New character animations, DirectX 11 support and more in latest game engine release

Unity 4 launches

Unity Technologies has launched the fourth version of its widely used multi-platform engine.

Unity 4.0 is now available for download. Announced in June, the new engine consists of a series of updates designed to improve the product through an extensive improvement of existing tech and the rollout of new features.

The first in a series of planned updates for Unity 4 includes significant additions, such as DirectX 11 support and Mecanim animation tools. Users will also have access to a Linux deployment preview and the Adobe Flash Player deployment add-on.

“Unity 4 will see the addition of an incredible number of new, highly advanced features and continuous improvement across the tech to be released in smaller, faster increments than Unity has seen in the past,” said Unity Technologies CEO David Helgason.

“It’s an exciting time for Unity and the 4.0 release marks the beginning of a great new era for our technology.”

Mecanim is Unity’s powerful animation technology which is setting new industry standards for tools in integrated development environments, enabling the creation of complex state machines, blend trees, IK rigging and auto retarget animations to characters of different sizes and shapes, all inside of the Unity editor.

In the current print issue of Develop (#133, November 2012) we looked at the latest breed of character animation tools and technologies, which included those integrated with the Unity Asset Store. That feature will be published online later this month.

Support for DirectX 11 means developers can take advantage of shader model 5, tessellation for smoother models and environments in game worlds and compute shaders for advanced GPU computation. See DirectX 11 on Unity 4 in this Butterfly Effect demo.

Unity 4.0 also features real-time shadows on mobile, skinned mesh instancing, the ability to use normal maps when baking lightmaps and a refined GPU profiler. It’s promises to make it easy to form high-end visuals that scale across the best of what’s available on modern PCs and the most advanced mobile graphics chips.

The engine maker says the Adobe Flash Player deployment add-on will empower developers with a wealth of features for creating high quality 2D and 3D content for Adobe Flash Player.

In addition, Unity 4.0 also includes a preview of a new deployment option to publish games to Desktop Linux, clearing a path for the Unity community to bring new content to the PC market’s most voracious indie gamers. Desktop Linux standalone publishing will be available for all Unity 4 users at no added cost.

Additional features and improvements in Unity 4 include:
• Shuriken particle system supports external forces, bent normals, automatic culling, and environmental collisions
• 3D texture support
• Navigation: dynamic obstacles and avoidance priority
• Major optimisations in GUI performance and memory usage
• Dynamic fonts on all platforms with HTML-like markup
• Remote Unity Web Player debugging
• New Project Window workflows
• Iterative lightmap baking
• Refined component-based workflows
• Extensible inspectors for custom classes
• Improved Cubemap import pipeline
• Geometry data improvements for huge memory and performance savings
• Meshes can be constructed from non-triangle geometry – render points and lines efficiently

Unity 4 and the Adobe Flash Player add-on for Unity are available for purchase now at the Unity store.

A full breakdown of the engines features can be found on Unity’s website.

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