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The Unity Engine Sure Has Come A Long Way

Once was a time people would make fun of the crummy little web games that were made using the Unity Engine. That time is long gone.

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The multi-platform engine is now used on a ton of big games (the gorgeous Deserts of Kharak and Satellite Reign are recent examples), but not even they look as good as Adam, a concept movie put together by Unity’s demo team.

Being a movie made specifically to showcase the engine, don’t expect Unity games to be looking this good in the immediate future, but the fact this is made using Unity 5.4 (with a new cinematic sequencer tool) and rendered in real-time in 1440p on a GeForce GTX980 shows that it’s not that far off, either.

Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.

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DISCUSSION

ben2theedge01
ben2theedge

I don’t know how I feel about using a completely non-interactive experience to prove how far an engine has come along. The engine doesn’t make the artwork. People do. And if you have a lot of people that can focus on making things pretty without worrying about functionality, that works out pretty well.

But Unity (which is by most accounts a great engine) is popular primarily with indie developers who can’t afford armies of artists to make good graphics, so they usually go for something more simple. It’s not because they engine somehow can’t handle it. It’s because photorealistic graphics aren’t always the best use of your limited budget/resources.

But the reason they’re using Unity in the first place is that it is a great toolset that can do a lot of things pretty well, supports a lot of third-party tools, and can be ported to a lot of platforms.

For artists, if an engine makes it easy to quickly import assets and playtest them to see how they look in-game right away, it’s easier to polish and optimize art so it looks good and runs well. If the engine has good support for third party tools, or it’s easy to add in support, then it’s easy to throw in extra stylistic flourishes without driving your engineers insane.

It takes time to carefully balance colors and values and shapes so they look good together, just like with traditional art. And you just don’t have that time if you’re constantly fighting with clumsy tools just to get the damn thing running. But there’s no magic “Good Graphics” button you can press in any engine. That seems to be a common misconception that simply won’t go away.

Basically what I’m trying to say is, 9 times out of 10, bad graphics usually means frustrated artists. And an engine that is weird and stupid is just one of many possible things in game production that can frustrate artists.