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Unity introduces new 2D tools
Unity introduces new 2D tools
August 28, 2013 | By Kris Graft

There are a lot of 2D games available that use the Unity game engine, but the fact of the matter is that Unity was made mainly with 3D rendering in mind.

But the company now wants to offer 2D game developers the same kind of support that it has for 3D developers. David Helgason, Unity CEO announced at its Unite conference in Vancouver that Unity’s new 2D Tools are now in beta.

Finally addressing 2D game development is a major move for Unity. 2D-styled games have been booming, particularly within the independent game dev community. Unity already has a lot of developers – 2 million at Unity’s last count. Better support for 2D can only help to expand Unity’s wide reach.

"The problem that we saw is that people who wanted to go 2D would go with other systems, different engines and SDKs," Helgason told us. "That makes us sad on its own, but we also felt like none of them were really offering useful workflows."

Helgason hopes that by offering new 2D-centric tools, Unity developers will have a more streamlined, integrated game development experience. "People had workflows like this, but they were never integrated with Unity," he says.

Currently in beta, this first iteration of the 2D tools will be included with the Unity 4.3 update this fall.

Some of the improvements include a dedicated scene view that includes specialized 2D scene manipulation tools, Helgason says. "You’ll also be able to switch between 2D and 3D. A lot of the good games in 2D are actually mixing 3D – particle systems, things that are parallaxing. That stuff will be easier to do."

Other additions that should make importing and manipulating 2D assets include:

  • a new sprite texture importer type
  • automated atlasing
  • dedicated 2D renderer component
  • A new “dope sheet” and visual sprite animation editing functionality for complex animations
  • Box2D physics engine integration
  • Polygon collider generation from sprite textures

"Some of the heavier stuff of the 3D engine, like the 3D physics system, can be cut out when you make builds that don’t make use of them," explains Helgason. "So if you make certain games – 3D games – the engine also slims down."

"It's just about making Unity easier to use, making it slimmer."

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Kale Menges
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Alex Rose
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This is amazing. Everything I make in Unity is 2D so this is ideal, you end up having to use so many design decisions that just aren't desirable at all, and spend so long optimising. No more messing around with quads to do sprite based guis, and spritemanager to save on draw calls. This is especially good news for iOS and Android developers who really need to cut down on those draw calls too.

Djanko trstek
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cool !

Steven An
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To be fair, 2D Toolkit is only $60 on the app store :)

Wyatt Epp
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Oh wow, are they taking direct aim at GameMaker now?

Ian Fisch
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Looks that way. I usually recommend people use Game Maker Studio if they're going 2d, particularly if they have limited game dev experience, but after this update, I'd probably recommend Unity.

James Yee
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As someone with limited game dev experience I would like to ask, why? :)

Frank Washburn
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Game Maker is flexible to the point that once you cross the threshold of "I don't know what I'm doing" to "I have a pretty good idea of what I have to do" that its own flexibility because an enormous handicap. It's ruthlessly optimized for some things, but helplessly crippled in many others.

Unity is getting to the point that's it's close to "Develop once, deploy everywhere." The learning curve is higher, but in the end, with actual Object-Oriented Programming at your fingertips and extremely powerful tools, you will grow to appreciate Unity much, much more.

I liken Game Maker to be a number of steps above MS Paint, whereas Unity is more like Adobe Photoshop. One's easy to use, but ultimately can be limiting. The other, insanely powerful, but you'll have to get past that learning curve. Ultimately, your work will be better for it.

Amir Barak
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Of course OOP is a pretty terrible way to design software and Unity has its own fair share of retarded behaviours (lol).
Unity is great at some things and like GameMaker you'll get to a point where it's better to roll your own...

Pierrick Bignet
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Could you precise why you consider OOP a terrible way to design software ?

Thomas Happ
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I've heard that Unity makes it difficult to have a pixel-perfect 2D game (e.g. point sampled) of a specific resolution. I wonder if this is one of the things they are addressing.

Mike Weldon
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Aside from disabling mipmaps and setting point sampling on all your materials, which can be done with an editor macro, is there something else hard about it?

