Unity 2018.2 Arrives
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by Paul Jonathan
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Unity 2018.2 Arrives
11 July, 2018

You can download Unity 2018.2! The goal here is to build on the Scriptable Render Pipelines (SRPs) for next-level rendering. What is more, the update brings a range of features and improvements for mobile. Unity 2018.2 optimizes the performance of the Lightweight Render Pipeline (LWRP) and enhances the High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) for high-end visual quality, including multiple improvements to the Shader Graph, which now supports both pipelines. But that’s not it. Let’s study the new update. 

Here is a part of the new features and upgrades:


Scriptable Render Pipeline (SRP) improvements

In 2018.1, we introduced the Scriptable Render Pipeline (in preview), which places control of powerful new rendering pipelines in the hands of artists and developers. This release includes the following SRP updates:

SRP batcher

Speeds up CPU rendering

The SRP batcher is a new Unity engine inner loop that speeds up CPU rendering without affecting GPU performance. It replaces legacy SRP rendering code.

Games that use Physically Based Rendering (PBR) often have many different objects and meshes that share the same shader and keywords for all the different materials per object. The SRP batcher gives games that use PBR a major CPU speed boost.

The SRP batcher works with the High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) and Lightweight Render Pipeline (LWRP), with PC DirectX-11, Metal and PlayStation 4 currently supported.

Scriptable shader variants stripping

Reduces player build time and data size

Player build time and data size increase with the complexity of your project because of the increased number of shader variants.

With scriptable shader variants stripping, introduced in 2018.2, you can manage the number of shader variants generated and therefore drastically reduce player build time and data size.

This feature allows you to strip all the shader variants with invalid code paths and/or unused features, and to create shader-build configurations, such as “debug” and “release,” without affecting iteration time or maintenance complexity. Scriptable shader variants stripping can lead to a massive increase in team efficiency. See this blog post to learn more about how scriptable shader variants stripping is implemented in the Unity shader pipeline architecture.

Shader variants stripping options in the GraphicsSettings

Lightweight Render Pipeline (Preview)

Delivers high performance

The Lightweight Render Pipeline (LWRP) delivers high performance, which is especially useful for lower-end hardware, performance-hungry applications like XR, and platforms, such as mobile.

LWRP improves performance and optimization further with Optimized Tile utilization. LWRP will adjust the number of load-and-store to tiles in order to optimize the memory of mobile GPUs. It also shades light in batches, which reduces overdraw and draw calls.

Basic LWRP is currently supported on all VR platforms, however, it will not support Multisample anti-aliasing (MSAA) until 2018.3.

Please note that LWRP is currently not supported for handheld AR, like ARCore or ARKit, or HoloLens or Magic Leap devices. New product plans will be communicated at a future date.

The LWRP delivers high performance for lower-end HW and performance-hungry apps like XR.

High Definition Render Pipeline (Preview)

First shipped as a Preview in 2018.1, the High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) prioritizes high-definition visuals targeting primarily high-end platforms, such as PC and consoles.

In 2018.2, we have gone further to help you achieve high-end visual quality. However, it is important to note that the SRPs are still Previews, and consequently not yet recommended or supported for production. Improvements include volumetrics, glossy planar reflection, Geometric specular AA, and Proxy Screen Space Reflection & Refraction, Mesh decals, and Shadow Mask.

Volumetrics: Volumetric fog receives lighting from all supported light types except area light. It is also possible to control the density of the fog locally with density volume.

Glossy planar reflection: Planar reflection now supports glossy reflection, which means that it takes into account the smoothness of the material.

Geometric specular AA: Mesh with dense numbers of triangles can cause specular aliasing. In order to address this, there is now an option to reduce and limit the amount of aliasing.

Proxy Screen Space Reflection & Refraction: This feature lets you use proxy volume (volume approximating the scene boundary) to perform screen-space reflection and refraction. While it is not as accurate as using the depth buffer, the runtime cost is lower.

Mesh decals: This allows you to use mesh for decals in addition to projector decals.

Shadow mask: Previously, this feature in HDRP used the Distance Shadowmask mode (dynamic shadow fade to shadow mask at maximum shadow distance). With 2018.2, it is now possible to select per light if the dynamic shadow only renders a non-lightmapped object (corresponding to the shadow mask mode of the built-in pipeline). So unlike with the built-in pipeline, HDRP allows both shadow-mask modes to be enabled at the same time, and you have a per-light control for the built-in Shadow mask mode.

Additionally, we have added limited Shader Graph support so you can visually create shaders, and we are working to improve overall stability and performance. Limited support means that only a subset of HDRP features is available in the Shader Graph. There are currently no advanced material features (SSS, clear coat), and tessellation is not currently available either.

Lastly, we have added a shader stripping feature, which makes it possible to avoid compiling shaders that are not required when building a player. This results in a much faster build time.

Please note the HDRP is not currently supported on any AR or VR platforms. Support for these platforms is scheduled for 2019. New product plans will be communicated at a future date.

