What are you looking for?
Engine & platform
Unity 2023.1 Tech Stream is now available
NANCY LARUE / UNITY Sr Product Marketing Manager
Jul 3, 2023|18 Min
Unity 2023.1 Tech Stream is now available

We’re excited to share that the 2023.1 Tech Stream is available for download.

You’ll find improved features and render quality for both the High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) and Universal Render Pipeline (URP), along with platform graphic improvements, additional connectivity types for multiplayer solutions, and more.

Tech Stream releases allow you to go hands-on with early access to the latest features, and you can share your feedback on how we can build even better tools to power your creativity.

Here are a few highlights from this release, but you can always get more details in the official release notes.

Scalable rendering

In Unity 2023.1, we continue to bring additional features to enhance render quality and feature coexistence in both HDRP and URP (for more on our vision, read our Games Focus blog post on scalable rendering).

SRP – Screen Space Lens Flares

You can now add lens flares generated from all highlights visible on screen (direct, indirect, emissive surfaces, specular highlights) in just a few clicks with a single post-process volume.

Compatible with both HDRP and URP, this feature can be used at the same time and complement SRP Lens Flares, which offer more advanced artistic control on light lens flares.

HDRP – Water System functional and visual improvements

With HDRP, we want to offer a coherent out-of-the-box experience for artists to create high-fidelity environments for PC and consoles. In 2022.2, we introduced one of the last missing parts, the first-ever native water system in Unity. In 2023.1, we’re focusing on enabling finer authoring of water to better integrate with the world and gameplay.

You can use Water Excluder to dynamically remove water from inside a boat or cave, and Water Deformer deforms water locally for waves, vortex, or deformations around a ship in movement.

Foam Generator allows you to simulate white water for a boat trail or around rocks in open oceans, and Current maps creates local currents by both managing surface waves to follow the currents and the water query API to allow for objects to drift. You can also take advantage of great control to customize the Water Line when the camera crosses the water surface.

To get started, we created multiple samples available in the HDRP package from the Package Manager, as well as various demo scenes available on GitHub.

Create oceans, rivers, and pools with physically based rendering and real-time simulation

To learn more about water rendering in HDRP, you can watch our talk “An overview of the new HDRP Water System” from GDC 2023.

HDRP – Transparency and subsurface scattering improvements

To improve the visual fidelity of transparent and transmissive objects, you can now add an extra optional pass to compute the thickness of transparent objects. This takes into account the thickness of non-opaque materials traversed by the light, especially important for nonuniform objects or when rendering multiple objects, one behind another.

Improve the rendering of transparent and translucent objects
Characters hair and skin improvements

In 2023.1, we are bringing the last pieces of technologies used for digital human and creature rendering, as seen in the Enemies and Lion demos. HDRP’s high-quality line renderer allows you to render lines using advanced voxelization to fix the transparency ordering and aliasing issues typically seen when rendering hair and fur.

We also improved high-fidelity skin rendering, optimizing performance of the subsurface scattering pass for high-resolution pass and adding dual lobe and diffuse power on Diffusion Profiles for materials using Subsurface Scattering. When simulating skin, it’s common to use two specular lobes to account for the thin oily layer covering the epidermis.

To see it all in action, you can download the Enemies project on the Unity Asset Store.

Ray Tracing API and HDRP features out of preview

We’ve made stability and performance improvements to DirectX 12 and ray tracing, as well as increased compatibility with the engine’s existing feature set and consoles support. With this, the Ray Tracing API and HDRP’s ray-traced effects such as ray-traced shadows, reflections, AO, Global Illumination, path tracing, and recursive rendering are officially out of preview.

We also added VFX Graph ray tracing support, enabling the authoring of complex particle effects that are compatible with HDRP’s ray-traced effects, as well as terrain heightmap support to use ray tracing on large worlds. Instancing support added to the Ray Tracing API allows you to efficiently ray trace large and dense scenes that include high-frequency repeating meshes and details.

96,000 instances ray traced using the HDRP’s Path Tracer

Start experimenting now with ray tracing by installing the HDRP Sample Scene template in the Hub, which has been updated to provide new ray tracing quality settings.

