Unity3d latest release, and the final installment in the Unity 5 cycle, includes the Progressive Lightmapper preview, new Light Modes, Vulkan support, a new video player, support for Facebook Gameroom, Google Daydream and much more.
Unity 5 launched two years ago at GDC 2015, and today we conclude the cycle with the release of 5.6. We hope that your projects will benefit from the many features and improvements that it includes.
More on Unity Technologies’ website.
Unity 5.6 highlights in short
Massive lighting improvements
5.6 includes the Progressive Lightmapper preview, which provides immediate feedback when trying out different lighting scenarios, and much faster iteration compared to the current Enlighten solution. 5.6 also offers Light Modes, which allow for various ways of mixing real time and baked lighting for static and dynamic objects.
Improved graphics performance
GPU Instancing, which enables new kinds of effects where many similar objects are needed at a very low performance cost, has been improved with support for Procedural Instancing. And with the addition of Compute Shaders for Metal, you can now add more details to your games by tapping into the raw power of the chipsets on Apple iOS and macOS.
Vulkan support brings increased speed while reducing driver overhead and CPU workload; this leaves the CPU free to do additional computation or rendering and saves on battery life for mobile platforms.
Massive update to Particle System
5.6 greatly extends the range of particle effects to give more options and control to the user. This update also significantly improves Particle System performance.
New Video player
A new multi-platform video player enables playback of 4k video allows you to build 360-degree video VR experiences.
Navigation system improvements
Improved AI and Pathfinding tools–also referred to as the NavMesh system–expand the possibilities to manipulate multiple nav meshes and agents. And, new tools for procedurally generated or dynamically loaded content enable a whole new set of use cases and gameplay options for character navigation.
New 2D tools and improvements
Unity 5.6 adds a whole set of 2D features that give you more control and make it easier to create complex 2D objects. New features for 2D physics enable new kinds of gameplay and effects, including fully featured particle effects interacting with 2D objects.
One of the top performing tools on the Unity Asset Store is now available for free to users of 5.3+ and will be soon be natively integrated into Unity. TextMesh Pro features advanced text rendering with dynamic visual text styling, along with greatly improved control over text formatting and layout.
Performance Reporting and debugging improvements
In addition to exception reports, Performance Reporting now collects native crashes for iOS. Physics debug visualization and profiler improvements make it easier to find the source of performance issues in the game.
With 5.6, you can seamlessly publish to Facebook Gameroom, as well as Google Daydream and Cardboard for Android and iOS. Nintendo Switch support is also available now.
Unity Collaborate (Beta)
We added new options when publishing changes for finer control of your Collaborate projects.
Experimental support for WebAssembly
In 5.6 we bring experimental support for WebAssembly, a new cross-browser technology designed to help improve the Unity WebGL experience.
What’s new in 5.6?
Progressive Lightmapper (preview)
One of the most notable 5.6 features is the new path tracing-based solution, the Progressive Lightmapper. It allows for fast iteration on baked lighting and an ETA. In 5.6 it’s available as a preview feature.
When we launched Unity 5.0, Beast was replaced with Enlighten for both baked and realtime global illumination (GI). However Enlighten does not suit every use case for baked lighting, hence the need to provide a solution with the Progressive Lightmapper.
We wanted to create a solution that not only gives great results for baked lights, but also offers lighting artists an improved workflow, including the ability to iterate quickly and predictably.
In previous Unity releases, changes to the scene required a new bake and the results could only be shown when the bake was done. In 5.0, Enlighten allowed Unity to provide a preview of the final bake using precomputed realtime GI. It gave you an idea of how the bounced light would look, but the final result could deviate from the intermediate one.
Changes to lights, emissive materials and albedo values could be previewed straight away. However, changes to geometry still required a rebake, during which you got no feedback.
When iterating on baked shadows, for example, or the level of bounced lighting, waiting minutes, or even longer, between iterations can be very frustrating. This ultimately reduces the number of iterations one can do in a given amount of time. As a consequence, it limits the quality you can achieve with your baked lighting. With the Progressive Lightmapper you will get almost immediate feedback. A noisy result at first, but it rapidly improves directly in the Scene View, allowing for higher quality and more freedom of artistic expression.
The preview label will be removed once we reach feature parity with the Enlighten-based lightmap baking solution. This will happen during the 5.6 cycle. Support for Light Modes, baked LODs, and reduced memory usage is coming as soon as possible.
New Light Modes replace Mixed mode lighting
Light Modes are replacing Mixed mode lighting, which make it possible to combine baked lighting with real time lighting, including proper handling of baked and realtime shadows. We provide several presets to cover a wide range of scenarios, including fully realtime GI lighting, partially baked lighting, and fully baked lighting. We have added the ability to bake shadowmasks, providing “past realtime shadow distance” shadows. This greatly reduces realtime shadow distance for increased performance. Higher visual fidelity is also achieved as far distance shadows are supported along with realtime specular highlights. Realtime shadow fade out has been added for every light type and rendering path, and the transition to shadowmasks from realtime shadows is seamless.
Mixed lights Light Modes: