Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 Posted by Jim Thacker

Unity 4.3 adds new 2D tools and blendshape animation

Unity 4.3, announced at Unite 2013, will feature a complete new toolset for creating 2D games, alongside improvements to the Mecanim animation system. Unity Technologies has also announced a new cloud initiative.

Originally posted on 29 August. Scroll down for updates.

Unity Technologies has announced some of the features of the upcoming Unity 4.3, including a complete new 2D toolset and support for blendshape animation, along with new cloud and publishing initiatives.

The announcements were made during the keynote of Unity’s Unite 2013 event.

New tools for 2D game developers
The big news from the keynote is undoubtedly the new 2D toolset (video above). While developers already create successful 2D games using Unity’s existing tools, the new tools are intended to streamline the process.

First, Unity 4.3 will add a new Sprite import type, with the software slicing sprite sheets into individual sprites automatically. New layer functionality makes it easier to sort sprites once imported.

The timeline also gains a new dopesheet, making it easier to create 2D animations manually, and there is a complete new integrated 2D physics engine for procedural animation.

The engine contains 2D equivalents to rigid bodies, joints (springs, hinges and sliders) and collision geometry.

The full keynote presentation from Unity 2013. Scrub forward to 00:58:00 for news of Unity Cloud, to 01:33:13 for the changes to the Mecanim animation system, and to 01:45:00 for occlusion culling and other improvements.

The Mecanim animation system, introduced in Unity 4.0, also gets a significant update, including support for blendshape-based facial animation.

Shapes can be imported via the FBX file format, and animated directly inside Unity.

The engine also adds a new GoToState function, enabling developers to jump to a particular point within an animation; and animation events, enabling devs to call arbitrary script events within animation playback.

Building on Unity 4.3’s new blendshape support, Mixamo’s Face Plus plugin automatically generates facial animation from a live video stream or prerecorded footage of an actor’s face.

However, one of the most interesting developments to Unity’s animation capabilities doesn’t come with 4.3. Online animation service Mixamo has developed Face Plus, a new plugin for markerless facial motion capture.

The tool generates facial animation from a live video stream or recorded footage of an actor’s face.

The results look pretty good out of the box, and can be refined by hand, although the functionality doesn’t come cheap: it’s only available as part of Mixamo’s All Access packages, which start at $1,499 per year.

Smaller updates in Unity 4.3
Other updates to Unity itself include faster occlusion culling, complete with more accurate shadow handling, and the option to mark a shader property as configurable and have the property show up in Material Inspector.

Unity Technologies has also announced Unity Cloud, a free service that, among other things, enables developers to insert ads for other games within their titles, encouraging users to buy other titles or partners’ products.

The service is currently in beta, and Unity is accepting applications via its website. VentureBeat also has a story on Unity Cloud, including details not covered in the Unite keynote.

Finally, Unity Technologies is moving from pure software developer to games publisher with the announcement of its Unity Games publishing program. You can find (a few) more details on its website.

Updated 12 November: Unity 4.3 is shipping for Windows XP SP2 and above and Mac OS X 10.6 and above. Read a full list of new features here.

As well as the features mentioned above, the release includes better tools for developing Windows apps, a new UI for the built-in script editor, and support for distributed version control system Plastic SCM.

Users of the $1,500 Unity Pro also get updates to the application’s Navmesh functionality.

Read more about the new 2D toolset in Unity 4.3

Read more about the Face Plus plugin on Mixamo’s website

Read more Unity 4.3 announcements on Unity’s blog