SAN FRANCISCO—Unity, one of the leading 3D-rendering systems used to build modern video games, kicked off GDC 2019 with a keynote presentation that took aim at its primary rival, Unreal Engine 4.
“We have no interest in creating experiences that compete with your hobbies or your businesses,” Unity CEO John Riccitiello told the keynote’s crowd on Monday night. (This was a not-so-subtle dig at how Unreal’s creators at Epic Games use their engine to power the mega-popular Fortnite.) “We’re here to build the platform that serves you, the developer, and serves you alone.”
While the keynote emphasized Unity’s affinity for lower-end devices, particularly smartphones, it concluded with an emphasis on the highest-of-end machines: a partnership with Nvidia to bring its proprietary RTX ray tracing pipeline to any Unity video game.
“Production-focused early access” to this API is now immediately available to select Unity users. If you’re wondering what the heck that means, think of production houses and companies that want to use Unity to render replicas of their unreleased products. Like, say, an unreleased BMW car model that looks life-like with the glossy, lights-bouncing-all-over sheen of the RTX-fueled global illumination pipeline.
Unity and BMW used Monday’s GDC event to do exactly that. They showed off the 2019 BMW 8 Series Coupe as both a handsome luxury car design and a slick example of how real-time ray tracing works on “consumer-grade” graphics cards (if the $1,000-plus RTX 2080 Ti counts as “consumer-grade” to you, at least). An “optimized preview” version of this Unity RTX toolset will be available for Unity creators in the second half of 2019.
Before that RTX reveal, Riccitiello took other subtle shots at his rivals at Epic Games, including a pledge that his company’s engine scaled better for smaller projects than Unreal Engine 4 might. “You won’t be burdened to adopt new technologies before you need them,” Riccitiello said. “Use unity to create your own engine. Carry only the technology you need for the game you’re building.”
And he bragged about Unity’s ties to two of the biggest battle royale games in the world right now: Apex Legends, which uses a Unity-owned back-end service called Multiplay; and Fortnite, which uses the Unity-owned Vivox voice-and-text service during that game’s massive Marshmello “live concert” event. Riccitiello confirmed that Vivox will soon be bundled with Unreal Engine 4 without requiring a separate SDK.
Before stepping off the keynote stage, Riccitiello also bragged that 45 percent of the world’s top 1,000 mobile video games use Unity—and that his company was partnering with Google on its cloud-gaming initiative. (He indicated that we’d learn more on Tuesday morning at a Google GDC event.)
The event included a world premiere of Call of Duty Mobile, the shooting series’ first-ever mobile-only title. We also saw teases of other upcoming Unity engine games, including a peek at never-before-seen content from System Shock 3. Instead of seeing live gameplay, SS3 director Warren Spector showed up to laud Unity’s ease of use. He then let members of his development team show how quickly and easily they could modify visual elements of the game’s real-time content within the Unity interface.
The game’s visuals, as seen above, certainly look polished and updated enough for the series’ modern return, currently slated for 2020.