Wednesday, September 25th, 2019 Posted by Jim Thacker

See every new Unity feature from Unite Copenhagen 2019

Unity Technologies has previewed a range of new technologies coming up in Unity, its game engine and development environment, during the keynote of its Unite Copenhagen 2019 user event.

Key announcements include Unity Simulation, a separate cloud-based service for testing multiple instances of a Unity project in parallel, and GameTune, a new machine-learning-based game optimisation system.

The firm also showed a preview of MARS, its upcoming framework for authoring mixed reality applications, and announced new hardware-specific companion apps for mobile and wearable AR devices.

Other previews of upcoming toolsets included Unity Reflect, designed to streamline the process of transferring BIM and CAD data from Revit to Unity.

Coverage of Unity’s artist tools focused on the 2D animation, lighting and shading systems rolled out earlier this year in Unity 2019.2, and due to become production-ready in the upcoming Unity 2019.3.

Programmers got the announcement of a sample project for Unity’s DOTS coding environment, showcasing new animation, networking code and ‘content conversion’ DOTS components.

The full recording of the keynote, embedded above, is two hours long, so below, we’ve provided timecodes for the key sections, a summary of the announcements, and details of when the features will actually ship.

Skip to: 00:30:00

Originally rolled out in Unity 2018.1, Unity’s Data-Oriented Technology Stack comprises a range of foundational technologies for writing code that takes advantage of modern multi-core CPUs.

During the keynote, Unity previewed upcoming features designed to streamline coding workflows, with the compiler generating boilerplate code automatically, rather than programmers having to add it manually.

Unity also previewed an upcoming DOTS sample project: a simple third-person shooter intended to showcase how a range of DOTS programming packages work together.

New packages cover animation, netcode, and “conversion workflow”, which enables a user to make changes inside the Unity Editor and see the results in Play Mode on another device, without having to reload.

Release status
New DOTS programming packages: due in preview in Unity 2019.3 and Unity 2020.1 (see a breakdown here)
DOTS sample project: due “very soon”

Multiplayer features
Skip to: 00:42:00

Coverage of Unity’s multiplayer services was framed as a case study of how the functionality is used in Shadowgun War Games, Madfinger Games‘ upcoming mobile FPS.

New features being used by the developer include a package for high-speed transfer of data to and from the game server, designed to reduce in-game latency; and a dedicated server hosting and match-making system, intended to enable devs to control which players are assigned to which server with custom C# functions.

Release status
Transport package: available in preview
Multiplay Matchmaking package: due in beta in October 2019

Skip to: 00:47:00

First announced at Unite Berlin 2018, Unity’s Mixed and Augmented Reality Studio extension is a development environment for creating extended reality experiences.

At Unite Copenhagen, the firm showed a glimpse of its editor interface, intended to provide a WYSIWYG view of the interactions being authored without the need to create a device build.

The firm also announced that the editor will be accompanied by companion apps for different devices: initially mobile platforms, with apps for wearable mixed reality platforms Magic Leap and HoloLens to follow.

According to Unity, the companion apps will make it possible to record camera footage and world data on a mobile phone and export it back to the editor without having to create a build of a project.

Release status:
MARS editor: due in beta in 2020
MARS companion apps: No confirmed release date

Other augmented reality features
Skip to: 00:50:15

The underlying technology for MARS, Unity’s AR Foundation framework is intended to enable devs to write code once, then deploy it to a range of augmented reality devices.

During the keynote, Unity announced that those devices now include Magic Leap and HoloLens 2, on top of its existing support for Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore platforms, used on iOS and Android mobiles.

Unity is also releasing a new toolset, XR Interaction Toolkit, intended to enable developers to add interactions to AR and VR applications by adding components to objects within a project.

It supports a range of input methods, ranging from touch controls and gestures on mobile devices to controller or hand tracking.

