Unity (game engine)
|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (July 2014)|
|Stable release||5.0 / Mar 3, 2015|
|Written in||C and C++|
|Type||Game creation system|
Unity is a cross-platform game creation system developed by Unity Technologies, including a game engine and integrated development environment (IDE). It is used to develop video games for web sites, desktop platforms, consoles, and mobile devices. First announced only for Mac OS, at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in 2005, it has since been extended to target more than fifteen platforms. It is now the default software development kit (SDK) for the Wii U.
Unity is notable for its ability to target games to multiple platforms. Within a project, developers have control over delivery to mobile devices, web browsers, desktops, and consoles. Supported platforms include BlackBerry 10, Windows Phone 8, Windows, OS X, Linux (mainly Ubuntu), Android, iOS, Unity Web Player (including Facebook), Adobe Flash, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, and Wii. It includes an asset server and Nvidia's PhysX physics engine. Unity Web Player is a browser plugin that is supported in Windows and OS X only. Unity is the default software development kit (SDK) for Nintendo's Wii U video game console platform, with a free copy included by Nintendo with each Wii U developer license. Unity Technologies calls this bundling of a third-party SDK an "industry first".
Unity Pro is available for a fee, and Unity Personal has no fee; it is available for any use to individuals or companies with less than US$100,000 of annual gross revenue. On March 3, 2015 Unity Technologies made available the complete engine with their upcoming new version 5 (Unity 5) for free including all features, less source code and support.
With an emphasis on portability, the graphics engine targets the following APIs: Direct3D on Windows and Xbox 360; OpenGL on Mac, Windows, and Linux; OpenGL ES on Android and iOS; and proprietary APIs on video game consoles. Unity allows specification of texture compression and resolution settings for each platform the game supports, and provides support for bump mapping, reflection mapping, parallax mapping, screen space ambient occlusion (SSAO), dynamic shadows using shadow maps, render-to-texture and full-screen post-processing effects. Unity's graphics engine's platform diversity can provide a shader with multiple variants and a declarative fallback specification, allowing Unity to detect the best variant for the current video hardware; and if none are compatible, fall back to an alternative shader that may sacrifice features for performance.
Unity 5 was released for free on March 3, 2015, adding the much anticipated real-time global illumination based on the Geomerics Enlighten technology. Other major changes include physically-based shaders, HDR sky-boxes, reflection probes, a new audio mixer with effects and enhanced animator workflows. PhysX was updated to 3.3, whereas Unity 4.x had an aging version. Unity's Cloud Build system was introduced (for $25/month for non-pro users) as well as 'Game Performance Reporting' and the beta 'Game Analytics' (also $25/month for non-pro users) which logs players usage and performance on released games, something that many developers found hard to implement in Unity 4.x. Previously, a game developer needed to code support for player logging directly into their game engine.
Smaller additions include: A 64-bit editor to handle large projects, iOS 64-bit support, new deferred rendering, graphics command buffers, improved linear lighting, HDR, skybox and cubemap workflows, improved job scheduling system, a new 'CPU Timeline Profiler' lets you see and investigate multicore usage, improved NavMesh pathfinding system, integrated SpeedTree (a 3rd-party vegetation creation program) support to create lush, rich and dynamic vegetation, new Frame Debugger to track down graphical issues in your projects, Improved Project Wizard, updated standard assets, new UI and scripting APIs for AssetBundle Build system and lastly, access to the new Asset Store Level 11 program: Available for free to Unity 5 Professional customers, and soon to be available to Unity Personal Edition users for $19/month.
PhysX 3.3 update
Up until Unity 5 the engine was using a fairly outdated version of nVidia's PhysX physics middleware. The 3.3 version included in Unity 5, which is standard among triple-a quality video games includes the following features: multithreaded simulation for platforms that support it, a new cloth component for character clothing. New wheel colliders make better support for suspension and tire force simulation in vehicle based games. Collision mesh detection is improved and bake-free scaled MeshCollider support as well. All these features means the physics will be much more realistic in Unity 5 and no longer prone to the problems and bugs that plagues developers in Unity 4.x.
Supported platforms in Unity 5
Unity 5 brings support for Windows, Mac, Linux/Steam OS, Unity Webplayer, Android, iOS, Blackberry 10, Windows Phone 8, Tizen, Windows Store apps, WebGL, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Wii U. Xbox One, Xbox 360, Android TV, Samsung Smart TV, Oculus Rift, and Gear VR for a total of 21 supported platforms.
More Unity 5 Release notes can be found in the Unity 5.0 changelog
In 2012, VentureBeat said, "Few companies have contributed as much to the flowing of independently produced games as Unity Technologies."
For the Apple Design Awards at the 2006 WWDC trade show, Apple, Inc. named Unity as the runner up for its Best Use of Mac OS X Graphics category, a year after Unity's launch at the same trade show. Unity Technologies says this is the first time a game design tool has ever been nominated for this award. A May 2012 survey by Game Developer magazine indicated Unity as its top game engine for mobile platforms. In July 2014, Unity won the "Best Engine" award at the UK's annual Develop Industry Excellence Awards.
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