Unity keynote showcases strong title lineup and concentrates on visual scripting, netcode and rendering pipelines

Unity’s sizzle reel of titles for this year’s keynote is quite something. You’d expect indie darlings such as Maquette, Outer Wilds and 12 Minutes. But then there’s Amplitude Studios’ reimagining of the Civ genre with Humankind; gritty online shooters such as Escape from Tarkov and GTFO. A variety of smash-hits: Genshin Impact, Fall Guys and Subnautica’s Below Zero expansion. While upcoming titles include the sumptuous OddWorld: Soulstorm (coming to PS+) and the incredible-looking Morbid Metal (created by a solo developer). 

It’s a lineup that demonstrates how far the engine has come in terms of the very best console and PC titles over the last few years.

There may be no physical GDC this March, but Unity still decided that the timing was right to hold a digital keynote as part of the GDC Showcase event. Presented by Kat Strafford, GM of games. 

Here it showcased new features and changes to both its recent 2020 LTS and the upcoming 2021.1 Tech Stream releases. Along with interviews and insight from the developers of many of those games listed above. 

Although before getting into the feature highlights it’s worth noting that the keynote was just the start of Unity’s content around the GDC Showcase with numerous sessions from Unity creators that you can find out more about here

Visual Scripting

Visual Scripting comes as part of the nre Tech Stream release, as a part of the core Unity Editor. This will allow users to create node-based graphs instead of code to govern interactions and behaviours in games. Targeted at non-coding creatives, it allows artists and designers “get more done in the Editor without requiring help from programmers while maintaining more direct control over their work,” said Unity in a blog post.

“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.“

Unity demoed the new visual scripting system

Netcode
Also part of the new Tech Stream release in March will be an experiential package called Netcode Core. Developed hand-in-hand with the netcode community, Unity is moving towards “a first-party, fully-supported netcode solution”. 

This will include improved stability and support for the Unity Transport Package, and evolving MLAPI (the open source networking library that Unity acquired in late 2020) to become the core netcode package. 

Unity’s new netcode tutorial project – Boss Room

“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.“

Rendering Pipelines
All the graphics packages will be integrated into the core Unity engine starting with the March Tech Stream release. Ensuring that users will have the latest verified code. This applies to the Universal and HD render pipelines, as well as Shader Graph and VFX Graph. 

There have also been performance and usability enhancements to the 2D graphics performance. With Unity collaborating with ARM to reduce memory bandwidth “by decreasing the number of unnecessary transactions in lighting systems.” Unity also showed off improvements to ArtEngine with Upres 2.0, which aims to revamp outdated assets to give them a longer life. 

Unity worked with ARM to improve 2D rendering performance

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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