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Unity Technologies hopes to woo developers with new 3D game tools

Unity Technologies showed off version 3.5 of its 3D game tools today in an effort to widen its reach and help 3D games spread onto all new gaming platforms.

The new update offers more 3D graphics features that will make Unity-based games more realistic when it comes to depicting 3D imagery in browser-based and mobile games. The new features help make Unity more broadly useful to game companies and will help it compete with high-end game tool makers such as Epic Games. The advantage for developers is they can create a game for the Unity platform and then run it on many different devices, from game consoles to the web and mobile devices.

San Francisco-based Unity unveiled the technology updates at its Unite 11 developer conference today in San Francisco. Unity targets all sorts of developers, from small indie developers to big game studios working on marquee console games. Joachim Ante, chief technical officer of Unity, said Unity 3.5 is another step in the pursuit of a full-featured, high-end game engine that helps developers create bigger and better games.

The new version allows for multi-threaded rendering, where graphics images can be processed more efficiently and quickly through the use of parallelism. It also enables better lighting effects and particle systems, such as better smoke effects. Unity 3.5 will be available later this year.

The company also said it has opened a Canadian office via its acquisition of animation tech startup Mecanim. Mecanim is headed by Robert Lanciault, Sonny Myette and Pierre-Paul Giroux. All were pioneers in computer graphics. They founded Mecanim in 2009.

Luma Arcade, a web and mboile game developer, said that its Bladeslinger mobile game (pictured) will use Unity’s technology. Unity also said that the first console game based on Unity will be launching soon. Recoil Games will launch its Unity-based game Rochard on the PlayStation Network.

Going forward, Unity is releasing a social applications programming interface so developers can easily add features such as leaderboards, achievements and friend list to their games. That social API will allow developers to add social features to games for iOS, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, web, and Facebook games. Unity is enabling in-app purchases and analytics as well.

Unity’s goal is to democratize game development so that anyone can make games, from hobbyists to console developers. Unity is used in more than 2,000 games and the company has 150 employees now. The company has opened an Asset Store to allow developers to sell assets that can be used in games. Other developers can buy them and then use them in their own games.

In the keynote this morning, David Helgason, chief executive of Unity, said the company has launched a “AAA initiative,” to make sure that Unity is a rock solid engine for use in the best games.

On stage, Ante showed a feature dubbed “level of detail,” which allows a developer to show a scene with 20,000 buildings where you can zoom in and zoom out fluidly. Unity has also added an artificial intelligence program into the Unity engine.


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