Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 Posted by Jim Thacker

Unity Technologies releases Unity 5

Originally posted on 18 March 2014. Scroll down for updates, including the new Unity 5 launch demo.

Unity Technologies has unveiled Unity 5, the next major update to its game engine and development toolset, adding physically based materials, real-time GI, 64-bit support and an extensive new audio-editing system.

The upcoming release, described by the developer as a “massive update” was announced at GDC 2014.

Physically based shading, real-time GI, and real-time lightmap previews
In his post on the company’s blog, Unity CEO David Helgason describes the biggest changes in Unity 5 as being those relating to lighting and shading.

First off, Unity 5 introduces support for physically based materials – flavour of the month in games tool development, given their recent inclusion in Substance Designer 4, Allegorithmic’s texture-creation package.

The update will also introduce full deferred shading and baked reflection probes, and thanks to the integration of Geomerics’ Enlighten middleware – previously used in games like Battlefield 4 – real-time global illumination.

Thanks to another technology partnership, this time with Imagination Technologies, Unity 5 also supports in-editor real-time lightmap previews based on Imagination’s PowerVR raytracing technology.

Better physics, better performance, better… trees?
In the world of real-time physics, PhysX has been updated to the latest release, version 3.3; while the 2D physics system added in Unity 4.3 has been extended to include new effectors.

Performance has also been substantially improved, thanks to full 64-bit support, a multithreaded job scheduler and loading and NavMesh optimisations.

The features list also mentions integration with IDV’s SpeedTree vegetation-generation system – although we can’t actually find any more details on either company’s website.

Non-graphics-related features
Outside the art department, the Unity Cloud interstitial ad-exchange network, announced alongside Unity 4.3, will also make its official debut, and there is an extensive new set of audio tools.

Unity’s new WebGL add-on, developed in partnership with Mozilla, and available in early access in Unity 5.

Unity 5 will also provide “early access” to the new new WebGL add-on, created in partnership with Mozilla, and enabling developers to publish games directly to modern web browsers without the need for third-party plugins.

Updated 23 May: Unity Technologies has posted a new video of Unity 5 in action (above).

The Teleporter demo, one of the developer’s own internal test projects, uses the new Standard PBR shader. There are around 30 texture sets, with map sizes up to 4K, including secondary detail maps for dust and cracks.

The PBR materials make use of HDR reflections from a series of reflection probes and cubemaps placed along the body of the machine. Some elements use real-time reflections; others static reflections to cut render times.

The background scene uses directional lightmaps, while the machine is composed of partly skinned and dynamic meshes hooked up to light probes and making use of IBL and a variety of light sources.

You can find more technical details on the Unity blog.

Updated 3 March 2015: Unity 5 is shipping. Unity Technologies has announced a new pricing model for the software, removing the restrictions from the free edition, and offering Pro users bonus services.

You can find more details of the new Personal and Pro Editions of the software here.

And if you want some idea of what Unity 5 is capable of, check out The Blacksmith (above): a new short film designed to show off the release’s core features.

Matching the resources available to many Unity studios, the near-photorealistic short was completed by a three-person team and rendered in real-time on a “normal gaming PC”.

Read more about Unity 5 on Unity Technologies’ website