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How to get the most out of the new Unity Project Templates in 2018.1

April 26, 2018 in Technology | 8 min. read
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Project Templates (introduced earlier this year in this blog post) change the way you launch a new project in Unity.  The aim of Unity Project Templates is to improve the majority of users “out of the box” Unity experience. They provide preselected settings based on common best practices for different project types such as mobile, high-end PC, 3D, 2D, VR, etc. The templates also seamlessly introduce people to new (and old) Unity features such as Scriptable Render Pipelines, Shadergraph, and the Post-Processing Stack.

Unity 2018.1 will ship with six Templates to choose from when you create a new project. The first two will feel familiar to veteran Unity users:

  • 2D
  • 3D

However, you can also choose from the more specialized options of:

  • 3D with Extras
  • Lightweight Render Pipeline
  • Lightweight Virtual Reality Render Pipeline
  • High Definition Render Pipeline

These four distinct Templates are in “Preview,” which means they introduce brand new features and workflows. As such, some of these features may be subject to change (API, UX, scope, etc.) and aren’t covered by traditional Unity support. You can report issues with Preview features on our forum page.

Because the 2D and 3D Templates contain familiar features and workflows, this blog post will focus on the new Preview Templates as they are a great place to explore many of the new graphics features introduced in 2018.1. Each Template includes the same example scene that you can use as a resource for learning how to make your 3D scenes visually excel, regardless of the hardware limitations of the platform you are targeting.

All Templates have a Readme in the project that contains a short description of their intended purpose as well as links to documentation for the new features they introduce.

Template Basics

So how can you get the most out of these projects? Each new Project Template shares some similar features.

Because all Templates share the same example content, it is easy to compare and contrast the visual differences between using one Template over another.

This default content is intended to showcase how to set up lighting, materials, and post-processing for the best results on a target platform. The content itself provides a good reference for how to lightmap your meshes (for meshes marked as Lightmap Static), place light probes, and author textures for use with the Standard PBR material.

If you don’t want the example content in the scene you can easily delete it by deleting the ExampleAssets Object in the Hierarchy and ExampleAssets folder in the Project’s asset directory.

This will remove all the example content without breaking any Post-Processing or lighting settings. From here you can add your own meshes to this scene and have a well-lit asset without any additional work.

Here’s an example of an .fbx file imported and placed into a 3D With Extras Template in 18.1 with comparison to a 3D project in 2017.3:

Some notable improvements are outlined here:

  1. Colors are more balanced throughout the scene; no color is too dark or too bright and we aren’t losing any details. This is because the color space is now linear by default and the scene contains post-processing that utilizes the filmatic ACES tonemapper.
  2. Our anti-aliasing has improved, making our scene much smoother than before. anti-aliasing (now with new options) is now controlled through our Post-Processing volume.
  3. Our shadows line up; we don’t have large gaps where two pieces of geo meet. The bias settings of our directional light have been tuned to balance between shadow contact quality while minimizing artifacting and banding.
  4. The scene has ambient occlusion to make everything feel more grounded. This is, again, due to the addition of post-processing in our project.

There are some other perks found in all the Templates.

By default you will now find a script on the Camera that allows for simple WASD navigation through the scene and the speed of your movement is tunable via the camera inspector. This allows you to quickly navigate while in Play to inspect your geometry without having to write any C# code. (Note: the VR Template has a unique script for VR movement.)

There are also a number of presets, most notably those that can help set import settings for textures and audio.

Let’s look at texture presets as an example. By default, the Template will assume a texture is an albedo, but if it is a normal map or for another purpose simply hit the preset button and select the appropriate preset option from the list.

Different Templates have separate import settings that have been tuned for that Template’s purpose.

Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s look at the purpose each Template serves.

3D with Extras Template

This Project Template is a great starting point for a brand new user looking to experiment and learn more about using Unity. It uses Unity’s built-in render pipeline so you can easily find answers to questions and tutorials online. It is also great for artists who want to easily see what their content looks like in a balanced, outdoor lighting scenario.

