Enhanced visuals, better performance, and more: the Unity 5.4 public beta is ready for you to download

March 15, 2016 in Technology

As part of our commitment to bringing you stable products, Unity 5.4 is now available as a beta to all Unity users, including everyone using Unity Personal Edition. We encourage you to download it and try out the many graphics and performance updates. As always, your feedback on the release is very important to us and we encourage you to post in the beta forum and to submit your bug reports via the Unity Bug Reporter.

Why is Unity 5.4 being released as a beta?

We listened to what you had to say about the quality of final releases, so in order to get more feedback on real life use before we push anything to final, we’ve decided to release Unity 5.4 as a beta.

Simultaneously, we’re releasing Unity 5.3.4. We’ve put a lot of effort into making it a stable and dependable release, and we will continue to work on further improving the stability of Unity 5.3.x with additional minor and patch releases over the next 6 months.

Learn more about our efforts to improve the quality of Unity releases here, or read on for a full rundown of the new features in the Unity 5.4 beta.

Enhanced visuals, better performance, tighter Unity IAP integration and a major VR rendering upgrade

There are significant visual quality and in-editor artist workflow improvements in the Unity 5.4 beta. We’ve also worked to further optimize our VR rendering pipeline, making it far easier for you to deploy your build across the major VR platforms.

Our cross-platform in-app purchasing service, which you can use to integrate support for multiple stores through one API, is now more tightly integrated with the Unity Editor to make assessing and boosting the revenue performance of your game a smoother experience.

This latest release also comes with faster WebGL development build times, support for Retina displays, and much, much more…

Download the Unity 5.4 beta

More customizable particles and better lighting

The Unity 5.4 beta includes new sizing controls for particles, allowing you to control their width and height independently and to control mesh particles’ full 3D form.

We’re also rolling out a new trigger module, which allows you to modify particle properties inside a list of colliders. In its simplest form you can destroy particles when they touch the colliders by using a custom scripting callback, and it’s possible to modify all particle properties. This can be seen in the viscous volume effect below.

Finally, large particle systems can now be lit more realistically with Light Probe Proxy Volumes. Light Probe Proxy Volumes (LPPV) are a way of getting baked lighting information into large dynamic objects that can’t use baked lightmaps.

LPPV work by generating a 3D grid of interpolated light probes inside a bounding volume and allowing you to specify the grid resolution. By doing so, you can add a spatial gradient to probe-lit objects. LPPV isn’t just useful for particles; you can use it on any large dynamic objects too.

Artists: Drop your textures into a Unity project and you’re good to go

If you use industry standard tools such as Substance Painter, Quixel DDo Painter, Marmoset Toolbag 2, or Knald, you’ll find that textured meshes imported from these programs now consistently and predictably retain their beautiful appearance when imported into Unity –  just drop them straight into your game project and you’re good to go.

To make this happen, we switched the standard shading model from conventional normalized phong to GGX in Unity 5.3. In the Unity 5.4 beta, we’ve also completely overhauled our implementation for cube map convolution to achieve both accurate and noiseless results with low execution times.

Cinematic Image Effects in action

Three months ago, we released a beta of our suite of Cinematic Image Effects tools on the Asset Store including Screen Space Raytraced Reflections (SSRR), Tonemapping, Color Grading, Antialiasing (SMAA), and Depth of Field. They’re freely available for you to download.

Adam_SSRR Adam_DoF

As you can see, we’ve made good use of them in our Adam and The Labs demos.

We’re proud that our image effects are entirely open source. You can find the repo on BitBucket and your contributions are most welcome!

More multiplatform VR support and better performance    

If you’ve followed the announcements from our recent Vision VR Conference, you’ll know that we revealed support for SteamVR and some impressive performance improvements. Both are available in the Unity 5.4 beta.

More multiplatform VR support

We’re really excited that with this latest version of Unity you can build to SteamVR, Oculus Rift, Gear VR and Playstation VR devices through a single API with device-specific tweaking kept to a minimum. To enable this, we’ve refactored the VR subsystem to eliminate redundant code that duplicated functionalities across VR devices.

