Unity: The Future of the Engine
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Unity: The Future of the Engine
2 November, 2016
Los Angeles has one of the most active Unity game development communities in the world. People from VFX, movie industry and games all flock to the engine, guided by the accessibility and constantly improving set of features. So it was cool to greet Unity Technologies team in our sunny city with the UNITE LA event. We were happy to visit this exciting venue, check out some of the advantages to Unity 5 and talk to Joachim Ante, CTO of Unity.

The traditional keynote by John Riccitiello at UNITE LA had some very nice insights. The company has put a lot of efforts in improving quality and stability of the tool, adding new features and so on.

To help developers take full advantage of the latest generation of devices, Unity revealed deepened support of Metal API for iOS and macOS with GPU instancing, native shaders support in Unity 5.5. Enhanced Vulkan support is also coming. This tech showed performance improvements of up to 30 to 60%. Developers interested in testing the preview builds can go here and download it for testing. 

Unity Editor is becoming more artist-friendly with the introduction of Timeline. It’s a simple track-based sequencing tool, which allows to “drag and drop” animations, sounds, events, videos to  create beautiful cut-scenes. Looks very much like the similar tool in UE4. Plus there’s a new version of EditorVR to be released in December. It’s an open-sourced package, which features an open API to easily extend, adapt, and customize.

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The coolest announcement probably comes from Otoy and Unity. The fully-featured integrated version of Octane Render coming to Unity. Octane Render complements Unity’s real-time processing by rendering assets offline for beautiful optimized 3d content.

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We’ve talked a little with Joachim Ante about some of the things that Unity is going through right now and what should we expect from the engine in the future.

Joachim Ante currently serves as the Chief Technology Officer of Unity Technologies, and helped co-found the company in 2002. Ante initially began writing the core of Unity as a teenager, and today the engine is in the hands of more than 4.5 million registered developers. As Unity’s chief technology officer and co-founder, Ante has brought pro-level game tools to the masses, and is playing a major role in the renaissance of independent games.

The Technological Advancements in Unity 5

I believe Unity 5 made a lot of advancements in graphics over the last year. There was a big change of how we do rendering, there’s a new gorgeous PBR-pipeline in the engine. Since then we’ve been applying a lot of efforts in achieving better performance, working on multi-threaded renderer. And now we’ve also added an image effects library. I truly believe that Unity has by far one of the best image effects pipelines you can imagine. Now with very little work, you can improve the look of your scene massively.

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We’ve really taken the tooling to the next level. We’ve taken the industry standard tools, which are usually used ‘offline’ and adapted them to the real-time workflow. This is a great advancement for the 3d crowd. We’ve spent a lot of time tweaking everything with artists.

Optimization is obviously important, but I believe today people actually have to spend less time doing it. It’s not like it used to be. Right now even if you’re a small team, with a couple of people, you can focus on the game, instead of doing optimization. If the engine is getting faster and it’s reliable, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about optimizing your content. You should worry about making your game.

Unity in Games & Platforms

Unity is the most popular on mobile. This is where we were the most successful. But we’re moving in other directions as well. Our software is used a lot in VR right now. Sometimes gamers don’t really know we have so much presence in this field, cause we actually don’t force people to show that they are using our product (especially those with the Pro license). Especially, if they are using a pro license. Many people don’t even know when they see Unity’s content!

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We also have a strong presence on PlayStation 4 & Xbox One. Unity is definitely the biggest engine there. Unity is pretty much everywhere. Especially on PC. Just look at Steam. . A huge part of the market. Right now the biggest game made with Unity is Pokemon Go!, but my personal favorite is Firewatch. I don’t have that much time, so playing a game for 2-3 hours is a perfect for me. It’ a great game. INSIDE is also a huge project.

  • There were 5 billion downloads of made with Unity games in Q3 alone
  • Unity Technologies serves over 5.5 million registered developers including large publishers, indie studios, students and hobbyists around the globe.

Future

Personally, I think performance is really important. C# job system is a special thing for me. I’m not aware of any other systems quite like it. This is a great feature which allows you to build safe code and tells you about every possible mistake you make. This system is really important.

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There’s also a great new feature, which gives you full control of the memory allocation and lets you perform temporary memory allocations. It doesn’t sound like much, but being able to have control of the memory is really important for pushing those last couple of percent on the game. Especially in VR. It really gives the freedom to optimize the content when people want to.

A lot of the changes we make in Unity come from our own experience, sometimes we get feedback from the developers, who use the engine. They show us the exact problem and we figure out how we change it.

I’m not sure when VR is going to take off, but I’m sure it’s here to stay. Ultimately the VR systems have to become cheap enough to become available for everyone. PC has to become cheaper as well. Input is also very important for VR. VIVE actually did good input. Oculus Touch works well. I think these are the main elements, which are going to define the future of this technology.

 

Unity continues to push forward and add more and more features to its set of possibilities. It’s nice to see Unity going beyond mobile and having such a great presence in VR. Looking forward to seeing new features!

Special thanks for Alexander Menshikov for the interview.

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