Unity 4 engine announced, but the developer is interested in solving issues over pushing the envelope.
Unity 4, the next generation of the Unity development platform, will feature an overhaul of the Unity engine and tools suite with new additions such as the Mecanim character animation system, DirectX 11 support, "hypermodern" mobile graphics, and the introduction of Linux and Adobe Flash as new publishing platforms, Unity Technologies announced today.
"The introduction of the Mecanim suite of animation tools into Unity will completely change how developers integrate interactive animations and will result in awesome new gameplay experiences from the Unity community," said Robert Lanciault, Lead Animation Developer, Unity Technologies.
"These tools will allow animators to work directly in Unity to create advanced and detailed animation blend trees and state machines for incredible and natural character animation."
"We've kind of had this philosophy over the last few years that we wanted to sort of close the gap"
Other new additions include dynamic fonts on all platforms with HTML-like markup and major optimizations in UnityGUI performance and memory usage.
Speaking to Polygon, Unity CEO David Helgason stated that unlike Epic Games' Unreal Engine 4 and Crytek's CryEngine 3, Unity 4 exemplifies how the company is "interested in solving problems more than anybody else."
"We want to develop a platform that would enable someone to go to all these platforms. For example, we have a shader system that will do certain things in DirectX 11, but will scale back to DirectX 9, and on mobile will scale back even further. So we scale things up and down, and allow developers to enable features. We've kind of had this philosophy over the last few years that we wanted to sort of close the gap and make sure there weren't reasons to not use Unity, because we believe that the tools we have are so powerful and so efficient for studios, that we don't want the situation to happen where there's one high-end feature and Unity doesn't do it, so you'd have to go with something else, especially our biggest competitors. We've been working very hard to close those gaps.
"It's a lot of hard work"
"In cases where developers need more we've given them our source code for them to make some minor tweaks, and at the same time we're making things simpler. And we're trying to balance that simple approach with people who want to do more, and explore the deeper layers of Unity. It's a lot of hard work to cover both of those ends, but you can get some stunning results, and I think the broad adoption of our engine by companies like EA and Disney for bigger titles down to student hobbyists and the like proves that that's possible."
The developer emphasizes that while a number of studios are adopting the platform for high-end titles, its strongest areas are mobile.
When asked whether standard next-generation features such as programmable shaders and GPU-based physics processing were a priority for Unity 4, he stated the team is choosing to focus on what is relevant for current technology.
"We're shying away from the cutting edge, because it's not really relevant for what people are doing with Unity"
"You can do most of these things with DirectX 11 support, but on mobile it's not really that relevant right now, so what you can do with it, you can do yourself. But we're not supporting those things 'out of the box,' because it's not really supported. So in that way we're shying away from the cutting edge, because it's not really relevant for what people are doing with Unity. But, you know, if you look back, we'll release every few months with new features. With Unity 3, we did nine updates, at least four or five of which were big features."
Those who pre-order Unity 4 will receive early access to the Unity 4 beta. Unity 4 is available now for pre-order from the Unity store.
The platform will be demonstrated and discussed in detail at the Unity 2012 developer conference in Amsterdam between August 22nd and August 25th.