Improved VR performance

Thanks to Double Wide Rendering VR developers can now render an image for both viewports in a single pass on Windows and PS4. We’ve also introduced Graphics Jobs, a feature that allows you to move jobs from the main thread to worker threads for significant rendering performance improvements.

If you’re looking to get started with VR, these handy tutorials and the associated free assets we released in conjunction with Unity 5.3 can help you get up to speed quickly.

Deeper In-app Purchase (IAP) integration

With Unity IAP and Analytics now supporting the new App Store for tvOS, we continue to expand our multiplatform support. You can now test your projects in a sandbox environment, read revenue reporting through the Unity Analytics dashboard and validate receipts in real time. It’s never been easier to monetize your game and gain insights through Unity Analytics & IAP.

Better multithreaded rendering

The Unity 5.4 beta release takes our multithreaded rendering support to the next level. Depending on your project and what platform you’re building to, it can significantly improve your frame rate.

Building on the work we did to take particles, sprites, flares, halos, lines and trails off the main thread in Unity 5.3, we’ve introduced parallel command list generation. Instead of building one graphics command list on the same CPU core scripts, physics and other systems are using, it moves the work to multiple CPU cores, removing some potential bottlenecks and enabling many complex scenes to run faster.

Fewer draw calls with GPU instancing

Fewer draw calls means better performance, and, by gradually rolling out GPU instancing support, we’re allowing you to render vast numbers of identical geometries that share the same materials with very few draw calls. Initially GPU instancing support is available for Windows PC builds with DX11 and Shader Model 4.0 and OS X with OpenGL 4.1 and up. More platforms are in the pipeline, so stay tuned.

The scene contains 3 types of rock mesh. Each rock is tinted with a different gray scale color using a material property block. The first scene uses an instanced version of the standard shader, the second scene uses the built-in standard shader. The data is captured with 5.4 beta 8 on Windows / D3D11, with an Intel Core i7-4980HQ@2.8GHz CPU & an nVidia GeForce GT 750M GPU.

Improved base graphics features: texture arrays, compute shaders and more

If you’re a graphics programmer building your own shaders, 2D Texture Arrays can help you when you’re optimizing large scenes and implementing rendering systems generally. They work by allowing the GPU to treat 2D textures that share the same size and format as a single object.

We’ve also improved a series of low-level graphics features in this release. Compute shaders can now be chained together via DispatchIndirect, compute buffer counters have been improved, and debug information can be used for compute shader debugging. Fast texture copies can be done with a new CopyTexture function, and proper support for uniform arrays as shader parameters has been added. On Metal, OpenGL and D3D9 platforms, we’ve implemented Alpha-to-coverage, and on iOS we now support multi-threaded rendering when using Metal graphics. Finally, image effects can be applied on a scene view camera with a new ImageEffectAllowedInSceneView attribute.

Collectively, we think all of these small improvements will be very useful for improving your rendering pipelines.

Platform-specific updates and improvements: WebGL, PS3, and WebPlayer

Faster WebGL development builds

Does what it says on the can. Specify WebGL as your target, enable the “Use pre-built engine” option, and build your game. You’ll get a much faster development build build time, speeding up your iterations and making testing more efficient.

A fond farewell to the Web Player, PS3 deployment, and iOS 6 support

As announced previously, and as a consequence of browser vendors’ move to the plug-in-free Web, Unity 5.3 is the final Unity release to support Web Player deployment. You can, of course, continue to use Unity 5.3.4 or earlier Unity builds to ship Web Player games should you wish to.

We continue to see performance improvements from our WebGL build option, and it’s a fully supported and viable build target you can use to make web games right now. Unity will continue to invest heavily in the WebGL platform, and to work with browser vendors to deliver further improvements.

Given how quickly iPhone users update to the latest version of iOS, it also makes abundant sense for us to remove iOS 6 from the list of build targets for this release of Unity. We’re also moving on with a tear in our collective eye from supporting PS3 deployment, allowing us to concentrate more fully on helping you build even more great PS4 games.

