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Games Focus: What’s next

September 9, 2022 in Technology | 14 min. read
Games Focus blog 01, hero image
Games Focus blog 01, hero image

This post is the first in a new blog series we’re launching to share what Unity is doing for all game developers – now, next year, and in the future.

I’m Ralph. I have had the joy of working at Unity for over 11 years, and I now oversee the development of our game engine, Editor, and all things games. I started out at Unity as an engineer on the engine and Editor, back when Unity was still a small startup with an equally small office in Denmark. But our mission was big – we wanted to democratize game development so anyone could start making games.

Fast forward to today. Unity is used by millions of creators to make wonderful, diverse games across platforms. 

Over the years, more and more people in different industries beyond games have turned to Unity to create real-time interactive content. We’ve heard the concern that all these new uses and customers pull us away from where we come from. I want to be clear on this: Games have always been at the heart of what we do, and will remain at the heart of what we do. 

Our goal and mission is quite simple:

Unity enables you to create extraordinary games of all kinds and reach your players wherever they are.

I love this video, as it celebrates our vision of success – the wonderful games you bring to life with Unity.

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Just a few of the exceptional games we showcased at our indie booth for gamescom 2022

This post kicks off a new series that shares what we’re doing to deliver the tools you need to create games with Unity. Leaders and dev teams from across the company are going to tell you what they’re working on, what you can expect from us, and what that means for you and your projects. 

Where we’re going to spend our time

We’re working toward delivering substantial improvements to the following areas in every release:

  • Making it as efficient as possible for you to create with Unity by shipping the production-ready features and improvements that matter most to you
  • Empowering you to build more immersive and beautiful experiences on Unity
  • Providing you with better performance in the Editor and at runtime on target platforms

Your top requests and feedback set our priorities. Based on what we’re hearing from you, these are our priorities to work on and discuss in this series:

  • Stable, fast, unified platform and core
  • Rendering that scales with your needs
  • Tools to create and operate multiplayer games
  • Larger worlds and richer environments
  • Visual scripting and codeless creation tools for more efficient collaboration between programmers and non-programmers
  • Ability to reach more players over multiple platforms and form factors
  • DevOps process improvements
  • Clarity on how community feedback shapes our development

Let’s look at just the first of these topics in detail to start.

Stable, fast, unified platform and core

While there is a lot that goes into this (and that’s an understatement!), we’re going to dive into three very different feature areas that show the changes we’ve been making since the Unity 2021 LTS release in April 2022. I’ll start with the Universal Render Pipeline (URP), then talk about writing and running code, and finally share a bit about user interface design.

Universal Render Pipeline

What’s ready for you today

Here are the improvements we’ve made to the URP. About 30% of Unity projects now use URP, including games like As Dusk Falls and Lost in Random. To me, both of these are extraordinary achievements, each with their own fully realized style and storytelling. We want URP to be the first choice for everyone, and there’s a road to go from 30% to 100% with you.

Some images of amazing games built on URP, taken from our technical e-book, Introduction to the Universal Render Pipeline for advanced Unity creators: Crash Bandicoot: On the Run! by King Digital Entertainment, for mobile (top left), Population: ONE by BigBox VR Inc, for PC VR platforms (top right), Tales of Iron by Odd Bug Studio, CI Games, for console and PC (lower left), and Circuit Superstars by Original Fire Games (lower right).
Some images of amazing games built on URP, taken from our technical e-book, Introduction to the Universal Render Pipeline for advanced Unity creators: Crash Bandicoot: On the Run! by King Digital Entertainment, for mobile (top left), Population: ONE by BigBox VR Inc, for PC VR platforms (top right), Tales of Iron by Odd Bug Studio, CI Games, for console and PC (lower left), and Circuit Superstars by Original Fire Games (lower right).

Incremental improvement happens based on your requests and feedback. Since the Unity 2021 LTS release this past April, over 50 improvements have been made to URP alone. Here’s a small sample:

  • AMD FidelityFX™ Super Resolution support
  • Automatic decal scalability when using the Adaptive Performance Package
  • Avoiding an extra Blit when using renderer features, substantially improving performance on certain platforms
  • UX improvements to the Render Pipeline Converter tool, which assists with converting projects from the Built-in Render Pipeline to URP
  • Improved quality of Realtime lights and shadows to be more consistent across all platforms

What’s next

Through 2023, one big improvement that we’re working on is the ability to easily author text-based shaders, a big ask from the community. Block Shaders are a new streamlined workflow which provides Surface Shader support for Scriptable Render Pipelines.

We heard that managing and scaling your game, from the highest-end GPU-based architectures to the lowest, is a challenge. One of our priorities for 2023 is to provide unified workflows and settings across all rendering pipelines out of the box, starting with the ability to host both URP and the High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) in the same project. 