Phil Maxey
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This looks a lot like Flash to me, which makes you ask the question, whats the point of Flash now?

Andrew Wallace
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Flash has been pointless for a long time.

Phil Maxey
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In some ways yeah, but these new tools the UI etc remind me a lot of Flash, so Flash must be doing something right. Adobe Have/Had such a tool framework with Flash, but they just seeemed intent on not exploiting it properly, and the space is now being filled by Unity, which is a shame because Flash and everything that goes with it is still out there, still available and is great at what it does, but because they are not really innovating with it anymore it's going to just fade away.

Andrew Traviss
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Yeah, I would rather that Adobe just keep moving Flash forward so I don't have to go learn a bunch of new candidate technologies that are still catching up just because one of them will eventually surpass Flash at the current rate of progression.

Phil Maxey
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@Andy Wallace

I think it's easy to say that but that doesn't necessarily mean it's true. Flash is a fantastic tool for making games, and still is in the guise of AIR, but it seems as Adobe don't quite know what to do next with it, or at least don't seem to want to take the necessary steps to turn Flash into a true competitor to Unity, and in this industry especially if you are not moving forward you are moving backwards, and that's the truth when it comes to Flash over the past few years.

I hope Adobe have big announcements to do with Flash soon, other than they are totally giving up on it. One approach might be to make Flash JS completely and fix their flag firmly to the WebGL banner, the alternative would be to go down the unity route and make AIR a true multi-format native exporting tool like unity.

But as things are looking now, it's looking like Flash is going to just fade into history and Adobe will just become a tools company, leaving Unity to become the de-facto game making tool.

Alberto Gomez
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Well Adobe still have Air (iOS/Android/Blackberry/Mac/Linux/Windows for free). And the performance on mobile platforms are really good and with a lot of frameworks available... I think is not dead yet ;)

Phil Maxey
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Exactly AIR is great, but Unity is so popular because of it's editor environment, which is what you had/have with using Flash in a sense, the ability to easily combine assets with code, AIR is still pretty much tech for the hard core coders, where as Flash built it's success on designer/developers because of the environment you had to create games. Adobe has all the pieces of the puzzle it needs to create some new, a true competitor to Unity, but I suspect they won't do that, at least they don't give any indication of wanting to.

Lars Doucet
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Haxe/OpenFL[1] is most likely the real successor to Flash, but Unity 2D will be a welcome new tool.


Curtiss Murphy
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Fan-Fricking-Tastic! Woot!

Barry Brooks
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May want to mention in the article that in April Unity hired the developer behind RageSplines. He is the one making this happen for Unity:

R. Hunter Gough
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they also hired Arenmook, the creator of NGUI.

Christopher Myburgh
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Is there any way to check out these new 2D features while they're still in beta?

Aras Pranckevicius
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Yes, you'd have to a beta tester.

Loren H
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As someone who's messed with doing 2d stuff in Unity, this is fantastic news!

In my opinion, the biggest downside of Unity has been the lack of proper 2d support. I can see (potentially) a great increase in the number of developers using Unity to make 2d projects.

Ian Bolland
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Great news, Unity are filling in the gaps in their functionality, within the 4.X product cycle Unity will be an unrivaled indie game dev tool.

Kujel s
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This move just goes to show gamers and developers are beginning to realize that 3D is unnecessary for most games. This also makes me slightly more tempted to use Unity even though I feel it serves my skill development better to write my own engines (which does not mean anyone else has to fallow the same path as me).

Juan Belon Perez
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I was surprised, in a positive way. Unity developers must be a good mood because they dont need an integration with Box2D now. I think that it is a good set of features to be added. And if they are working to improve 2D games,why not?

Mike Kasprzak
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Stop doing that! I'm running out of advantages as a native dev!

Muir Freeland
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I'm really excited for this. Have they announced a release date beyond "fall?"

Tolga Kavi
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This is really great! Alot of friends wanted to do 2D in Unity as well, this makes me excited to try out as soon as it gets released! Time to inform some friends! :)