Shortly after teasing us at GDC, Unity released version 5.6 of its eponymous game engine. The update includes many improvements, ranging from better lighting and graphics performance to a new video player and 2D tools, but perhaps the most notable change is support for the Vulkan API and more gaming platforms.
Vulkan is a graphics API introduced by the Khronos Group in 2015. It's quickly caught on with GPU makers, software platforms, and game developers in a relatively short amount of time. Whether it's enticing devs to abandon DirectX 12 plans or replacing AMD's Mantle in the 3DMark API Overhead Test, it's clear that Vulkan is here to stay. Being supported by Unity 5.6 will make it even easier for game devs to take advantage of the API with their games.
"Vulkan support brings increased speed while reducing driver overhead and CPU workload," Unity said in its announcement. "This leaves the CPU free to do additional computation or rendering and saves on battery life for mobile platforms." Given that Vulkan support has expanded to Android, the Nintendo Switch hybrid console, and other mobile platforms, improving battery life could be as welcome an improvement as the increased performance.
Unity also said it 'added initial support for OpenVR," Valve's virtual reality platform, but didn't offer any other details.
Speaking of supporting a variety of platforms: Unity 5.6 now supports the Switch; Google Daydream and Cardboard for Android and iOS; and Facebook Gameroom. That makes the game engine nigh ubiquitous on consoles, expands its foothold on VR, and lets developers create titles for Facebook's take on Steam. (Unity already supported pretty much every platform, from iOS and Steam to 3DS and Oculus, and this expansion just fills in the few gaps.)
Unity 5.6 also brings a new particle effects system, post-processing system, and lighting tools. The popular TextMesh Pro add-on is now bundled with the engine, and for developers willing to live on the wild side, experimental WebAssembly support is said to improve the Unity WebGL experience. You can learn more about the update in Unity's announcement. The engine's free to use until you cross revenue thresholds or decide you need extra features.