Fontainebleau Photogrammetry demo with volumetric light shaft from Sunlight

The HDRP was instrumental for creating this entire car commercial in Unity

Progressive Lightmapper

There are several improvements to the Progressive Lightmapper, which came out of Preview in 2018.1.

Configurable baked light falloff

The configurable falloff in the Progressive Lightmapper enables you to match physically plausible falloff curves when baking your lights. Previously, the observed intensity of spot and point lights was greatly affected by the range value of the light. This is not physically plausible because the falloff distance (or attenuation) of a light in reality is determined by its intensity.

This feature allows the Progressive Lightmapper to decouple range and intensity by having a distance falloff that is tied to world-space distance. While legacy falloff is still supported, we now also support linear falloff, distance squared, and distanced squared with attenuation to zero at the range limits. Inverse square falloff is enabled by default in HDRP in order to match real-time lighting, and enables physical units for light intensity.

Instanced albedo and emissives for precomputed lighting

We used to allocate the emission and albedo in unique lightmap space for all our lightmaps. However, since instances generally share the albedo/emission characteristics, we now support generation of those maps per unique instance instead. This reduces the amount of memory that the Progressive Lightmapper uses, enabling you to bake even larger scenes.

Additive scene lighting warnings

For performance reasons, it is often preferable to split larger scenes into smaller “sub-scenes” that can be loaded or unloaded during runtime depending on visibility. This is known as “additive loading” or a “multi-scene” setup.

Additively loaded scenes with global illumination

The supported workflow that Unity offers when generating GI lighting for multi-scene configurations allows the user to load all required sub-scenes and then have them generate lighting for this complete scene hierarchy. The output is a LightingData.asset that stores lightmaps, Precomputed Realtime GI and probe data. This is associated with the first scene that is loaded, which can be inferred to mean the “master” scene.

Scenes that are then loaded/unloaded during runtime derive their lighting data from the LightingData.asset associated with the master scene. In this scenario, the Lighting Settings of the sub-scenes are irrelevant. However, scenes can also be baked individually or loaded in a different order depending on intent. This can lead to scenes having incompatible Lighting Settings and mismatched lighting data. For example, skyboxes may differ, lightmap resolutions may vary or mixed lighting modes could be different.

Previously, Unity did not warn the user of this problem and this has led to some confusion when results were not as expected. Unity now generates a warning to inform the user that there is an incompatibility. Then explicit information about any incompatibilities is provided for easier debugging and validation.

Other improvements

We also exposed the “per light” option to the cull lightmapped shadowcasters function (scripting API only), allowing it to be used by the HDRP.

Shader Graph (Preview)

In 2018.1, we introduced Shader Graph as a Preview package, in order to enable you to build shaders visually. Instead of writing code, you can create and connect nodes in a graph network. Each node in the graph gives instant feedback on the changes, and its ease-of-use means that even new users can be involved in shader creation. For this release, we made several improvements, including:

High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) support

Shader Graph now supports the HDRP with both PBR and Unlit Master nodes. Shaders built with the Shader Graph work with both the LWRP and the HDRP.

Vertex position

You can now modify vertex position via the Position slot on the PBR and Unlit Master nodes. By default, the input to this node is object space position. Custom inputs to this slot should specify the absolute local position of a given vertex. Certain nodes (such as Procedural Shapes) are not viable in the vertex shader. Such nodes are incompatible with this slot.

Master node settings

The settings for master nodes are now available in a small window that you can toggle on and off to change various rendering settings for your shader.

Property reference names and exposed state

You can now edit the Reference name for a property, making it far easier to reference your shader properties from script. To do so, select the property and type a new name next to Reference. If you want to reset to the default name, right-click Reference, and select, Reset reference.

In the expanded Property window, you can now also toggle the Exposed checkbox.

Editable paths for graphs

You can now change the path of Shader Graphs and Sub-Graphs. When you change the path of a Shader Graph, this modifies the location it has in the shader selection list. When you change the path of the Sub-Graph, it will have a different location in the node-creation menu.

Is Front Face node

With this node, you can change graph output depending on the face sign of a given fragment. If the current fragment is part of a front face, the node returns True. For a back face, the node returns False. Note: This functionality requires that you have enabled two sided on the Master node.

Gradient nodes

This adds gradient functionality via two new nodes. The Sample Gradient node samples a gradient with a given Time parameter. You can define this gradient on the Gradient slot control view. The Gradient Asset node defines a gradient that can be sampled by multiple Sample Gradient nodes using different Time parameters.

Texture3D and Texture2D Array

This change expands Unity’s support for Texture types via two new property types and four new nodes. These allow you to define and sample Texture 3D and Texture 2D Array type assets in Shader Graph.

Texture 2D LOD node

This adds a new node for LOD functionality on a Texture 2D Sample. Sample Texture 2D LOD uses the same input and output slots as Sample Texture 2D, but also includes an input for level of detail adjustments via a Vector1 slot.

Show Generated Code

You can now see the generated code for any specific node. To do so, right-click the node and select Show Generated Code. The code snippet will open in the code editor that you have linked to Unity.

You can find the full breakdown of the latest version here

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