Thursday, June 11th, 2015 Posted by Jim Thacker

Unity Technologies ships Unity 5.1

Cloudhead Games‘ upcoming Unity-based adventure The Gallery. Unity 5.1 adds a new optimised rendering pipeline for VR and AR devices. Oculus Rift is supported natively, with native support for other platforms to come.

Unity Technologies has released Unity 5.1, the first update to its game engine and development environment since its milestone 5.0 release, which – among other things – removed all restritions from the free edition.

Native support for Oculus Rift
As a free update, 5.1 isn’t quite as ground-breaking, but it does expand Unity’s existing support for VR devices, including native deployment to the Oculus Rift.

Rift users can plug in their dev kit and playtest a game right out of the box. Unity automatically handles head tracking, applies an appropriate field of view and renders the content in stero.

Full native support for other VR platforms, including Microsoft’s HoloLens and Samsung’s Gear VR, will follow.

New graphics options
For artists, the other main new feature is an HDR Color Picker, improving the Standard shader workflow for changing the emission colour of a material. Emission colour can now be animated from the animation window.

Unity also now supports crunched DXT texture compression – a lossy, but highly efficient, compression method.

Under the hood, there is a single unified renderer for all supported versions of OpenGL and OpenGL ES, which should help standardise graphical performance across desktop and mobile devices.

Mulitplayer, Analytics and Cloud Build tools for Pro users
If you’re using the Pro version of the software and its accompanying add-ons, Unity 5.1 also introduces a preview of the new Unity Multiplayer Service, which supports up to 100 concurrent users.

Player sessions can be tracked using the new Analytics toolset, which is also in preview.

Finally for Pro uses, the Cloud Build service for automating builds for iOS, Android and the Unity web player that was introduced in Unity 5.0 now supports Mercurial source control, as well as Git, SVN and Perforce.

In addition, there is the usual long list of smaller features and bugfixes, which you can find in the release notes.

Pricing and availability
Unity 5.1 is available now for Windows XP SP2+, 7 SP1+ and 8; and Mac OS X 10.8+. Personal licences, available to anyone making under $100,000 a year, are free; Pro licences cost $1,500 or $75/month.

Read a full list of new features in Unity 5.1