Retina support and zoomable game view

If you’re developing on a Mac with a Retina display, the Unity editor will now look great on your monitor. HiDPI support is also in the pipeline for Windows users.

Additionally, if you’re developing for a high-resolution target device, the editor game view now allows you to zoom in and out to fit the entire resolution on-screen. It works on both the OSX and Windows versions of the editor.

Enjoy the Unity 5.4 beta

We encourage you to open your project in the Unity 5.4 beta (be sure to backup your project first), and we hope and expect that your game can benefit from one of the many improvements it contains right now.

As Unity coverage and usage skyrockets, the diversity of applications made with Unity continues to grow, and with them the number of edge cases that our QA passes may miss. We very much appreciate your feedback on releases and encourage you to file bug reports both on betas and on stable Unity releases using the Unity Bug Reporter accessible through the Help menu.

Comments (60)

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  1. Dave3D

    May 13, 2016 at 3:59 am / 

    What ever happened to the new Unity 2D tools shown at GDC2015, like. Smart Sprites, etc?

  2. Nicolas KLETHI

    May 12, 2016 at 10:33 am / 

    All those fancy features and still no proper mixed lighting support for directionnal specular lightmaps… What a shame !

  3. mike

    April 6, 2016 at 4:52 pm / 

    Does the new Beta 5.4 support DirectX 12 and get the frame rate boosts like those demonstrated in this video? (they achieve a 60fps with 160k drawcalls per frame!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sc4dsiq-I7g

  4. Leandro Pim

    April 4, 2016 at 1:57 pm / 

    Retina Display, wowwww, its Amazing, Beautiful, Gorgeous

  5. Alexey

    April 2, 2016 at 3:11 pm / 

    Question to developers:
    Will the upgrade to this version of the Linux version Unity?
    UE4 have problem with the launcher on Linux, if so yes then I will move to Unity.

  6. Lief

    March 31, 2016 at 5:43 pm / 

    there are some broken shaders (mobile, toon for example), but hiDPI support is really good (I tried it on OSX and unity 5.4 beta looks really good compared to 5.3.4, for example Game and Scene editor on 5.3.4 you see the pixels while on 5.4 beta the quality is on pair with a build.

    Still broken shaders are really a bad issues, I cannot use it right now (even with test project).

  7. Drymn

    March 29, 2016 at 10:08 pm / 

    I’m not a programmer though, i hate when they update and has bug on visual scripting tool, at very least tell to the publisher how to fix a bug quickly

    though I impressed of the updates

    beta tester GAME!

  8. Stevepunk

    March 26, 2016 at 5:45 am / 

    Several things have broken since the update. Celshading in deferred based on clamping values from light.ndotl no longer works and projects with thus feature that are updated to 5.4 revert to gradient lighting.

    Also, pixel perfect lights on sprites with normal maps now experience flickering as the lit pixels don’t exactly line up with the sprite pixels.

    It looks like I’ll be reverting to an older version until these are resolved.

  9. Limerock

    March 24, 2016 at 8:04 am / 

    Removing PS3 suport was a misstake.
    PS3 might have a few years on it, but it is still a viable platform people buy to this day.
    my brother bought one a few months back and it was a good cheaper alternative to it’s very expensive younger brother.

    a tool like unity, that is all about reaching as many platforms as possible, should not deliberately remove suport for a platform that is still being sold in the stores.

  10. Tanuj Arora

    March 23, 2016 at 8:27 pm / 

    Its good to see the performance enhancements!! Looking forward for major release! However, can anyone tell, whether unity will be working on html5 builds working for mobile browsers?

  11. Ithan

    March 22, 2016 at 10:32 am / 

    Suggestion: add ability to substance materials to paint to terrain

  12. aquilla kriger

    March 22, 2016 at 6:44 am / 

    well done unity , keep up the good work glad you are making it public beta , and 5.3.x is getting some love .
    All good stuff , Unity always amazes me by how they listen to the community !
    Bravo!