Lastly, this release also introduces Inline Ray Tracing support for DXR1.1-capable platforms. You can now issue hardware-accelerated ray queries from within compute shaders in order to traverse the bound Ray Tracing Acceleration Structure and perform intersection testing.

To help celebrate ray tracing coming out of preview, NVIDIA has sponsored the Unity 23.1 beta, providing NVIDIA GeForce RTX™ 3070 graphics cards as prizes for participants.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX™ 3070 graphics card offered as prizes for the Unity 23.1 beta

The GeForce RTX™ RTX 3070 graphics card is powered by Ampere – NVIDIA’s second-generation RTX architecture. Built with dedicated second-gen RT Cores and third-gen Tensor Cores, streaming multiprocessors, and high-speed memory, it gives you the power you need to rip through the most demanding games.

Winners will be contacted directly with instructions on how to claim their new graphics cards.

URP and HDRP – Adaptive Probe Volumes

For Light Probe-lit objects, Probe Volumes enable you to set up and iterate on Light Probe placement more quickly. The visual quality of Light Probe-lit objects is higher and affects Volumetric Fog in HDRP and particles. In some scenarios, Probe Volumes also enable you to indirectly light static objects, for example in an environment. Combined with tools to reduce light leaking, they can decrease the need for lightmaps, reducing baking time with less need to author lightmap UVs.

Bake sets enable you to set up and blend between different Light Probe-lit lighting scenarios in HDRP. At runtime, GPU memory footprint is reduced through streaming the probe data from the CPU.

With the 2023.1 release, the core functionality and user experience of Adaptive Probe Volumes are improved and officially out of preview.

We have also implemented limited support for Adaptive Probe Volumes in URP. Note that this iteration will not support Lighting Scenario Blending or Lighting Normalization for Reflection Probes. It may not yet be optimized for performance, especially when running on lower-end platforms.

To learn more, you can watch our talk “Efficient and impactful lighting with Adaptive Probe Volumes” at GDC 2023 and check out the lighting tutorial “4 techniques to light environments in Unity” from Unite 2022.

Global Illumination – New Light Baking Architecture

Baked GI now uses the new LightBaker v1.0 architecture for on-demand bakes to provide you with a more predictable and stable light baking experience. When baking with the GPU backend in on-demand mode, you can use the Baking Profile in the Lighting window to select the tradeoff between performance and GPU memory usage.

Baked Global Illumination now uses our new LightBaker v1.0 architecture for on-demand bake. [This image uses the ArchVizPRO Interior Vol.9 assets from the Unity Asset Store.]
VFX Graph – Volumetric Fog Output

This new output in VFX Graph allows you to inject particles into HDRP’s Volumetric Fog to generate clouds, smoke, mist, fire effects, or to make Volumetric Fog more dynamic and procedural. Different Blend modes (add, multiply, min-max) allow you to use particles to add, remove, or combine with existing fog. For example, you could use smoke to add density to the fog, show wind chasing, mist, or create underwater streams.

Platform enhancements

In keeping with the vision shared in this Games Focus post, advances in platform support and technical integrations continue in 2023.1.

Ongoing platform support

We continue to add improvements to performance and functionality for key platforms, including Windows, Android, iOS, Meta Quest, Magic Leap 2, Xbox®, PlayStation®5 and Playstation®VR2.

Windows on Arm

Unity now supports building projects for Arm-based Windows devices while achieving native performance on devices that use the ARM64 processors, such as the Surface Pro 9 and the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s. This opens up new possibilities for you to create high-performance, immersive experiences on a wider range of devices.

Android

There are two key features for your mobile development on Android devices – Android GameActivity and Android Project Configuration Manager – that you can use with 2023.1 Tech Stream.

Android GameActivity gives you greater control over the essential parts of your application, as well as more freedom and flexibility in your core code. You can find the documentation here.

If you use plug-ins or are a plug-in developer yourself, you now have a more flexible and robust way to configure Android Gradle settings (manifest, settings, and build) using the Project Configuration Manager. Learn how to Modify Gradle project files in the Unity Manual.

Adaptive Performance

Adaptive Performance 5.0 includes enhancements to control the lifecycle of Adaptive Performance at runtime. Additionally, we are launching an Android provider to extend this package to most Android devices.

