Unity dropping major updates in favour of date-based model

Version 5.6 marks the end for engine's current cycle with Unity 2017 beginning in April, next year's roadmap detailed

Unity is transforming the way it updates its widely-used game engine, moving away from the major update model it has used thus far in favour of a yearly system that will presumably offer more incremental evolution.

In a blog post detailing the features of Unity 5.6, the tools and services firm said this would be the last release in the Unity 5 cycle before a new version numbering system is introduced next year. The firm will now refer to its flagship product as Unity 2017, with updates labelled 2017.x.

This is significant in that it reinforces CTO Joachim Ante's revelation earlier this year that there would never be a Unity 6, suggesting fewer major overhauls than the company has offered in the past. Previously, Unity would revamp its engine every two or three years, most recently with the launch of Unity 5 in 2015.

VP of engineering Brett Bibby writes: "With Unity 2017, we will continue shipping new versions regularly, to ensure a steady stream of new tech and improvements. We think a date-based version numbering system better reflects this approach to ship and iterate faster."

The first version of Unity 2017 is scheduled to go into beta in April, with the company promising more details at next year's GDC in San Francisco. Plans for 2017 already on the firm's public roadmap include support for new platforms such as Nintendo Switch, a storytelling tools for artists called Timeline and further optimisations to the core engine.

Meanwhile, Unity 5.6 is now in beta with a full release planned for March - presumably launching at GDC. The update will add new features to the Editor, such as a video player and progressive lightmapper, as well as support for Google Daydream, Facebook Gameroom and advanced graphics API Vulkan.

Unity has had a slightly turbulent year, with mixed reception to its decision to introduce a new subscription model - an odd choice in the face of major competitors Unreal and CryEngine being made available under free and pay-what-you-want models respectively. The firm modified its new three-tier system back in June in response to various complaints.

Subscribers to the engine will receive Unity 2017 as soon as it's available. Users sticking to 5.x products will receive special offers on upgrading to subscription, while those who have subscribed for two years will be given the option to cancel but still own their current version of Unity.

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Latest comments (3)

Ruben Monteiro Engineer 5 years ago
Used to love Unity, but the recent scummy subscription tactics and now this yearly thing (i.e., a couple of new additions that you probably don't need each year), make me believe their focus is now on exploiting acquired indie developers and leeching them to the bone, rather than any real technological progress.
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Tudor Nita Lead Programmer, Gameloft Romania5 years ago
@Ruben Monteiro:
It sounds like a different versioning scheme for marketing purposes. I very much doubt anything substantial will change.

As for any real technological progress:
Most internal engines I've had the opportunity to see are still struggling to get their PBR pipelines at least close to unity's.
Many of them use some form of antiquated ui system ( some of them Flash/ AS3 based ) .
Vulkan is not even close to being a thing. ( The few proprietary ones that implement it, do so fairly poorly )
IAP& Tracking out of the box means indie developers have a chance at the freemium market ( without sketchy 3rd party platforms or half baked self-made frameworks ) .
On the same note, I still know of 0 engines (internal or otherwise) that sport the platform compatibility matrix of Unity. ( and not just on paper )
Lets not even start on editor extensibility or workflow and ease-of-use.

Now, Unity is not for every project or everyone ( like any software ), but bashing it without any reasons is not something an Engineer should do. The features "you/I" don't need are usually needed by another part of the userbase.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Tudor Nita on 15th December 2016 8:10am

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Ruben Monteiro Engineer 5 years ago
@Tudor Nita:

It's funny you mention "sketchy 3rd party platforms", because the 3rd party stuff on Unity's asset store are what 's been saving Unity's bare-bone ass for all these years. Unity's built-in support for things like terrain, visual scripting/shader editing, AI and 2D skeletal animation are either a joke or non existent, and anyone doing serious development will need to shell out a few hundred dollars on the asset store to make up for Unity's deficient base (the store from which Unity already leeches at a rate of 30% per sale, thank you very much).

I can understand server based services to be rented or client-side rent to own schemes, but I see no reason for a client based software to be rented. It's a scummy practice with the sole purpose of exploiting developers.
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