Wednesday, July 12th, 2017 Posted by Jim Thacker

Unity Technologies releases Unity 2017.1

Unity Technologies has released Unity 2017.1, the latest version of its game engine and development environment, adding new cinematics tools and updating the sprite editing, animation and particle toolsets.

Non-graphics-related changes include support for ambisonic audio clips, new analytics options, and the official release of the Unity Collaborate platform and Asset Bundle Browser.

New cinematics toolsets: Timeline and Cinemachine
The biggest new features in Unity 2017.1 are cinematic editing toolset Timeline and procedural camera system Cinemachine, shown in the video at the top of the story.

We wrote about both toolsets when they were previewed at Unite Europe 2017 last month, so check out the original story for more details.

Since then, Unity has also released version 2 of the Post-Processing Stack: the free add-on mentioned in the story which provides grading tools and post effects. You can download it in beta from GitHub.

Other new graphics features: updated sprite and particle tools
Outside the cinematics toolsets, the new feature of most interest to CG artists will probably be the new Sprite Atlas, which supersedes the old Sprite Packer for managing sprites for 2D animation.

The Sprite Atlas can automatically generate downscaled variants of sprites to help support multiple screen resolutions; and introduces a new scripting API for finer control over the output.

The 2017.1 update also introduces a Sprite Mask system for masking the visibility of parts of sprites; and the option to assign a custom collision shape to a sprite during 2D physics simulations.

Sprites are also now supported by the 2D particle system: one of a number of improvements to the toolset, including more options for emitting particles and assigning noise to particle systems.

The changes are quite specific, so for details, it’s easiest just to check that section of the release notes.

New animation recording features, updates to Lightmapper and FBX import
The animation toolset also gets the interesting new experimental GameObjectRecorder system, which captures any changes made to a GameObject and its children as an animation clips.

Suggested uses range from a quick way of recording cutscenes – rather than keyframing characters or props, you can puppet them directly – to capturing and playing back complex physics sims more cheaply.

Other graphics-related changes include support for baked LODs in the Progressive Lightmapper, originally introduced in Unity 5.6; performance improvements to real-time shadows; and improved FBX import.

Nvidia’s VRWorks technology, intended to provide improved rendering performance for virtual reality apps, primarily when running on Nvidia GPUs, is also now supported via a free add-on from the Unity Asset Store.

Non-graphics-related changes: support for ambisonic audio clips
Unity 2017.1 also adds support for ambisonic audio – full-sphere surround sound – and the new Playables API, which enables devs to create tools or gameplay effects by organising data sources in a tree graph.

In addition, cloud-based collaboration platform Unity Collaborate is now officially out of beta, as is the Asset Bundle Browser for viewing and editing content archives for Unity projects.

There are also updates to the analytics tools for tracking players’ in-game behaviour. You can read a full list of changes via the link at the foot of this story.

Pricing and availability
Unity 2017.1 is available for Windows 7+ and Mac OS X 10.8+. The software is available on a rental-only basis.

Free Personal subscriptions have a non-editable splash screen and can be used by anyone with revenue of up to $100,000/year; paid Plus and Pro plans cost $35/seat/month and $125/seat/month respectively.

Read more about the new features in Unity 2017.1 on Unity Technologies’ blog