Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 Posted by Jim Thacker

Unity 4 to add new animation system, Linux export

Unity Technologies has announced Unity 4, the latest update to its market-leading game engine.

The headline news – and the feature that co-founders David Helgason and Joachim Ante spend most of the video above talking about – is the new animation system acquired from start-up developer Mécanim last year.

Ante describes the system, which enables users to retarget and reuse animations at runtime, cutting down on the volume of assets that need to be created, as “really a next-gen AAA game engine”.

Its developers certainly have a pedigree in the field, having met while working on HumanIK at Kaydara.

Nevertheless, Ante and Helgason stress that their implementation is simple enough even for indie developers to use. The company will also be offering pre-built retargetable animation clips through its Unity Asset Store.

Linux, Flash and DirectX 11
Other new features in Unity 4 include support for DirectX 11 and a new option to publish to desktop Linux – a platform that now makes up 10% of the PC game market, according to Unity’s press release.

The add-on for publishing to Flash also makes its commercial debut, having previously been released in beta.

Too little, too soon?
Although the developer community’s reaction has been positive, there have been rumbles of discontent at the suggestion that Unity Technologies is trimming down its feature list to accelerate its release schedule.

While no shipping date for Unity 4 has yet been announced, the announcement comes just four months after the release of Unity 3.5.

Certainly, the list of further additions and improvements seems less substantial than before, comprising a list of 14 bullet points in the press release. Previously, such lists ran for pages.

But you have to wonder if Unity isn’t simply a victim of its own success.

From most other developers, Unity 4 would be considered a pretty substantial upgrade, and while the cost of the update isn’t trivial when you consider the add-on exporters on top of the core application, this is also a company that gives the base version of its software away free to indie developers.

Unity 4 will be demonstrated publicly at the developer’s Unite 12 conference in August. Pricing remains unchanged at $1,500 for the Pro edition of the software.

Read more about Unity 4 on the Unity Technologies website
(Includes demo videos of the new features)