We’re working on a solution to reduce the cost of creating content for different architectures and platforms by enabling you to author your content with a single set of properties.

Ultimately, our goal for URP is to make it the most performant renderer on all the platforms we support, with full functional parity with the Built-in Render Pipeline and detailed documentation. Stay tuned for the upcoming blog post in this series about graphics, which will provide more about our plans for rendering. You can always find more information about development plans in the URP product roadmap page

Resources

The community is always asking for more advanced technical content. In the past year, we’ve produced a collection of free instructional e-books for experienced users, including two for rendering:

Universal Render Pipeline advanced guide

Writing and running your code

The many hours you spend writing code, debugging, profiling, and iterating should go as smoothly as possible. We’re working hard to shave off the time spent switching between the Editor, your IDE, and Game view or Play mode.

What’s ready for you today

So, how are we doing this? To start with, we have been optimizing our asset import since the release of 2021 LTS, and we’ve made it 3–4 times faster, while project import times are 8.7% faster compared to 2020 LTS.

We’ve improved IL2CPP build times by 20% since the last LTS release, and by 40% since 2019.4. Our investment in our suite of Profiler tools helps you identify performance bottlenecks more efficiently and in greater detail. Our Memory Profiler, which will soon be production-ready, adds detailed profiling for both user and engine code, as well as faster location of memory use.

What’s next

Looking ahead to 2023 and 2024, we’ll move both the Editor and runtime to Microsoft’s CoreCLR, thereby providing you with the best possible .NET experience and enabling all the latest C# 10.0 features. This will also bring a high-performance just-in-time (JIT) compiler, server-ready garbage collector, more robust debugging, and access to the ubiquitous tooling for testing, profiling, and diagnostics from the .NET ecosystem.

We’ll be sharing a blog post on performance in the weeks if you want to know more, or you can check out our Editor roadmap page for details about where things are going.

Resources

We’re making multiple investments in sharing more real-world best practices in partnership with Unity Professional Services, a team that helps some of the biggest studios using Unity with in-depth analysis of their project’s code and assets to identify areas for optimization. Here are three e-books packed with advanced, actionable tips to help keep your game development as efficient as possible:

Game performance e-books from Unity, cover images of three side-by-side

User interface

What’s ready for you today

UI Toolkit is a unified collection of features, resources, and tools for building adaptive UIs for a wide range of game applications or editor extensions. Since the introduction of the UI Builder and runtime support for UI Toolkit in Unity 2021.2, we’ve released 30 bug fixes and performance improvements based on your feedback and reported issues, including:

  • UI hierarchy more resilient to changes
  • Rendering issues fixed on certain mobile GPUs
  • Styling elements that display accurately when rendered

What’s next

In 2022, we’ll be shipping UI Toolkit as production-ready for making Editor UI. For you, that means it will be the recommended solution over IMGUI for making extensions for the Unity Editor.

In 2023, we’ll be focused on foundational improvements to increase your speed building UI, making it more extensible and faster. I’m particularly excited about our new data-binding workflows, which is much more designer-friendly with visual workflow for binding data to UI. You can always find details about UI Toolkit and more in our product roadmap page for gameplay and UI design.

An image from the demo UI Toolkit Sample – Dragon Crashers, which will be available shortly to download for free from the Unity Asset Store. The demo is a companion piece to an upcoming technical e-book, User interface design and implementation in Unity.
An image from the demo UI Toolkit Sample – Dragon Crashers, which will be available shortly to download for free from the Unity Asset Store. The demo is a companion piece to an upcoming technical e-book, User interface design and implementation in Unity.
Resources

Stay tuned for more

In each post in this series, Unity developers explain specific initiatives for their area of specialty, sharing what we’ve done, what you can expect in the 2022 LTS cycle, and what’s planned for the upcoming years.

Up next in Games Focus, Ali Mohebali, Matthieu Muller, and Aljosha Demeulemeester from the graphics teams are going to outline key improvements and plans for the rendering pipelines in Unity, with specific details about what’s planned for delivery in the near future.

Your feedback gives shape to everything we’ve discussed here, so please share your thoughts on what you’ve read today in our forums. You can find greater detail about our development plans for these features and more on our platform roadmap pages.

Editor's Note (September 12, 2022): In response to comments from our community, the team would like to clarify the sentence above that states: "We want URP to be the first choice for everyone, and there’s a road to go from 30% to 100% with you." This was not meant to displace other Scriptable Render Pipelines, as we continue to focus on HDRP, URP, and our entire render pipeline family. We want to make sure that you are able to rely on URP in 100% of scenarios as a choice.

September 9, 2022 in Technology | 14 min. read
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