The road to 2021: Team “Quality of Life”
We recently shared our roadmap for 2021. Now we invite you inside Unity to meet some of the teams working towards these goals. In this first post of a new series, we are zooming in on a team that operates under the codename “Quality of Life.”
Our Unity 2021 roadmap explains our priorities for next year. We’re committed to updating production-ready features and delivering key new features based on what you have told us you’re missing from Unity. But we’re equally determined to improve workflows and your overall quality of life when working in the Editor.
This post is the first of a series giving you a glimpse behind the scenes. You’ll meet some of the teams working on those initiatives, get to know what drives them, and see the progress they’re making. In this first post of a new series, we’re zooming in on a team that operates under the internal codename “Quality of Life.” I met with Aras Pranckevičius, who leads the Quality of Life team, and Martin Gram from the Product team to learn more about the initiative.
What is Quality of Life?
We all want a better quality of life. At Unity, we strive to improve the quality of life for our users. But what does that actually mean? It’s not just about stability, fixing bugs, and avoiding regressions. When we talk about Quality of Life (QoL), we mean all the little things that make up the user experience. We mean aggregate workflows and an intuitive interface. We want to improve your productivity and let you focus on your creative process.
“This means fast iteration times, reduced interruptions, and overall improved efficiency,” says Martin Gram, Unity Director of Product.
In recent years, the common uses for Unity have exploded. To serve users across many job roles and industries, we kicked our innovation into high gear. Unity now offers a vastly increased arsenal of tools. This has obviously led to an increase in complexity, and sometimes the user experience can be inconsistent from feature to feature. “With the QoL initiative, we’re focusing on bridging these gaps and bringing more polish to the experience of using the Editor overall,” explains Martin. “As we said in the recent roadmap blog post, we’re committing to doing fewer things but doing them better.”
A team that sets higher standards
While every team at Unity is focused on quality and contributes to this mission, this task force works across teams and is dedicated to the small improvements that often live between teams and feature areas. Aras formed this special squad about a year and a half ago. Much like the Optimization Team focuses on performance, the idea was to focus on quality of life as a feature in its own right.
Today the team is seven people, based in Kaunas, Lithuania. While they work with R&D teams across Unity, their closest partners are the Optimization Team, Scene Tooling Team, Quality Assurance, Product teams and Internal Productions team. Five of the team members originally came from Customer QA, which is not a coincidence.
“Having been on the frontline means the team has seen a lot of user reports. They have a lot of insight into what can be streamlined. Customer QA spends a lot of time reproducing customer bug reports, which means that their primary background is in using Unity, not just creating tools,” explains Aras.
The idea for the team crystallized when they were working on implementing several version control improvements, consisting of a number of UX and integration improvements. For example, fixes to our Perforce integration include an automatic reconnect attempt if a Perforce connection is lost. A new Version Control bar at the top of the Inspector window lets you do additional operations like Add, Lock, Unlock, and Submit, among other improvements. You can now right-click to copy the values of disabled Inspector fields. As Aras explains, “These improvements were examples of features that had been requested by users for a long time. Our team quickly expanded its scope to other features as well – not so much in terms of adding more functionality but rather polishing and improving existing workflows.”
The team mission is simple: to continuously add improvements which make the product more pleasant to use. This means helping to make the Editor more intuitive and optimizing workflows. “Unity should be a joy to use. We want creators to waste less time and be more productive.”
The team sets its priorities in close collaboration with the Product team, and is open to suggestions from all sides, including the forums, social media, and Unity’s Internal Productions team that works on demos such as the Megacity and DOTS Sample.
Better QoL with Unity 2020.2
With the latest TECH Stream, Unity 2020.2, now available in beta, several Quality of Life improvements were added.
Unity 2020.2 comes with a lot of smaller quality improvements across the Editor. The Scene move/rotate/scale handle lines are now thicker and configurable. The Mesh inspector can now visualize blend shapes. Scripting Defines in Player Settings is now displayed as an array. You can drag multiple Prefabs into the scene simultaneously, and use Frame Selected to zoom into the pivot point of an already framed object.
Aras’ favorite improvement in Unity 2020.2? Arrays and Lists in the Inspector are now reorderable. The attribute [NonReorderable] can disable this. It’s a minor feature but a great example of a small change that many users have been asking for in forums and on social media – it just makes it easier to manage your array or list elements with a few clicks.
What to expect in 2021
Looking ahead at the road to 2021, the team’s plans are to continue its momentum and have their sets on several more improvements. But Aras also stresses that the journey doesn’t have a final destination. Improving Unity is a never-ending process. The team will increasingly collaborate with the beta program and source community input in general.
Here’s a taste of three things to come in Unity 2021:
LODGroup inspector improvements will allow you to view LOD relative screen size percentages in table-formatted view (Label, Value) so you can input precise values. The LOD Group inspector supports multi-select editing and displays triangle counts for LOD levels and triangle count changes between them; it also exposes the object local space size setting.
Enter Play Mode time improvements are related to the optimization of the mesh static batching process that happens upon entering play mode. In our tests, this means that for a scene with 30,000 static objects, entering play mode is now faster by about two seconds.
There are also texture import time optimizations where the work is ongoing but some of the improvements have already landed into 2021.1. These will help speed up the longest part of asset import time.
These improvements are representative examples. “They are small things that make a big difference to people’s workflows. When millions of users repeat a task multiple times per day, every second or mouse click really does add up,” Aras concludes.
What improvements would you like?
Are there improvements you would like to see in the Editor? Any feature enhancements that would make your quality of life better in the Editor? Let the team know in the comments or in our forums.
Want another peek behind the scenes?
This is the first of several dev diaries we’ve planned to introduce you to some of the people working on future versions of Unity and give you a glimpse of their inspiration and drive. Tell us in the comments below if you would like us to cover any specific teams and feature areas in future blog posts.