresses an issue related to undesired artefacts. This occurs when a lightmap is divided into a number of charts and sampled, and the texel values from one chart bleed into another (if they are too close) leading to undesired artefacts. The new UV Overlap Visualization feature lets you immediately see which charts/texels are affected by this issue. It automatically identifies overlaps and enables you to make more informed decisions when solving such issues (e.g. by increasing chart margins).
Tessellation for Metal
Tessellation for Metal is a way to increase visual fidelity while using lower-quality meshes. It follows the DX11 hardware tessellation convention of using hull/domain shader stages. Existing HLSL shaders using this feature are cross-compiled and transparently transformed into Metal-compute shaders, aiming to make it a seamless transition between platforms. (Target-graphic APIs have a different underlying native approach to implementing tessellation.)
You can find the full breakdown of 2018.1 here.