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Unity 5.0 announced, with direct-to-web, plugin-free publishing
Gamasutra speaks to Unity CEO David Helgason about the latest version of the popular game engine, which adds new lighting and audio features, and WebGL support.
Today at GDC, Unity announced Unity 5.0, which will add a host of new features to the engine -- notably an overhauled lighting system and direct build-to-browser via the WebGL standard, which means that in the future, a browser plug-in will not be required to play Unity games. In the works for the release -- the timing of which is yet to be determined -- are also an entirely new, physically-based shader system, a new audio system, Unity Cloud support. Unity 5.0 will also adopt global illumination middleware Enlighten as its built-in lighting solution as well as, real-time light map previews from PowerVR. The engine will now support direct importation of SpeedTree files, too.
Unity's new physical shader editor (Click to enlarge)
The engine's audio system has been entirely revamped, and Helgason maintains that "audio designers, for the first time, can be fully productive members of the team with Unity instead of working through another program."
Unity's new audio editor (Click to enlarge)
Unity 5.0 will also be "much smarter about scheduling" on multithreaded processors. "We've learned how to do it really well on multiple platforms, including mobile," says Helgason.
The company has also upgraded the engine's 2D physics, its Mecanim animation system, its NavMesh pathfinding, and added loading optimizations. Unity Cloud cross-promotional marketing functionality will also launch with 5.0.
The engine's WebGL integration is perhaps the biggest deal of the new release. A new WebGL build button will be added to the engine, and Unity projects will play plugin-free in browsers that support the standard.
Helgason puts it this way: "We're coming into a world where some browsers will not support the [Unity] plugin, but some browsers will not support WebGL. Us having both means you can cover every browser."
Unity has spent two years working closely with Mozilla to ready this technology, which is being demoed live at GDC in both Firefox and Google Chrome browsers.
"We've been hiring like absolute madmen," says Helgason. " Now that the core engineering team is 150 people... it definitely is the biggest core engine engineering team in the world."
Unity 5.0 (Click to enlarge)
Though no pricing details on the engine have been released, nor has the company announced exactly what functionality will be in the free and pro versions, Helgason did say this: "The difference [between them] has been shrinking if anything else... We'll be adding some new features to the pro version and the free version. Our philosophy is that if we have something to add, we add some version of it to the free version."