Lightweight Render Pipeline Template

This Template is setup to use the Lightweight Render Pipeline which is an easily accessible example of the new Scriptable Render Pipeline feature shipping with Unity 2018.1. The Lightweight Render Pipeline is optimized towards delivering high performance across lower-end hardware and resource intensive media such as VR.

As stated above, this Template was created with performance in mind. Not only are settings adjusted to use the Lightweight Render Pipeline, the project, lighting, and post-processing settings have been tuned for more performant results and to only include features that work with the Lightweight Render Pipeline. This makes it a great starting point for users targeting a broad range of mobile platforms, low-end to mid-tier hardware, or for developers making games that have limited realtime lighting needs.

When using the Lightweight Render Pipeline a number of rendering settings have been moved to a special asset in your project. This Template comes with multiple of these setting assets allowing you to further customize your project based on what type of hardware you are targeting.

By default the project uses the LWRP-High asset to showcase the best visual results.

Try out the other ones by changing the Scriptable Render Pipeline asset in the Graphics Settings (Project Settings -> Graphics).

Some additional characteristics you’ll notice while working with this template is a new set of Standard Shaders (all included assets use the new Standard Physically Based shader) and that only one real-time shadow casting light is supported (in this case, the spotlight in our construction scene).

This Template also includes the new Shader Graph tool. You’ll be able to create shader graphs via Create -> Shader and selecting one of the Graph options (PBR Graph, SubGraph, Unlit Graph).

Lightweight Virtual Reality Render Pipeline Template

The Lightweight VR Template is very similar to the normal Lightweight Template, except it is more optimized (by default it only uses one pixel light, hdr is off, and only two shadow cascades) and some settings are tuned specifically for Virtual Reality (Post-Processing, anti-aliasing, texture anisotropic filtering, etc).

There is also a VR Camera Rig setup designed to work with multiple VR headsets. It also includes options to use Stationary or Room Scale (when applicable) and set camera height for stationary experiences.

By default it assumes a seated, stationary experience.

This means you can just put on your headset, hit play, and enter the experience right away.

There are also containers setup for Left and Right Hand Controllers using the Tracked Pose Driver. Just add some geometry and you’ll be able to see your virtual hands without any additional work.

High-Definition Render Pipeline Template

Our last new Template is the High-Definition Render Pipeline Template. The High-Definition Render Pipeline prioritizes stunning, high-fidelity visuals and is intended for high-end hardware: GPU-compute-capable consoles, and PC hardware (DX11 and above, Xbox One, PS4, Metal (macOS), and Vulkan (PC)).

Because this Template was created to deliver great visuals the render pipeline asset, project, lighting, and post-processing settings have been tuned with a high-end experience in mind. This makes it a great starting point for developers who want to make games with realistic, believable graphics that target high-end platforms and utilize the latest in rendering advancements.

The High-Definition Scriptable Render pipeline introduces a lot of new features, some of which you’ll see right away when exploring this Template. These include a new light editor with several additional light properties, new materials with new options (including several advanced material types such as subsurface and clear coat), volume-based scene settings (these control aspects of your projects such as your sky, fog, and shadow cascade settings), and a subsurface profile asset that includes examples for skin and foliage.

Some other new features accessible in this template include a large suite of new debug options, Layered Materials, Decals, and real-time Area Lights.

Project Templates moving forward!

As you can see there is a lot to explore and learn about with Templates! We hope they will help you get the best visuals out of your new projects.

You can expect many updates for Templates in the future. In addition to more new project Templates (some more for XR are close on the horizon), we are also working towards allowing users to create and share their own Templates - a feature we are all super excited about!

Today these Templates are just the beginning, but we see them as a great starting point. With Templates there are fewer barriers to learning which project settings are best for making your scenes look good, which means more time for the fun parts: creating worlds and experiences for your users!

April 26, 2018 in Technology | 8 min. read

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