The first entry in Unity’s 2018.x line of releases has just been published to their website. Developers can now choose to migrate their projects to it and expect official support until 2018.2, or they can stick with 2017.4 and for two years – but not get new engine features. That said, if you have a big project that is expected to ship within a handful of months, then you may just want things to stay constant and stable until you ship (and maybe publish a wave of DLC).
There’s a few big additions with this version, but the ones I care about most are still in preview. The first is, of course, the ECS design pattern with the C# Job System. It is still super early days with this one, but I’m very interested in a rigid, optimized, data-driven workflow that makes it easy to batch tasks together. Give me constraints – it’s okay – if I can get value from it.
Then we get to the Scriptable Render Pipeline and its two presets: High-Definition Render Pipeline and Lightweight Render Pipeline. This allows the developer to control how their content is rendered, including how it is culled, how materials and lights are processed, what materials and lights can do, can so forth. They also say that some features will only come to the High-Definition Render Pipeline to get people off the standard workflow into the new render path… but I wonder how that will affect developers who create their own scriptable render pipeline. It’s reasonable to assume that a developer who makes their own path will need to do some level of tweaking to get new features, but I wonder how much effort Unity will put into helping those developers.
There is also a new, beta update to the Post Processing stack. This should be familiar to users of Unreal Engine 4. Unity has continued to push a bunch of effects, like color grading, bloom, reflection, ambient occlusion, certain antialiasing techniques, and so forth, into a canonical suite of filters. They have also added volumes that developers can place in their scene to add a hierarchy for smooth transitions between effects.
From a practical standpoint, the new package manager also looks very interesting. There’s not much to write about for it, in an enthusiast PC hardware site at least, but it could be a nice way of delivering features to users. Instead of waiting for a whole new Unity release, you can fiddle with new features on a one-by-one basis. Maybe even third-party content, typically found in the asset store, can find its way on there – with a network of dependencies that it just sorts out for you.
Check it out on Unity’s website.