The firm is also making it possible to embed Unity as a library within mobile apps, enabling developers to add AR functionality to existing apps without having to rebuild them from scratch.

Release status:
Support for Magic Leap and HoloLens 2 inside AR Foundation: due in preview in Unity 2019.3
XR Interaction Toolkit: due in preview in Unity 2019.3, production-ready in Unity 2020.1
Embedding Unity inside existing mobile apps: available in preview, production-ready in Unity 2019.3

Unity Reflect
Skip to: 00:53:10

Announced earlier this year, Unity Reflect is a new ‘one-click’ solution for transferring CAD and BIM data from Revit to Unity during architectural visualisation and construction work.

It includes a Revit plugin and a standalone viewer application, making it possible to make changes to a project within Revit and see the result in real-time on mobile, desktop or AR devices.

The keynote didn’t add much new information to Unity’s original blog post, but it did provide a chance to see the system in action, with Adam Chernick, R&D lead for AR/VR at SHoP Architects, showing how the firm is using Unity Reflect to help visualise Brooklyn skyscraper 9 DeKalb Avenue.

Release status:
Unity Reflect: In closed beta, launching “fall 2019”

Unity Simulation
Skip to: 01:00:40

The biggest new service announced during the keynote, Unity Simulation is an entirely new cloud-based simulation platform.

Based on Google Cloud, it is intended to enable users to run huge numbers of application tests in parallel online, on a wide range of hardware.

Suggested use cases extend well beyond gaming, with Unity discussing the system’s potential for training the AI for self-driving cars.

Release status:
Unity Simulation: in closed beta

Skip to: 01:07:30

Another related announcement from the keynote was GameTune: a machine-learning-based system for optimising games and balancing gameplay.

Users select an optimisation rarget – for example, player retention – and a range of settings to test, with GameTune continuously retuning the game to the current top-performing answer.

In the keynote, Futureplay game designer Tatu Laine discussed its use on mobile clicker title Idle Farming Empire, describing how GameTune not only generated unexpected, but successful, changes to game settings, but made more radical changes than the studio would have risked with conventional A/B testing.

Release status
GameTune: In open beta

2D graphics tools
Skip to: 01:12:30

The most artist-focused part of the keynote was, sadly, also the least novel: the 2D tools on show are already available in preview in the current stable release, Unity 2018.2.

However, the presentation did provide a chance to see the functionality in more detail, in a very beautiful demo: The Lost Crypt, created by Canadian studio Back to the Game.

Features on show included the built-in 2D renderer inside the Universal Render Pipeline – Unity’s new name for the mobile-focused Lightweight Render Pipeline – and native 2D lighting system.

At 01:17:45, you can see it being used to create a day-night cycle dynamically, by adjusting a Global Time slider, instead of having to generate time-of-day variations for each sprite in the level manually.

Other neat demos include the use of the new 2D Shader Graph to create a realistic water material (01:19:00), the use of sprite tiling system Sprite Shape to shape 2D terrain (01:19:15) – it can even generate platform colliders – and the new 2D character rigging and IK system (01:19:55).

The final parts of the keynote covered the Universal Render Pipeline itself, which you can see at 01:21:05, and its desktop and console-focused counterpart, the High Definition Render Pipeline.

The latter, which starts at 01:27:00, covers the new features in the HDRP developed for The Heretic, Unity’s new rendering demo – the full seven-minute version of which premiered at the show.

Release status:
2D graphics tools: available in preview, production-ready in Unity 2019.3
Universal Render Pipeline: production-ready
High Definition Render Pipeline: available in preview, production-ready in Unity 2019.3

Pricing and system requirements
The current stable release of Unity, Unity 2019.2, is available for Windows 7+ and macOS 10.12+. Unity 2019.3 is available in beta, also for Windows 7+ and macOS 10.12+.

The software is available on a rental-only basis: free Personal subscriptions have a non-removable 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 announcements from Unite Copenhagen 2019 on Unity Technologies’ blog