HDR display support for desktop and consoles

Unity 2023.1.0a22 extends HDR display support to URP for desktop and console platforms, with mobile and XR platform support to follow in 2023.2. HDR displays are capable of reproducing images with higher peak brightness and wider color gamut in order to achieve better color saturation and contrast in highlights and shadows. The result is a more realistic variation in luminance across scenes, increased surface detail, and improved depth perception.

Split Graphics Jobs for improved DX12 performance on Windows

To further improve DirectX 12 performance for Windows platforms, Unity 2023.1 introduces a new graphics jobs threading mode called Split Graphics Jobs. This mode aims to reduce unnecessary beginning- or end-of-frame synchronization between the main and native graphics jobs threads, resulting in significant performance improvements. In our internal testing, we’re observing meaningful CPU render setup performance gains over DX11 when targeting DX12 using Split Graphics Jobs. For more information, see the official forum post.

XR Interaction Toolkit 2.3

XR Interaction Toolkit v2.3.0 includes several new features and capabilities, including Interaction Groups, Poke and Gaze Interactors, hand interaction integration and samples, and Device Simulator usability improvements. You’ll also find a new Interaction Affordance System, which allows you to build high-performance interaction indicators (visual, audio, haptics, and so on). You can install XRI 2.3 via the Package Manager and find more details in the documentation.

Multiplayer networking

We celebrated a major milestone with Netcode for Entities, released alongside Unity 2022 LTS, and we intend to continue adding capabilities to our multiplayer solutions in the Editor. We’re also working to better integrate all of our multiplayer solutions, such as Netcode for GameObjects and Editor-side features, with Unity Gaming Services to provide a single multiplayer solution, as outlined in our Games Focus multiplayer post.

Unity Transport Protocol

EXPERIMENTAL RELEASE The Unity Transport Protocol (UTP) is the lower-level networking infrastructure that handles the transport of game data across networks and connected platforms and devices. In 2023.1, UTP supports both web and TCP connections to improve the capabilities of the technologies that rely on it, including our netcode solutions.

Multiplayer Play Mode

EXPERIMENTAL RELEASE Multiplayer Play Mode (MPPM) is a workflow improvement feature from our multiplayer toolset that aims to deliver a user experience that’s single-player-like but with a focus on the development cycle of multiplayer games. Leveraging MPPM allows you to emulate multiple players connected to the one game experience simultaneously, all on one machine. It supports recently released features such as Netcode for GameObjects, so you can be efficient in multiplayer development, even with a low hardware investment.

Multiplayer Play Mode: Test up to four player views simultaneously on one screen
Scripting support

As outlined in our Games Focus kickoff blog post, we are committed to a stable core. This means that we continue to update C# support in different ways, including the under-the-covers compilation process.

IL2CPP – C# line numbers

In previous releases, our implementation of IL2CPP made it challenging at times to track down the specific part of the code that a managed stack trace was referring to because it only provided method names. With 2023.1, developers can now enable the addition of debug symbol processing, which displays the C# source code line number information so it’s far easier to track down specific areas in the code base of a game project. Read more on how to activate and view this additional information in the documentation.

Extensible Editor

We shared our ongoing dedication to bringing new capabilities and functionality to the Editor and continue to ensure that creating your projects feels seamless.

Searchable context menus

We’re improving and standardizing the context menus that pop up when you right-click across items and workflows. Improvements include more consistent interactions, sorting optimizations, and an optional search field.

Unity 2023.1 Tech Stream is now available | Hero image
Terrain Tools Overlays

The Terrain Tools package has been migrated to the new Overlays toolbar framework for a more consistent and predictable experience with Unity scene authoring workflows.

Want to know more?

To read more about the 2023.1 Tech Stream, check out the 2023.1 release notes for a comprehensive list of features and the Unity Manual for documentation. As you dive in, keep in mind that while each Tech Stream release is supported with weekly updates until the next version, there is no guarantee for long-term support for new features. Also, remember to always back up your work prior to upgrading to a new version. Our upgrade guide can also assist with this. For projects in production, we recommend using Unity LTS for greater stability and support.

Let’s keep the conversation going

Each Tech Stream is an opportunity to both get early access to new features and to shape the development of future tech through your feedback. We want to hear how we can best support you and your projects. Let us know how we’re doing on the forums, or share your feedback directly with our product team through the Unity Platform Roadmap.