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A shot of Unity 4's new Mecanim animation interface.

AAA developers with deep pockets are no doubt looking forward to the many gorgeous upgrades available in the upcoming Unreal Engine 4. But smaller independent developers will probably be more excited about the new features for Unity's just announced Unity Engine 4.

The new version of Unity fully integrates new animation tools from Mecanim, a Canadian company that Unity acquired last year. This brings skill from experienced animators who have worked with major publishers including EA and Ubisoft. Besides improving computational efficiency and increasing Unity's limit on simultaneously animated characters from dozens to "hundreds" at once, Unity President Dave Helgason stressed that the Mecanim system makes animation much simpler for developers.

"Things that would normally take several hours or even days to do—taking the animation data, making sure it fits the character, timing the motion extracts and making sure it all loops correctly—now that's all automatic so it's literally minutes... you can do so much more with so much less," Helgason told Ars. Users will also be able to buy canned animations from the Unity Asset Store, dropping fully animated characters into their projects unedited, or diving in deep to play with the underlying blend trees and state machines if they want.

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Unity 3.5 was released and is a game changer even for Unity, download it now!.  There are so many great new features that have already made development faster and cool features to help bring your games to Flash from Unity !

Workflow Improvements

Since I have been using Unity fulltime pretty much on games like SupaSupaCross for SupaSupa Games (pick up a copy at Apple, Amazon or Google for your devices!) and Kimi Raikkonnen IceOne Racing for 24mas while at Impossible Interactive from my *drawlabs game studio, Unity has addressed some major trouble points when doing a full scale multiplatform rollout to mobile (iOS + Android), web and desktop.

Switching Platforms

One major problem was switching platforms and rebuilding the asset cache. Unity now has an Asset Cache server that will minimize library reimports so that it will be easy to switch platforms in minutes.  I can attest that our projects towards the end were really painful switching platforms, no kidding 45+ minutes.  Having that removed is oh so nice when you have 5+ projects that run on all platforms. The horror of accidentally selecting the wrong platform while you have to wait 45 minutes for it to convert one direction and then back is over.  We actually ended having to have the projects on different machines and making two projects hooked to source control that were set to iOS and one to Android to help minimize this.

Occlusion Culling + Lightmapping

Unity updated and replaced the occlusion culling system for speed and better occlusion generation, taking the time down orders of magnitude.  This version also is more precise and you can take the time to do detailed occlusion during development more often.

Lightmapping probes is also a very nice technique to integrate to get what looks like dynamic lights without having dynamic lights and the cost associated.

Source Control for Everyone

A big problem with the pipeline before was having artists work for a day or two and need Unity but they only had the indie version and thus could not participate in our Mercurial and git repositories.  Now even the indie version has source control support (still with .meta files though which is a necessary evil for now — still going to have straggling metas when developers/artists remove/add one they didn’t edit).

Text Based Serialization of Scenes and Prefabs!

This one is epic, I loathe binary formats of old which turn files into blackboxes of repository filling chunks, now you can choose to serialize your scenes and prefabs in text which they have chosen very wisely as YAML.  Perfect use case for YAML and now we can have 2+ people work on the same scene and not end up hating one another when the other has to overwrite all changes since they used to be all binary.

The removal of binary files in game development is very needed and one of the most difficult things to shake with all game engines I deal with.  Binary files for development are bad…  YAML, JSON, even XML is a better way so you can see what changed on each update not just replace the file.

At this point I love Unity for making my day faster…

That isn’t even the really cool stuff like Native Client Support and Flash Player Exporting!

Native Client Support

I feel this could be big if NaCL is adopted widely, this also helps with the Chrome Web store and again taking your game to places that individual development of the engine to do so would be non economical.  Unity knows when to even overlook their own WebPlayer in favor of other players such as Flash and NaCL from Google.

Flash Player Export

note: (Still preview and will require extra license when final)

The big daddy setup to scrape up all the Flash developers.  You can now develop Flash games inUnity using a better programming platform that Adobe was just too protective of Flash old guard to pursue 4 years ago, at least they are now. Flash 11 to Stage3D exporting to lower level Flash was a very smart move for Adobe at this point to keep evolving Flash.  However with them dropping mobile player Flash’s future is still a little shaky as it loses developer mind share, typically that is fatal.  One way to keep great game and interactive developers is what they are doing with Stage3D and Flash 11. Unity is very smart to jump in here and it is a great opportunity for both Adobe and Unity.

