Unity Technologies announced that Unity 5.6 has officially become available, featuring tons of new updates and upgrades for both newbie and veteran game designers alike.
Over on the official Unity 3D blog, they announced that version 5.6 features seamless publishing tools and support for the Facebook Gameroom, Google Daydream VR platform, improved Cardboard publishing for Android and iOS devices, along with publishing support for the Nintendo Switch.
Another big update includes improved performance for low-end hardware, so you can squeeze better frames and higher end visual effects out of lower end machines running your software. This has definitely been one of the bigger drawbacks to Unity 5 compared to Unreal Engine 4. So it’s nice to see that Unity Technologies addressed this issue, because improved competition means improved games, and improved games means everyone wins.
And speaking of performance… the open-platform Vulkan API is now fully supported in Unity 5.6, which should mean more games having a wider range of engineering opportunities to allow performance gains as if they were low-level enough to “touch the metal”.
They’ve also included new particle effect options, so users have more flow control over particle effects and particle rendering. This is another big step they’ve needed to take with Unity in order to compete with Unreal, which still has a leg up with their integrated particle and liquid effect simulations, especially when they tie-in with Nvidia’s liquid particle solution, Cataclysm.
You can see a real-time demo of what UE4 has achieved with a demo below from David Fathers.
It’ll be cool when Unity gets there because then maybe we’ll see more studios pushing the boundaries on liquid simulation effects and actually integrating those effects into interactive simulations.
Nevertheless, Unity 5.6 has made gains in other areas as well, including light rendering. They mention on the blog that they’ve actually managed to increase performance and rendering solutions to outpace Geomerics’ Englighten. One of the really, really cool features they have implemented is mixed light rendering solutions, so you can now use pre-baked lighting across geometry along with dynamic physically based light rendering.
In laymen terms, you can have static shadows baked into a map while also having dynamic light effects such as god rays or light entities dynamic move or interact with the environment. You could almost think of it as making a level where you can glue certain shadows to the floor and they won’t move, and then you have a flashlight and it will properly shine the light wherever you aim it, and both of them will work seamlessly without draining the system resources.
You can see a demonstration of the new mixed lighting in action with the video below.
I imagine the mixed lighting solution will be perfect for console games, especially on systems like the
Nintendo Switch, where the resource budget is a lot more strained due to the GPU resources being halved when it’s undocked.
And speaking of mobile play… Unity 5.6 also features integrated Compute Shaders that can talk directly to the metal for iOS and macOS-powered devices. They’re utilizing procedural instancing to help the pipeline prioritize rendering so that you have faster performance and improved visual output, especially for post-processing effects such as temporal AA, bloom, DOF and motion blur.
You can check out the new processing stack, Vulkan API support, Nintendo Switch publishing tools, and the new lighting upgrades for Unity 5.6 by visiting the official website.