Unity 2019.3 ships
Originally posted on 29 August 2019. Scroll down for news of the final release.
Unity Technologies has released Unity 2019.3 in beta. The third of this year’s cycle of updates to the game engine introduces a new Hi-DPI-compatible UI, and upates lightmapping, animation and physics workflows.
The release also introduces experimental support for hardware-accelerated ray tracing on Nvidia’s RTX graphics cards in Unity’s High Definition Render Pipeline.
New user interface scales better to Hi-DPI displays
The most visible change in Unity 2019.3 is the updated interface, shown in the image above.
The UI has been redesigned to scale better across a range of screen sizes, right up to Hi-DPI displays, introducing a new interface font and new, more standardised icons.
In addition, visual feedback has been added when hovering over interface elements.
Rendering: RTX ray tracing in the HDRP, post effects in the LWRP
For artists, the other big changes are to Unity’s default render pipelines.
In the case of the High Definition Render Pipline (HDRP), intended for desktop and console games, that means support for hardware-accelerated ray tracing on Nvidia’s RTX graphics cards.
Unity Technologies announced that it would be supporting RTX hardware for ray tracing at GDC this year, along with a number of other game engine and render engine developers.
The implementation in Unity 2019.3 is still officially in preview, and is described as primarily targeting the “engineering and architecture industries”, not entertainment.
In the case of the Lightweight Render Pipeline (LWRP), intended for mobile and online titles, that means a change of name: it’s now the Universal Render Pipeline, which gives it the rather unfotunate acronym URP.
More significantly, the URP also now supports post-processing effects, similar to those in the HDRP.
Supported features include anti-aliasing, depth of field, camera motion blur, Panini projection, bloom, lens distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting, film grain, and colour grading and tonemapping.
Lighting: updates to both CPU and GPU lightmappers, more options for working with light probes
Unity’s native lightmap bakers also both get updates, with the GPU Progressive Lightmapper introduced in Unity 2018.3 inching closer to feature parity with its CPU counterpart.
The update also integrates AMD’s Radeon Pro Lightmap Denoiser, based on the GPU-agnostic render denoising technology used in AMD’s own Radeon ProRender software.
The CPU lightmapper gets support for light power sampling, plus new light shapes corresponding to the box and pyramid shapes for spot lights in the HDRP pipeline.
Other changes to lighting include the option to merge light probes from additively loaded scenes; and “more flexible” light probe sample counts, intended to improve probe quality in scenes with emissive materials.
Unity Technologies also announced last month that it is to deprecate Enlighten, the third-party real-time GI and light baking solution it licences from Geomerics, its original developer.
Enlighten will remain available in the HDRP until Unity 2019.4, which will be supported as-is until 2022.
The move is discussed in more detail in this blog post. It’s worth reading the comments, as some statements in the main article are contentious.
Updates to animation, physics and terrain editing
Other new artist features in Unity 2019.3 include the option to preview animation rigging and keyframing inside Unity’s Timeline cinematic editor, as shown in the video above.
The functionality makes it possible to edit animations using a character’s rig controls while working within Timeline; and the create custom animations by layering multiple motion clips.
The version of Nvidia’s PhysX physics system integrated inside Unity has also been updated from 3.4 to 4.1.
Unity’s terrain tools can also now be used to create terrains with holes, like caves or trenches. The holes are supported by Unity’s physics, lightmapping and navmesh systems.
Other changes: enter Play Mode faster when iterating on a project, updates to the Package Manager
Other key changes in Unity 2019.3 include the option to disable domain or scene reloading when entering Play Mode to test a project if there have been no code changes.
Unity claims that the feature can save “50-90% of iteration time” when developing a project.
Unity’s Package Manager has also been updated, and can now be used to manage assets bought via the Unity Asset Store as well as official add-ons to the engine.
It is also now possible to install packages directly from Git repositories via the URL.
The release also updates Unity’s asset database system, introducing asset dependency tracking; and introduces an experimental new control-device-agnostic input system.
You can find a complete list of changes via the link below.
Updated 28 January 2019: Unity 2019.3 is now officially shipping.
The release comes a month later than the equivalent updates from previous years, and follows shortly after that of The Heretic, the latest Unity real-time demo short, which was created using Unity 2019.3.
Support for materials from third-party renderers, updated 2D tools
As well as those covered in the story above, new artist features in the release include support for the 3ds Max Physical material, the Arnold Standard Surface shader and the Autodesk Interactive shader.
Developers can also add support for other third-party materials, reducing the need to rebuild materials when importing scenes created in other DCC tools into Unity for rendering.
The update also adds the option to disable viewport picking for parts of a scene, making it easier to select the correct scene objects for editing.
2D artists get a range of new or updated tools (shown above), including an experimental sprite swapping system, which generates character variants with different looks, but the same underlying rig and animation.
Pricing and system requirements
Unity 2019.3 is available for Windows 7+ and macOS 10.12.6+. Linux support is in preview.
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.