  13. Joe Shmoe

    March 20, 2016 at 10:27 pm / 

    I really wish a terrain system improvement was being planned..

    1. The Big D of the west

      March 21, 2016 at 5:19 pm / 

      Yes! They need to fix that, they also need to add more terrain painting options, like painting on angles.

      1. Sayantan

        March 29, 2016 at 10:08 pm / 

        You mean Tri-planar?

  14. daniel

    March 20, 2016 at 5:42 pm / 

    como pongo un personaje

  15. Jonatan

    March 19, 2016 at 11:03 am / 

    What happend to Director: Sequencer ? It suppose to be in 5.4 but now it’s moved to alpha? I was really waiting for it… :(

  16. Steven

    March 19, 2016 at 12:15 am / 

    These changes are all well and good, but the majority of games I see being made with Unity are pixel perfect 2D platformers, often with normal/depth/specular maps and such.

    How about more support for these, as well as platformers in general – platforms you can drop through are common to all platformers yet strangely absent from unity, and the user has to much around turning colliders on and off which can cause other unintended behaviour..

    More support for the functions and features actually used in unity might not look like much news when competing against UE4, but will assist the people actually using unity to make indie games and will impress these communities (and may nab a few fans of gamemeker as well).

    1. Ethan

      April 1, 2016 at 7:05 pm / 

      Actually, there is a feature in 2d that allows this behavior very easily. check this out:http://docs.unity3d.com/Manual/class-PlatformEffector2D.html this makes platforms that are one sided like you’re asking.

  17. Shivesh

    March 18, 2016 at 9:46 pm / 

    When will Unity work on the Proper Video Integration ?

  18. andre

    March 17, 2016 at 10:36 am / 

    I’m also waiting for HiDPI support of the editor on Windows. On a 4k screen the fonts are way too small.
    Please hurry up on that one.

    1. Suvrojit

      March 17, 2016 at 2:35 pm / 

      yes the HiDPI is really needed. Windows scaling makes the font look worse and on native scale the font looks way too small. It would also be good if they can revamp the looks (take cue from Blender) or Unreal Engine, Godot… Unity is doing great with stability updates and new features but the interface is still horrible and non-scalable.

      1. Andy

        March 18, 2016 at 10:38 am / 

        I disagree that the editor looks horrible; I think the it’s the most attractive, compact and functional of all the game engine editors available to me, at least.

        1. Jaimi

          March 18, 2016 at 6:16 pm / 

          I agree – Unity Editor works and looks good in my opinion. And please don’t borrow anything from Blender – it’s hard to use because it doesn’t stick to UI standards.

  19. Farid

    March 17, 2016 at 12:02 am / 

    I hope it works well.. Thanks for the awesome update..

  20. khmaies

    March 16, 2016 at 10:05 pm / 

    when you will support windows 10 IAP and in Unity Ads ??

  21. 234567

    March 16, 2016 at 6:24 pm / 

    when will the Progressive Lightmap Baking be available ? the guy on the gdc said that it will be available on 5.4 as an experimental feature.

    1. Podden

      March 16, 2016 at 11:39 pm / 

      Wondering as well. Also, any chance the distributed baking system will be finally imllemented with this? Waiting desperatly to compete with Unreal in archviz projects

      1. Kuba Cupisz

        March 17, 2016 at 11:05 pm / 

        Distributed lighting builds will most likely be limited to Enlighten in the first iteration. In Enlighten the jobs are a somewhat heavy and all the inputs are normally read from disk. This works really well with the initial approach to distribution that we took.

        The progressive lightmapper is more lightweight, each job needs to finish quickly, but at the same time build upon the results of the previous one. The approach to distributing it will be different, most likely involving a bunch of live contexts solving a (part of a) lightmap each. It’s just a different… beast.

    2. Kuba Cupisz

      March 17, 2016 at 10:54 pm / 

      We’re testing the progressive lightmapper against more and more content, and sorting out the issues we run into. No exact ETA on shipping the experimental build yet. Rest assured that we want to get it in your hands ASAP, but at the same time we want your initial experience to be smooth. :)

  22. awss

    March 16, 2016 at 5:19 pm / 

    I am speachless. This is just too good to be true.

