Multiplayer development status and milestones - September 2023

Hi everyone! I’m Kiki Saintonge, one of the senior technical product managers here on the Unity Multiplayer team. I’m pleased to be able to present and talk to you all about our Q3/Q4 plans for 2023 as well as the 2022 LTS features for both our netcode solutions. Let’s see what we're up to!

What are Unity’s multiplayer solutions?
Unity’s multiplayer solutions encompass our platform abstraction layer (such as Netcode for Entities and Netcode for GameObjects), the Transport layer, our multiplay tooling suite, and Unity Gaming Services - all of which enable the successful launch and growth of your multiplayer games through a rapidly growing end-to-end platform.

Unity’s multiplayer journey
We’ve come a long way since Unity first embarked on a multiplayer networking solution and we would like to take a moment to celebrate and acknowledge this journey with you:

  • In 2015, Unity Networking (UNET) was released, offering functionality such as a client-server architecture, object synchronization, and a few high-level networking components. However, over the course of its use in production scenarios, we quickly realized that UNET didn’t meet many of the intricate needs of multiplayer projects. This led us to deprecate UNET in November 2018. We were also anticipating the upcoming DOTS release, which promised a more fully featured netcode solution.

  • In March 2018, the Data-Oriented Technology Stack (DOTS) was announced, introducing a data-oriented and entity-component system (ECS) architecture. This enhanced performance, scalability, and offered a more comprehensive netcode solution.

  • While we worked hard to deliver a new tech stack for larger scale solutions, we heard your demands for a familiar and simpler solution for casual co-op multiplayer games. This led us in December of 2020 to acquire the MLAPI framework, which would later become the foundation for Netcode for GameObjects.

  • We celebrated the release and success of Netcode for GameObjects 1.0 in June of 2022, which offered Unity-supported tools, regular package updates, live support, a growing community, and better support of our Unity Gaming Services features and functionality that were announced just a year prior in October of 2021.

  • In December of 2022, the ECS for Unity 2022 Tech Stream became available, marking a significant milestone as it provided a production-ready netcode solution that completed our netcode offerings, enabling support for scalability and competitive action multiplayer genres. We also updated our Netcode for GameObjects samples at this time to demonstrate how to connect to our Relay and Multiplayer (dedicated game server) hosting solutions.

Since the release of 2022 LTS, you now have two powerful netcode solutions, enabling creation of casual co-op to large-scale competitive action games. There is also a lot available to get you started and keep you successful, like our production-ready multiplayer sample BossRoom, a Unity Transport 2.0 to enhance cross-platform and web multiplayer, an expanded Multiplayer tooling kit with network inspection features like Network Scene Visualization and Network Profiler, a dedicated-server package with workflows for creating server-authoritative projects, a whole selection of Bitesized samples showcasing key multiplayer experiences, and an innovative ECS/DOTS-based multiplayer sample: Megacity Multiplayer.

Example of studios who shipped using Unity Multiplayer solutions
We’ve seen some amazing multiplayer games come from studios and creators of all sizes, but we want to take the time to uplift some particular games, who’s early adopter developers have been putting in a lot of effort to work with us in helping make our tech what it is today:

  • Stickylock Studios - Histera (March 2023): The battlefield is always changing in this free-to-play tactical multiplayer FPS! The ‘Glitch’ spawns in map sections from the past, present or future, with themed weapons and equipment from those eras.

  • Sunblink Entertainment - HEROish (March 2023): Assemble your troops in this strategy/action RPG and equip powerful spells to wage war across three different campaigns - then climb the PvP ranks in fast-paced 1v1 or 2v2 competitive battles!

  • Fika Productions - Ship of Fools (Nov 2022): Join a friend in this seafaring roguelite co-op game where you play the Fools, the only creatures fool enough to brave the sea.

  • Hugecalf Studios - Turbo Golf Racing (August 2022): Experience the fast-paced arcade-style motorsport racing with up to 8 of your friends as you jump, flip, glide, boost, and dash with Turbo-charged cars and be the first to get your ball in the hole.

If you’d like to learn more about the experiences of developing multiplayer games from the creators of these titles above, check out our 2023 GDC talk that goes over how to create, launch, and manage multiplayer games with Unity.

