“Unity for All 2021: Tech and Creator Showcase” offered an overview of recent and upcoming features and behind-the-scenes stories from the teams who created Oddworld: Soulstorm, Humankind and Crash Bandicoot: On the Run!
Watch the full keynote or read on for highlights.
GDC Showcase 2021 looked and felt different than the conventions we’ve known and loved in the past. But what stayed the same was our excitement to share what we’ve been working on with the whole Unity community and see how the platform continues empowering creators.
We filmed each segment remotely in advance, then stitched everything together before going live. Unity’s General Manager of Games, Kat Strafford, hosted the event as different Unity experts and creators joined in to unveil recent and upcoming tech, provide an overview of the features in this year’s new LTS and Tech Stream releases, and more.
For us, the best part of the keynote was the creator stories peppered throughout the presentation, from teams behind games like Oddworld: Soulstorm, Due Process, Subnautica: Below Zero, and Humankind. These creators ranged from solo devs to big studios, and their projects were totally different – but they were all powered by Unity.
While keynotes usually showcase show-stopping, bleeding-edge tech, this one started out by emphasizing improvements made to give Unity developers a rock-solid foundation on which to build their game. With a focus on quality, productivity and performance, some of the most impactful updates in the Unity engine aim to improve user experience with more efficient workflows and stable features.
Unity 2020 LTS is out now, and the Unity 2021.1 Tech Stream is coming soon. Both releases are designed to offer you the right solutions for your needs – LTS versions, our default, ensure greater stability with two years of support, timely bug fixes and regular improvements. Tech Stream versions offer access to emergent tech and in-development features for those who want to stay on top of what’s next.
The Tech Stream releases are also being bolstered for stability as we change from three to two annual releases. Longer release cycles extend the stabilization phase, giving us more time to validate and improve the stability and quality of our tools between releases. And we’ve also changed our package lifecycle – to clarify how we label features’ readiness and stability.
There are three key areas of focus for the newest releases: Visual scripting, netcode and our render pipelines. You can read more about visual scripting and netcode below, but the big news shared about the pipeline is that graphics packages are being integrated into the core Unity engine in the new Unity Tech Stream 2021.1 release. This shift will simplify your work with new graphics features and ensure that you’re always equipped with the latest verified graphics code – the most recent versions of the Universal Render Pipeline, High-Definition Render Pipeline, Shader Graph and VFX Graph.
Unity 2020 LTS is already available. Here are just a few of the hundreds of small-change improvements in the Unity 2020 LTS that will substantially impact on your workflow:
Check out some of the key changes in the Unity 2021.1 Tech Stream release, mostly geared around streamlining workflows for greater efficiency:
In the 2021.1 Tech Stream release, visual scripting will be available as a core part of the Unity Editor. Here’s what this change means for you.
Visual scripting lets you use node-based graphs instead of traditional code to create interactions and behaviors for games. This grants visual thinkers and non-coding creatives an easier way to contribute and test game logic and mechanics and enables smoother collaboration between different parts of the team. For artists and designers, this means they can get more done in the Editor without requiring help from programmers while maintaining more direct control over their work.
Visual scripting is offered alongside scripting in C#, so you can work in either visual scripting or code, or you can discover great benefits using both together, For programmers, this means an alternative solution to help you quickly prototype and implement ideas. You can also create custom nodes and tools for your teammates.
Now that visual scripting is native to Unity, all you need to get started is add a Script or State Machine component. As part of this release, we’ve also optimized the native visual scripting workflow to maximize productivity by consolidating its tools into a single window. Visual scripting also now provides dedicated support for the new Input System.
Check out this demo to see just how easy it is to get started.
The first experimental Unity package of Netcode Core will be available alongside the new Tech Stream release on March 23rd, 2021. Netcode is the system of solutions and resources for managing networked multiplayer games. Last year, thanks to your feedback, we renewed our focus on delivering a netcode solution for GameObjects – and we’ve decided to do it in the open, alongside the talented netcode community.