  23. Max

    March 16, 2016 at 5:19 pm / 

    Got huge performance drop even in empty 2d project. The fps is not more than 80. I think it could be related to retina support.

    Latest mac os x on the macbook pro with retina.

    1. 234567

      March 16, 2016 at 6:21 pm / 

      did you change the quality settings to dont vsync and reduced the antialiasing ?

    2. Paulo Godinho

      March 19, 2016 at 1:03 pm / 

      You can profile the editor itself using the built-in profiler. Check if the retina rendering is eating up your performance.

  24. 234567

    March 16, 2016 at 4:55 pm / 

    the tonamapper and dof are not in the standard asset pack

  25. salex

    March 16, 2016 at 3:21 pm / 

    Great News!!! Thanks for the improvements! Keep up the good job :)

  26. inno

    March 16, 2016 at 3:18 pm / 

    I have a question about retina Support. It says retina will be supported for 5.4 but it not yet supported. I have been waiting for years for. it is only supported on Mac OS but not on Windows. When can we expect Windows Support of HiDPI? Thanks.

  27. Victor

    March 16, 2016 at 1:14 pm / 

    Great news! Our Unity development team will send you a feedback about this new version. Unity 5.3.4 was excellent, but reading this post, we are starting to expect Unity 5.4 to outperform it!

  28. vm

    March 16, 2016 at 12:28 pm / 

    thank you for this release! looking fwd to testing 5.4 : ]

  29. Bonk

    March 16, 2016 at 10:30 am / 

    Hilarious that your idea of AA still only extends to crappy basic PPAA solutions.

    Get creative and at least offer SMAAT2x as a bare minimum HQ option.
    Come up with a Super Sampling/Post Process Hybrid like 2×1(or 1×2) OGSSAA(Or RGSSAA) with a variable Resolve Function (Filter Width, Filter Function like Cubic, Gaussian,Lanczos) and SMAAT2x applied on the SuperBuffer Pre-resolve. (Which does Temporal 2xSuperSampling very very fast.)

    This isn’t 2007 and a lot of games on Unity look rougher than they should because of piss poor image quality thanks to lack of decent AA, where often the only option is FXAA. And if they want to improve it, users have to brute force Super Sample, often to equally mediocre results for other reasons.

    The video isn’t an accurate look at IQ simply thanks to the 2nd generation video encoding that turns it into a smeared blurry artifact filled mess. But you can still tell IQ isn’t as good as it could or should be. Shader aliasing, Specular Aliasing, Moire, flickering/crawling abound.

    Also: You SHOULD be focusing on PS4 development, because 80% of developers can’t seem to get Unity to run worth a damn on PS4.

  30. fugo

    March 16, 2016 at 7:11 am / 

    is there any hope for 5.2.* to be ever updated again?

    there’s a bug on 5.2 that causing dex method limit to crash build and not able to build to android studio. It’s fixed on 5.3 , I just wanted that to be fixed in 5.2.4 as well :(

  31. Mucke

    March 16, 2016 at 6:49 am / 

    oha Unity finally begins to listen to the Users….
    promised features that did not made it in 5.1, 5.2 nor 5.3…
    These marketing sucks today… !
    the latest 5.3.x releases where really buggy on mobile…had to go back to 5.1.x to get my App done…
    Well i don’t like the iAP + Analysis… it’s only good for Unity… because they know exactly what you sell to who and how much…. I’m sure later they will come back to you… it’s just a question of time…
    This is a new way to spy what the user sell etc… where is the privacy ?
    Ok if you don’t like you don’t have to use it but i promised you that Analytics must be integrated in the future…! So that Unity HQ knows where when and how much you sell etc… and than bam you have to pay!
    Don’t like it…
    Also if the final Game is calling home… not nice also for the end user & customer… > privacy!
    finally there is so much effort into this VR stuff but for who???
    I don’t know a user who will buy a PC Workstation + VR Googles for about 3000€.
    Cheapest VR Googles @ moment 700€ > googles only! ok it going cheaper but performance still suck…
    It’s nice but not for the mass market! Look 3D TV etc… crap doesn’t work well just a marketing hype like VR.
    3D Blu-ray hahaha 3D Cinema hahaha…
    UNTIL YOU HAVE TO WEAR GOOGLES > IT’S NOT FOR THE MASS MARKET!

