Unity (game engine)
|Initial release||1.0 / June 8, 2005|
|Stable release||5.1.1 / June 17, 2015|
|Written in||C, C++ and C#|
Unity is a cross-platform game engine developed by Unity Technologies and used to develop video games for PC, consoles, mobile devices and websites. First announced only for OS X, 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 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 with the release of Unity 5.0, Unity Technologies made the complete engine available for free including all features, less source code and support. Unity is noted for an ability to target games to multiple platforms.
Five versions of Unity have been released. In 2006 at the 2006 WWDC trade show, Apple, Inc. named Unity as the runner up for its Best Use of Mac OS X Graphics category.
With an emphasis on portability, the engine targets the following APIs: Direct3D on Windows and Xbox 360; OpenGL on Mac and Windows; 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 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, Android, iOS, Unity Web Player (including Facebook), Adobe Flash, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, New 3DS 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 1.0 was announced at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in 2005 and was released on June 8, 2005. The initial release was limited to OS X, both for authoring and game publishing. Features at the time included a shader-oriented OpenGL renderer, physics powered by the Novodex (now PhysX) physics engine, audio support and C# scripting support. The package was available in both a low-priced 'Indie' edition, and a higher-priced 'Pro' edition which included some extra features.
Over subsequent 1.x versions, significant additions included support for building games to run on Windows, both as standalone applications and also in browsers via a browser plugin.
Unity 2.0 was released on October 11, 2007, during the first annual Unite conference. Key additions to the feature set included a terrain engine, networking system (based on RakNet), real-time dynamic shadow rendering, and a system for building game UI. This release also saw the introduction of Unity Asset Server, an add-on product intended to allow teams of developers to share project assets more easily.
On October 4, 2008, the iPhone publishing add-on was announced. This allowed developers to author their games on Mac and publish to iPhone.
In Unity 2.5, released March 19, 2009, support for authoring games on Windows was released.
At the October 2009 Unite conference, it was announced that Unity Technologies would no longer charge for the 'indie' edition of Unity, but would instead make it freely available.
Unity 3.0 was released on October 4, 2010. This brought integrated lightmapping support using Illuminate Labs' Beast technology, occlusion culling powered by Umbra, realtime audio processing effects, and support for C# 3.5. The release also included a 'preview quality' release of support for Android game publishing, sold as a separate add-on; Android support was officially declared 'released' on March 1, 2011.
On November 10, 2010, the Unity Asset Store was launched as an online marketplace for Unity users to sell project assets - artwork, code systems, audio, etc. - to each other.
Unity 3.4 introduced integrated support for Allegorithmic's "Substance" procedural material system.
Unity 3.5, released February 14, 2012, was a notable release for bringing several new features quite late in the version lifecycle: a new particle system named "Shuriken," an integrated pathfinding and navigation framework, level-of-detail management for 3D models, high-dynamic-range rendering, new global illumination features, and a rewrite of the occlusion culling support. This release also saw the introduction of preview support for both Adobe Flash and Google Native Client as publishing platforms.
Unity 4.0 was officially released on November 13, 2012. Major new features include new 'Mecanim' animation system, DirectX 11 support and real-time shadows on mobile platforms.
With the release of Unity 4.0, the company announced a shift towards a release cycle which would see versions be released with fewer features but at a faster rate. As such, subsequent releases in the 4.X line delivered new features as follows:
- Unity 4.1, released March 13, 2013: Memory profiling, support for AirPlay on iOS, and a slew of smaller feature updates for Mecanim and shader editing.
- Unity 4.2, released July 22, 2013: Support for Windows Phone 8, Windows Store and BlackBerry as publishing platforms; OpenGL ES 3.0 support for mobile platforms; integrated version control support for Perforce; and the ability to cancel the build process once started. (The last of these got a round of applause when it was announced at 2013's Unite Nordic).
- Unity 4.3, released November 12, 2013: a new 2D framework, including both 2D rendering support and a 2D physics engine (powered by Box2D).
- Unity 4.5, released May 27, 2014: no significant new features were introduced, as instead this release focused on fixing bugs, reporting more than 450 fixes in the release.
- Unity 4.6, released November 26, 2014: a new UI Framework. Also, version 4.6.2, released on January 29, 2015, added support for 64-bit applications on iOS.
On May 21, 2013, CEO David Helgason announced that the 'basic' editions of the iPhone and Android mobile add-ons would now be available for free from Unity 4.2 onwards.
Unity 5.0 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.
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, intth.
Up until Unity 5.0 the engine was using a fairly outdated version of Nvidia's PhysX physics middleware. Unity 5.0 included version 3.3, which is standard among Triple-A games.
Unity 5.0 brings support for Windows, OS X, Unity Webplayer, Android, iOS, BlackBerry 10, Windows Phone 8, Tizen, WebGL, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, New 3DS, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Android TV, Samsung Smart TV, Oculus Rift and Gear VR for a total of 21 supported platforms.
Games using Unity
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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