Unity Technologies presented their Special Keynote at GDC 2017 in San Francisco on February 28, announcing the release date of Unity 5.6 alongside a bulletin of other updates, including a glimpse of Unity 2017.
But before we dive into those, take a moment to watch Jason David Frank (the original Green Ranger in the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers) knock out Ludi Lin, who plays the Black Ranger in the upcoming Power Rangers movie, in Power Rangers: Legacy Wars, a mobile game produced in the Unity system.
Digressions aside, this keynote picked up where Unite LA’s host of major announcements left off, indicating a continuation of Unity’s commitment to make their system the most intuitive and user-friendly game engine on the planet.
Unity CEO John Riccitiello hosted the event, walking audiences through a recap of Unity’s accomplishments over the last two years before giving the official launch date for Unity 5.6.
Unity 5.6 will release within a month’s time: on March 31, 2017. Riccitiello explained that this installment marks the last of Unity 5.
“The Unity 5 cycle culminating in 5.6 represents great progress in our key focus areas: graphics, performance, stability, efficiency and platform growth. I’m really proud of what our engineering teams delivered,” said Riccitiello. “Features like Physically Based Rendering, Global Illumination, and Codeless IAP are just a few of the advancements that have helped make Unity 5, and the community it powers, so successful.”
And beginning a month after that, the next generation of Unity, dubbed “Unity 2017” will release its first beta (“2017.1 Beta”).
But in the meantime, in addition to the features Riccitiello listed, Unity 5.6 will include:
- Progressive Lightmapper, a tool that speeds up iteration and testing of lighting scenarios and reduces baking times.
- The Navigation Mesh system, which adds AI and pathfinding to more easily manipulate character navigation through game worlds, even super-large ones.
- A New Video Player will support fluid 4K playback to provide immersive video and enable 360-video experience creation.
- Native support for Vulkan graphics API provides better performance across Windows, Tizen, and Android platforms, while consuming less device power.
- TextMesh Pro to let developers improve control of text formatting and layout through Advanced Text Rendering. It is is now free to users of 5.3+. Native Unity integration will launch in Unity 2017.
And it wasn’t all technical brass tacks—two Unity partners, both of whom were originally announced at Unite LA, took the stage to broadcast the new opportunities they are opening for Unity creators.
When this partnership was originally announced, it heralded a big moment for Western developers—it pointed toward a time when the Chinese audience might finally be accessible in a meaningful way. We’re one step closer with the Xiaomi-Unity Developer Portal, which is where interested game developers can learn more about the process for gaining this direct access to the Chinese market, which is currently dominated by Chinese developers (99% of all games in China are produced by Chinese developers).
In an effort to draw developers of premium PC games such as The Eyes of Ara and Skyhill, the social media juggernaut announced Facebook Gameroom Premium support. For devs using Unity in-app purchases to implement payments, Facebook also explained that payment support will be available in Unity 5.6.
For a look at the whole keynote, see the video below: