Unity in 2018

I don’t remember if I ever was as excited for what’s coming to Unity, as I am right now. And I have been through quite some times, all the way from Unity 1.5! (that was in 2006, or somewhere in the middle of Priabonian age)

A lot of exciting things are falling into place:

A lot of other stuff is happening too; many pieces that were considered “experimental/preview” before will soon drop their experimental labels (e.g. Progressive Lightmapper or .NET 4.6 Scripting Runtime).

And then way more stuff is being developed; some of it fairly close to shipping and I hope will ship this year; some still a bit further out. I wish I could tell more… suffice to say, among other things we have this custom emoji – whatever it might mean – in the company Slack, and it’s getting quite a lot of usage lately.

This is all very exciting!

But, what is perhaps even better, is that I think we’ve found a way how to do a big jump/move from “where we are today” to “where we want to be in 5 years”.

This is one of the hardest problems in evolving a fairly popular product; it’s very hard to realize how hard it is without actually trying to do it. Almost every day you’re off with something you’d want to change, but a lot of possible changes might break some existing content. A “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” type of situation, that @mcclure111 described so brilliantly:

Library design is this: You have made a mistake. It is too late to fix it. There is production code depending on the mistake working exactly the way the mistake works. You will never be able to fix it. You will never be able to fix anything. You wrote this code nine seconds ago. [source]

It’s easy to make neat tech that barely anyone uses. It’s moderately simple to make technically brilliant engine that gets two dozen customers, and then declare a ground-up 100% rewrite or a whole new engine, that This Time Will Be Even More Brilliant-er-er. Get two dozen customers, rinse & repeat again.

Doing a re-architecture of an engine (or anything, really), while hundreds of thousands of projects are in flight, and trying to disrupt them as little as possible, is a hundred times harder. And I’m not exaggerating, it’s easily a hundred times harder. When I was doing customer-facing features, improvements & fixes, this was the hardest part in doing it all.

So I’m super happy that we seem to have a good plan in how to tackle this! The Package Manager is a huge part of that. The new Entity Component System is the first big piece of this “re-architecture the whole thing”. You can opt in to use it, or you can ignore it for a bit… but we hope the benefits are too big to ignore. You can also start to use it piece by piece, transitioning your knowledge & production to it.

Many other systems are likely to follow in a similar fashion. For example the current Scriptable Render Pipeline approach replaces the high-level rendering code with C#, but the underlying “graphics platform” layer is more or less the same. Some parts of it are in less-than-ideal state or design… I’ve been thinking that it would be possible to “upgrade” it in-place to be way more modern, but by now it feels like maybe parts of it should be started anew. And so at some point a new graphics platform layer will be built, a new material/shader runtime will happen, etc. etc. It will live side by side with the “old stuff” for a while, similar to how the new ECS and the old GameObject/Component system will live together.

And this time I feel like we will be able to pull it off, more so than previous times :) Wish us luck!