With this solid base of engine features and services, we’d like to share some of our thoughts for next steps, so that you can tell us what you think.

Scalable Netcode
Our two netcode solutions cater to various gameplay styles and project requirements, spanning from casual cooperative experiences to competitive action multiplayer games.

However, opting for our GameObjects solution presents a challenge for creators who wish to expand or introduce more competitiveness, as it requires transitioning to a completely different tech stack. On the other hand, creators who begin with the Entities solution miss out on the convenient tools and user-friendly workflows offered by GameObjects.

To simplify your multiplayer development and accelerate delivering to you all the features you might need regardless of your gameplay architecture choices, we are exploring integrating the GameObjects workflows with the performance and scalability of the ECS netcode infrastructure.

Build, Launch, and Scale Playtests
Building a successful multiplayer title isn’t just about the gameplay, it’s also about the services and management that go into building and growing a successful online presence. Through the com.unity.dedicated-server package, we’re working on providing a better dedicated game server workflow for more control over server-authoritative builds as well as adding in local and remote in-editor testing for dedicated server projects.

We're also looking at improving the integration of our hosting services to be in-editor and expanding on our existing multiplayer toolsets to give you better insight into what’s going on in all multiplayer and hosting scenarios with the ability to more easily test those scenarios in a live environment setting.

Further Integrated Platform
We'll be building some multiplayer friendly templates that set up best practices for your project to be easily built into a dedicated game server or our Relay and Lobby services. We’re also looking into how to better integrate Unity Gaming Services directly into the Editor for testing and iteration purposes - this includes looking into providing an Editor widgets for services like Vivox and matchmaking.

Resources to get started
Building multiplayer games can be complicated, so we’ve built and documented many of the common networked gameplay scenarios across samples, demos, and our website to help you get started:

  • Netcode for Entities, Netcode for GameObjects, ECS Samples, and Bitesize Samples: The netcode documentation and samples for both netcode tech stacks reflect the latest APIs and usage for most multiplayer scenarios. These resources will be especially useful for new users looking to learn about the fundamental concepts of networked gameplay.

  • BossRoom: Unity’s longest running production-ready multiplayer sample built with the GameObjects Netcode workflows, this demo is a 3D casual co-op game with production-level code and integrated with our Lobby and Relay hosting services.

  • Galactic Kittens: A 2D co-op space adventure sample built with Netcode for GameObjects and designed to help you learn how to synchronize network objects.

  • ECS Network Racing: If you’re looking for a smaller scale multiplayer sample with ECS for Unity, ECS Network Racing showcases the capabilities of Netcode for Entities and how you can easily build a multiplayer game out of the box. Specifically, the sample exemplifies an implementation of client/server architecture with client-side prediction, interpolation and lag compensation.

  • Building a production ready multiplayer game with Unity [Webinar series]: If you’re looking to build a small-scale cooperative multiplayer game with Unity, join us for this four-part series with our Multiplayer team! We’ll dive into the Boss Room sample to explore building a production-ready multiplayer game with Unity and Netcode for GameObjects.

  • Megacity Competitive Action Sample: Megacity Competitive Action Sample extends the Megacity sample, and showcases how creators can build ambitious multiplayer titles that support more than 64 concurrent players, while leveraging on UGS services like Game Server Hosting, Authentication, Voice Chat and Matchmaker.

Feedback is a gift
We’ve updated our public roadmap page, to reflect what’s available and what we’re planning to deliver next. As usual, your feedback is carefully reviewed by the team and provides significant impact to drive the direction of the product.

Each card on this interactive board is clickable, giving you more details about each topic while providing you with the option to share your feedback. If you accept to use functional cookies and log in using your Unity ID, then it’s as simple as clicking a card, selecting how important the topic is to you, adding your point of view, and submitting. This feedback is directly routed to the proper product teams.

We are also actively engaging with many of you via the Unity Multiplayer Networking Discord, as well as here in the forums.

We would have loved to ship multiplayer solutions earlier to you all and with this major milestone, we are accelerating our pace of delivering a more native and intuitive multiplayer experience for your games. We want to thank you for sticking with us throughout this journey and giving us the feedback we need to build better products, tools, and services. We all look forward to seeing what this community of creatives will build in the future and stay tuned for our next roadmap update.

As always, please continue to let us know what you think in this thread!



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