We are investing in two key areas in our journey toward a first-party, fully supported netcode solution:
We’re also investing in learning materials to help you get the most out of netcode, and unveiled our first sample game, Boss Room, a small-scale cooperative multiplayer game. Each character has a different ability, and this ability is paired with a tutorial that’s designed to show you some element of how to network this type of game. Boss Room is just the first in a planned line of educational templates for learning how to create and network different types of multiplayer games.
The Boss Room sample game will be available on GitHub alongside the Tech Stream release, so it can continue to grow with the community. You can save the date to download an early-access version of the Boss Room sample on April 7 here.
In 2D, we’ve focused on enhancing performance and usability to give more power to the many graphics features we’ve introduced in the last few years. In the 2021.1 Tech Stream release, you’ll find:
We have collaborated with Arm to reduce memory bandwidth by decreasing the number of unnecessary transactions in lighting systems. They have also reduced the number of renderpasses for significant improvements in bandwidth and frame time. These gains make Unity creators’ content more energy efficient across a broad range of mobile devices – without creating any more work for you.
Our new Dragon Crashers 2D demo was made to show you Unity’s 2D tools in action in a hands-on sample project – you can download it for free from the Unity Asset Store.
We’re thrilled to announce the launch of Upres 2.0 in ArtEngine, which promises to raise the bar and set the industry standard for remastering tools. Upres 2.0 lets you take old, outdated assets and elevate them to today’s standards to extend their life. It helps studios future proof their content, so that it will look amazing on the next generation of consoles and platforms.
ArtEngine, Unity’s assisted creation tool that uses AI to remove time-consuming and repetitive material creation tasks anywhere in your pipeline. To celebrate the GDC Showcase and the launch of Upres 2.0, we are offering ArtEngine at a massive discount. Find out more here.
Nathaniel Bell, principal technical artist at Insomniac Games, highlights Upres 2.0 as “the best remastering tool on the market” while discussing the ArtEngine features used to develop their new workflow for games’ material creation.
Unity Game Simulation, our automated playtesting solution, lets you simulate thousands of playthroughs of your actual game in the cloud to dramatically improve the number, frequency and scope of your tests.
The results are pretty incredible:
SundayTOZ, the studio behind beloved Korean match-3 game Anipang 4, release 20 to 30 new levels every 2–3 weeks – and they can test each level over 1,000 times to check for difficulty and balance.
We think nothing tells the Unity story better than how creators use it to succeed. Unity for All featured appearances by Unity creators of all kinds, each with their own challenges and goals – and their own story of how Unity helped them to succeed:
Creators around the globe are using Unity to tell stories that power real-world change – and help us to better understand one another and our shared world. In 2018, we founded the Unity for Humanity grant program to celebrate and support these creators, their projects, and the social issues they’re tackling. The program provides technical, marketing and monetary support to creators who address themes like education, economic opportunity, sustainability, health and well-being, and inclusive storytelling in their projects.
Each of the five grant recipients from the program’s last call for submissions will receive $25,000 USD, along with $4,000 worth of Unity Professional Services support, and mentorship from Unity employees. We’ll be sharing more information about the grant recipients and their inspiring projects on the blog this week, so stay tuned.
Our next Unity for Humanity Grant’s call for submissions opens on April 22. If you’re working on a big idea that could change the world, stay tuned for details and apply here.
The GDC Showcase 2021 was so much fun. It was also a reminder of just how tough and strange the last year has been. Around this time last year, we were just getting ready for GDC 2020 when the pandemic arrived and the event was cancelled at the last minute. We were thrilled to be back this year in digital form to look back on the essential role that games played in 2020, as they allowed us to connect with friends and escape for a while.
You can see the full keynote here, and check out the full GDC Showcase 2021 lineup of talks, presentations, hands-on workshops, demos and more.