It has only been two months since the release of Unity 2018.1 and Unity is back again with their next release for this year. Unity 2018.2 builds on the features of Unity 2018.1 such as Scriptable Render Pipeline (SRP), Shader Graph, and Entity component system. It also adds support for managed code debugging on iOS and Android, along with the final release of 64-bit (ARM64) support for Android devices. Let us look at the features in detail.
Scriptable Render Pipeline improvements
As mentioned above, Unity 2018.2 builds on Scriptable Render Pipeline introduced in 2018.1. The version 2 comes with two additional features:
- The SRP batcher: It is a new Unity engine inner loop for speeding up CPU rendering without compromising GPU performance. It works with the High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) and Lightweight Render Pipeline (LWRP), with PC DirectX-11, Metal and PlayStation 4 currently supported.
- A Scriptable shader variants stripping: It can manage the number of shader variants generated, without affecting iteration time or maintenance complexity. This leads to a dramatic reduction in player build time and data size.
Performance optimizations in Lightweight Render Pipeline and High Definition Render Pipeline
Unity 2018.2 improves performance and optimization of Lightweight Render Pipeline (LWRP) with an Optimized Tile utilization. This feature adjusts the number of load-and-store to tiles in order to optimize the memory of mobile GPUs. It also shades light in batches, which reduces overdraw and draw calls.
Unity 2018.2 comes with better high-end visual quality in High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP). Improvements include volumetrics, glossy planar reflection, Geometric specular AA, and Proxy Screen Space Reflection & Refraction, Mesh decals, and Shadow Mask.
Improvements in C# Job System, Entity Component System and Burst Compiler
Unity 2018.2 introduces new Reactive system samples in the Entity Component system (ECS) to let developers respond when there are changes to component state and emulate event-driven behavior.
Burst compiling for ECS is now available on all editor platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux), and game developers will be able to build AOT for standalone players (Desktop, PS4, Xbox, iOS and Android).
The C# Job system, allows developers to take full advantage of the multicore processors currently available and write parallel code without worrying about programming.
Updates to Shader Graph
Shader Graph, announced as a preview package in Unity 2018.2 will allow developers to build shaders visually. It has further added additional improvements like:
- High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) support,
- Manual modification of vertex position,
- Editing of the Reference name for a property,
- Editable paths for graphs,
- Texture 2D and 3D array, and more.
Texture Mipmap Streaming
Game developers can now stream texture mipmaps into memory on demand to reduce the texture memory requirements of a Unity application. This feature speeds up initial load time, gives developers more control, and is simple to enable and manage.
Particle System improvements
Unity 2018.2 has 7 major improvements to Particle system which are:
- Support for eight UVs, to use more custom data.
- MinMaxCurve and MinMaxGradient types in custom scripts to match the style used by the Particle System UI.
- Particle Systems now converts colors into linear space, when appropriate, before uploading them to the GPU.
- Two new modes to the Shape module to emit from a sprite or SpriteRenderer component.
- Two new APIs for baking the geometry of a Particle System into a mesh.
- Show Only Selected (aka Solo Mode) with the Play/Restart/Stop, etc; controls.
- Shaders that use separate alpha textures can now be used with particles, while using sprites in the Texture Sheet Animation module.
Unity Hub (v1.0) is a new tool, to be released soon, designed to streamline onboarding and setup processes for all users. It is a centralized location to manage all Unity Projects, simpliflying how developers find, download, and manage Unity Editor licenses and add-on components.
The Hub 1.0 will be shipped with:
- Project templates
- Custom install location
- Added Asset Store packages to new projects
- Modified project build target
- Editor: Added components post-installation
There are additional features like Vulkan support for Editor on Windows and Linux and improvements to Progressive Lightmapper, 2D games, SVG importer, etc. It will also support .java and .cpp source files as plugins in a Unity project along with updates to Cinematics and Unity core engine. In total, there are 183 improvements and 1426 fixes in Unity 2018.2 release. Refer to the release notes to view the full list of new features, improvements and fixes.