We had a total blast at Unite Australia today in Melbourne. It's the first time that Unite has been run in Australia, and the Unity team was clearly really excited to be here. While much of the content was stuff thats already been announced at the main Unite conference, the Australian satellite conference was a great opportunity to get info straight from the developers.
The big announcement at the keynote was the availability of the first public beta of Unity 5. Unity 5 is looking huge, and is packed with very cool features and improvements to the workflow. One of the most interesting things, from our largely technical-artist-focused perspective, is the inclusion of an incremental workflow for global illumination. Global illumination makes for some fantastic looking scenes, but the main drawback has always been the problem of waiting for the system to finish baking the lights when you make a change.
Another huge new feature mentioned in the keynote is a brand new audio mixing system. This system is extremely configurable, and easy to tie into the scripting system. It looks like sound designers are going to have a much easier time designing really immersive environments, and we can't wait to get to play with it.
The single biggest new feature, our opinion, is already available. The new GUI system, which has been long-promised and became available in the betas of 4.6. The new GUI has to solve a lot of different problems, and be applicable on both desktop, mobile and console environments; additionally, the fact that there are a billion and one different screen resolutions out there can make a UI designer's life distinctly unpleasant. We're particularly taken with their approach to scaling UIs to meet this problem: design everything based on a "reference resolution", like 800x600, and give the system a fuzzy hint that it should try to prefer to preserve the width or height when the aspect ratio changes.
Another great new feature that's landing with Unity 5.0 is the WebGL deployment target. WebGL has become a lot more available over the last few years, and a plugin free method of getting games into the browser is totally awesome. We spent some time going through benchmarks, and the performance looks great. Expect web-based demos from us, and may other game developers, in the future.
Things mostly wrapped up with a session on the future roadmap of Unity. The biggest takeaway that we got was their intent to make a larger number of their high-level features available as open source libraries. Both the new GUI layer and the new networking system are intended to go open source, and the team on stage made it very clear that this was a pattern that they plan to follow for more features.
We're really looking forward to playing with the 5.0 beta, and can't wait to pull it apart for inclusion into our upcoming O'Reilly Media book, Mobile Game Development with Unity. The next few months are going to be a lot of fun. Follow us here, and on Twitter @thesecretlab for updates.
We're really proud of this book (which we wrote with our friend and frequent collaborator Tim Nugent), and now's a great time to grab it – O'Reilly is running a 50% off promotion on all the great new iOS 8-related books until 5AM PDT on 25 September 24!
The code samples for Swift Development with Cocoa are available on GitHub too, if you'd like to play with some Swift.
While you're at it, check out our friend Tony Gray's new book, Swift Pocket Reference – Secret Lab wouldn't exist without his encouragement and support, and he's written a damn fine pocket reference for Swift!
Stay tuned for more books, as well as the final release of these Swift books. Let us know if you have any comments on the early release editions!