2 big pieces missing from the Flash version are terrain export and use of non Flash classes like WWW class.  Unfortunately since this is the only supported Unity WWW class that works across all platforms well this may require some #if defs to route around web/service calls and rewriting web and or networking classes in AS3.

Since this is the first version and has such great potential for overtaking Flash gaming on the web with more native and lower level hardware access, watch this space to grow and be a game changer.

Flash features that are in and out of the current iteration

Supported

  • Lightmapping
  • Occlusion culling
  • Basic scripting
  • Editor scripting (JavaScript / C# / Boo). Note: for JavaScript, use #pragma strict.
  • Custom shaders
  • Animation / skinning
  • Basic audio features, such as AudioSource / AudioListener
  • Physics
  • Navigation meshes
  • Baked substance textures
  • PlayerPrefs
  • UnityGUI, except for text input
  • Realtime shadows

Limited support – features with potential issues

  • Image Effects. Some work, some don’t.
  • Not all parts of .NET scripting work (lambda expressions and LINQ aren’t supported, for example)
  • GUIText will have a dramatic impact on performance
  • The new Particle System (Shuriken) works, but scripts that use the Shuriken API will fail to convert to flash

Not supported

  • Unity profiler
  • Asset bundles
  • Text input in UnityGUI
  • WWW classes. Note that you can write your own ActionScript that uses Adobe networking APIs.
  • Raknet networking (if you need networking, you can write it in Action Script 3 directly, using flash API)
  • Terrain
  • Cloth
  • Using VertexLit shaders in combination with:
    - Specular highlights
    - Spot lights
    - Emissive material color
  • Advanced audio features, such as audio effects. Also pitch manipulation is not supported.
  • Deferred rendering
  • AnimationEvents that carry arguments

More on Unity 3.5

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Strange... this is how I imagined the life of many starving indie game developers would be like on a day-to-day basis. Grandmaster is an attempt to simulate the mysterious art of bumming in the form of a game, where players learn to scavenge for the best leftover food from the trashcan, beg for money, and survive in harshest of environments known to mankind: the streets.

If you think bears have it tough, wait till you see these hobos in action. Useless trash has to be disposed of by throwing them to the sides of the screen, and digestible food are to be dragged down to the bottom so that you may fill your hungry tummy with barely-edible substances. If you dig deep enough, you might even find special items like pieces of clothing at the bottom of the trashcan.

For all we know, Beast Mode might be drawing inspiration for the game from their own experiences. You can follow the development of Grandmaster via their Facebook page.

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Roadeo is a two-player racing game that presents a rather clever idea: one person can choose to control the car, while the other can decide how the road should be built for his or her friend to drive on. In the versus mode, the player controlling the car has to keep his or her vehicle on the road, while the other person needs to avoid building a track that ends up colliding with a tree or a tall structure.

Both players can collect power-up items and use them on their opponents - oil slicks, falling meteors, fogs, and predestrian crossings all make very interesting obstacles for the car and the road to overcome. There's even a co-operative mode that you and your friend could participate in and grab yellow stars for points. The only downer here is that you can't play Roadeo on your own since it doesn't include an online multiplayer or a versus AI mode.

Roadeo can be found hosted over at Kongregate.



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Protekor is a score-based arcade game that is best played with a trackball, although both trackpad and traditional mouse input are also supported. You control the line that races around a transparent globe, tasked with crashing into invading enemy crystals to destroy them before they drain away all of the energy from the planet's core. The core also gains a bit of energy back whenever you smash an enemy crystal into pieces.

Linking same-coloured crystals increase your attack power and energy gain bonus, while connecting crystals of different colours generate a seeking attack to help you fend off the invaders. The game will only end if the core loses all of its energy.

Protekor is available to play at this page.

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Unity Technologies has announced the finalists that will compete for the 2011 Unity Awards, to be given out during the 5th annual Unite 2011 conference in San Francisco's Masonic Center next month.

The 30 finalists were "chosen from an extensive and stellar list of games, entertainment and apps made with the Unity engine" and represent "some of the best and brightest professional and amateur talent within the video game industry," the company said in announcing the finalists.

