We met with JC Cimetiere, Senior Director Product Marketing at Unity, at their offices to discuss the latest developments and future of Unity as a platform.
Unity at GDC 2018 (?)
One notable development this year is that Unity doesn’t have a booth at GDC, and aside from logos due to their Diamond Sponsorship, Unity doesn't have much of a presence around the show floor. Instead, they are hosting what they call “Unity at GDC” with sessions in their corporate office (“Unity Central”) 2 blocks north of the Moscone off 3rd St just south of Market St.
GDC organizers typically don’t allow this setup, so naturally, we had to ask: why separate yourselves from GDC?
JC says that Unity is "bringing GDC home". They’ve partnered with the GDC team in their desire to make interacting with Unity more personable than a booth and to have more space than a booth could provide for all of their developers and partners. Unity is still a Diamond Sponsor of GDC, and they still have branding and content at the Moscone.
Where is Unity headed?
So what is Unity trying to do? JC says it’s the same trajectory as when they started: giving tools to allow developers to create their vision. They will continue to improve tools, connection points, and the content pipeline to integrate well with Unity.
More notably, Unity wants 50% of the world's content to be powered by Unity. That’s a very bold goal that provides better context and a hint at Unity's future as a platform.
For example, Unity already powers a lot of different mediums and industries. Obviously their roots are in gaming, but multiple industries use Unity to create content and do so in mixed mediums. Unity believes they need to help developers solve hard technical challenges so developers can focus on their own creative challenges.
The upcoming 2018.1 release brings new shader and story boarding features. They also discussed the new jobs system, and they’ve been rebuilding Unity in layers to help make the engine more extensible.
For the Jobs system, Unity wants to make it “safe” for developers. Templates are available to get them started on jobs, and the system itself is setup so developers only code the parts that are really important to them.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Jobs system, it basically helps optimally distribute the processing load for entities, so you can have thousands of entities running around your world at the same time. Unity recognizes that writing optimized, parallel code is tricky, so they created a system to simplify parallel tasks distributed across multiple CPU cores.
When you license Unity, the only module you’re licensing is the engine core. Unity is trying to limit the capability residing in the core engine and instead create a package manager that pulls in the different pieces - think like a Linux package manager, but with an engine.
This is part of a larger effort to clean up the architecture. 2018.1 is the first release with the package management system.
The Scriptable Render Pipeline makes graphics one of the first subsystems that has been re-architected, and they will continue to make improvements based on community feedback.
In the preview for 2018.2 Unity will be adding a new compiler that will be able to optimize code using the Entity-Component System Framework for each target - effectively compiling target-optimized C#. Unity has seen up to 100x performance improvements with this compiler, giving developers more power.
Nested prefabs are coming, which addresses a major pain point for developers. This feature will give a lot more flexibility and inheritance in future prefabs. Unity plans to ship nested prefabs in 2018.3 will have a preview soon.
Unity is seeing a high volume of VR developers using their platform, which they say is encouraging but everything in the VR space is moving very fast. They believe they are in a good position, but with the pace of the market they feel it’s important to stay on top of it.
Unity supports 25+ platforms that work well, and they believe this is why developers choose to use Unity. Unity believes that their commitment to platform support provides confidence for developers that their content is going to run well on all of their desired target platforms.