    Problem: The overall quality was bad of Unity… Many dev’s don’t update to 5.x etc… like me disappointed and wasting time to find a release that works…!
    The Mobile market is where the money comes from! but Unity tries to beat the Unreal and other desktop gaming engines… but no chance… performance and graphic quality was and is behind the standard…
    If you use all these graphic gimmicks the performance is bad on a middle class PC so you have to decide great looking Game or great performance but not booth…
    I wish there was a separated Unity Mobile Version… and i hope that these problems in the past are gone now… will see…

  32. Rajneesh R. Gaikwad

    March 16, 2016 at 5:26 am / 

  33. Rajneesh R. Gaikwad

    March 16, 2016 at 5:25 am / 

    Link is broken

  34. Quantum Theory

    March 16, 2016 at 3:21 am / 

    Are you using Enlighten in the Adam movie? High contact shadow volumes? Those shadows are really nice..

    Those reflections aren’t the standard SSRR either. Looking forward to the info dump on this one and hoping it will all be rolled into a stable release.

  35. James

    March 16, 2016 at 3:11 am / 

    Are there any plans to improve the physics system? Presently it’s very difficult to do custom character controllers because of some limitations with casting.

  36. Pete

    March 16, 2016 at 3:09 am / 

    Retina! :D My eyeballs thank you!

    1. Ivan

      March 16, 2016 at 11:29 am / 

      But several icons on the screenshot are still low-res.

  37. Kristian

    March 15, 2016 at 11:13 pm / 

    Any updates planned for the audio part of Unity soon? Off to a strong start with the launch of Unity 5, but it’s been awfully quiet since then. :/

    1. Josh

      March 16, 2016 at 1:20 am / 

      I’ve been wondering about this as well. Mixers are great, but placing audio in a scene in any meaningful way pretty much requires a 3rd party asset from the Asset Store. I see nothing on the Roadmap that’s audio related.

      Also still very concerned about the timetable on the new input system (still floundering in timeline long or uncertain).

  38. Ruben Carneiro

    March 15, 2016 at 11:00 pm / 

    Hope Linux version is updated too.

  39. PreyK

    March 15, 2016 at 10:48 pm / 

    Amazing !
    this is the engine i fell in love with :D

  40. Marqin

    March 15, 2016 at 10:24 pm / 

    Any hope for 5.4 beta for Linux?

    1. Eslam Nsr

      March 16, 2016 at 5:26 pm / 

      Yeaaaah .. it’s my dream .. the only thing that make me open Windows is using Unity ..

  41. 234567

    March 15, 2016 at 10:22 pm / 

    the standard assets are the old one + ssr but there is no tonemapper bloom or other new image effects
    is this a bug ?

  42. Jack

    March 15, 2016 at 9:58 pm / 

    Well thanks for this. Looks like I will be using Unity beta from here on out.

    The difference between Unity 5.0 and Unity 5.4 is very noticeable.

  43. Fronne

    March 15, 2016 at 7:37 pm / 

    I thought Beta releases where available for professional users only. The 5.4 Beta contains features promised for 5.3.4 (IAP Advanced Integration for example), is this the reason 5.4 is available for all users? Does this mean future Beta releases will be available for everybody too?

      1. Fronne

        March 15, 2016 at 7:54 pm / 

        Thanks Carlos, I didn’t knew this, there’s one sentence in that post I do like a lot:

        In fact, moving forward, Unity betas will be available to everyone, including Unity Personal Edition users.

  44. Joel

    March 15, 2016 at 6:58 pm / 

    Melts. Brain implodes. Good job. (Laughing: And here I just updated to 5.3.3, oh well, I like living on the edge and backing up often)

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