Interested parties can now place their votes in the Community Choice category leading up to the awards ceremony on September 29.

Previous Unity Award winners include atmospheric side-scroller Feist, top-down Android shmup Air Attack HD and offbeat driving game Off-Road Velociraptor Safari.

The finalists for the 2011 Unity Awards are as follows:

Student
1916 - Der Unbekannte Krieg (Team 2 DADIU)
Blokhead (Annie Dickerson)
Branch (Awesome Games DADIU)
Broken Dimensions (Team Twisted DADIU)
GLiD (GLiD)
Unstoppaball (Matthew Zarzecki)

Non-Game
A+E 3D (Apluse)
Aircraft Marshalling Virtual Trainer (Heartwood Inc.)
CliniSpace (CliniSpace)
Let's Create! Pottery HD (Infinite Dreams)
Tiga Talk Speech Therapy Games (Tactica Interactive)
Virtual History Roma (Mondadori Digital)

Cross-Platform
BattleBall (Schell Games)
Buddy Rush (Sollmo)
Margaritaville Online (Exploding Barrel Games)
Shadow Era (Wulven Game Studios)
UberStrike (Cmune Games)

Graphics
Cordy (SilverTree Media)
Gears (Crescent Moon Games)
Mini Motor Racing (The Binary Mill)
Rochard (Recoil)
Siegecraft (Crescent Moon Games)
Sky Legends (Smart Bomb Interactive)

Gameplay
BasketDudes (Bitoon)
King's Bounty: Legions (Nival Interactive)
Pulse: Volume One (Cipher Prime)
Rochard (Recoil)
Sky Legends (Smart Bomb Interactive)
Snuggle Truck (Owlchemy Labs)

Grand Prix
BasketDudes (Bitoon)
Battleheart (Mika Mobile)
Battlestar Galactica Online (Artplant, BigPoint)
Gears (Crescent Moon Games)
Rochard (Recoil)
Sky Legends (Smart Bomb Interactive)

Community Choice
BasketDudes (Bitoon)
Battleheart (Mika Mobile)
Battlestar Galactica Online (Artplant, BigPoint)
Boccia (Sainsbury or Preloaded?)
Gears (Crescent Moon Games)
Marvel Super Hero Squad Online (Gazillion)
Monkey Quest (Behavior, Nickelodeon)
Runespell (Mystic Box)
Snuggle Truck (Owlchemy Labs)
UberStrike (Cmune Games)
[This post originally appeared on Gamasutra and was written by Kyle Orland.]

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Muse Games officially announced Guns of Icarus Online today, a multiplayer version of their steampunk airship combat game that is set to be released sometime in 2012. In the original you assume the role of a privateer whose task is to transport goods across treacherous airspace brimming with pirates. Players had to run around the ship and do all sorts of things keep the engines running, carry out repairs, man the turrets and shoot down enemy planes before they cause too much damage to your craft.

In the upcoming multiplayer sequel, anyone can group together and pick a town to run as their base of operations. By plying trade with their neighbours, they can improve the economy and reputation of their own town, but it will also draw the attention of raiders looking to plunder a well-stocked city of its riches.

More details about Guns of Icarus Online is set to be revealed on their official site in the coming weeks. You can also subscribe to their newsletter to stay informed about the upcoming beta for this fantastic-looking multiplayer Unity project.

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Created by a troope of art and programming students from Austria, Rope! looks absolutely gorgeous. There's no two ways about it. Made in the Unity Engine. Rope! is a surprisingly professional-looking 2.5D platformer that takes place somewhere in the outer reaches of space.

In production since early 2011, the press release that arrived in our collective mailboxes tells us that the game is in the final stages of production. We haven't had the opportunity to gets a hands-on just yet but if the trailer is any indication of possible brillance, it might be possible that we have a winner right here, folks!

Official website is here.

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Unity 3 has been released.  It was released to the world late yesterday.  I have been using it for a few beta releases and it is very nice and many great improvements.  One awesome improvement is the occlusion culling was ported from iPhone to all Unity builds. Other notable features are a unified editor for all platforms, deferrered rendering and more.

Grab Unity 3 and take a spin.

Occlusion Culling Demo

Unity 3 Feature – Occlusion Culling with Umbra from Unity3D on Vimeo.

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