During the summer, I've had the pleasure to mentor Michał Mandrysz, as he created an External Lightmapping Tool for Unity, as part of Unity's Summer Of Code. As of today, you can download the tool from the resources section of our website.
What is it?
A tool that lets you use 3d Studio Max to make great looking lighting for your game.
I've been making lightmaps for ages already, why would I care?
Because with this tool, you can actually layout your scenes in Unity. Previously if you wanted to use lightmaps, you'd usually layout your scenes in 3d Studio Max or Maya or some other tool, and would have had a hard time moving things around in Unity later on.
Do you have some examples for this?
Take a look at this video tutorial from Michał, going over the example project included with the tool.
Great. Do I need to prepare my assets in any way to make this work?
You need to provide lightmap texturecoordinates for all meshes that you want to have lightmapped. However each object can have its own seperate lightmap sheet. The tool will take all lightmap sheets from all specified objects in the scene, put them all into one mega lightmap sheet, export your scene to fbx, have Max import the fbx, have Max generate a lightmap, and then that lightmap gets picked up by Unity automatically.
Take a look at this more detailed screencast, which goes trough this process, and shows how to go from an empty project to a lightmapped environment.
But I don't use max! I use .....
There's nothing in the tool that makes the technique inherently limited to 3d Studio Max. However the tool does provide some nice extensions to Max that make the lighting baking a one click process. With a bit of effort, one could take this project, and make it work for other authoring tools.
I still have some other question
Try out the new answers.unity3d.com and get it answered!
Many thanks and congratulations from the Unity team go out to Michał for being part of the Summer of Code program. You can find more indepth info on the tool on Michal's website.