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Unity 3 debuts (sans Jobsian code spectre)

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Three weeks after it was freed from the spectre of Steve Jobs' infamous code translation ban, Unity has unveiled the long-awaited third version of its cross-platform 3D game development kit.

Among other things, Unity 3 offers a, well, unified editor, letting you deploy applications to any supported platform — including the web, the iPhones, the iPad, Android devices, and various gaming consoles — from a single codebase.

Unity has offered its 3D game-building kit for various platforms since 2005, and it now boasts over 200,000 registered users. But it's perhaps most famous for finding itself caught squarely in the middle of Steve Jobs' epic spat with Adobe. This past spring, when Jobs banned iPhone and iPad applications written in languages other than Objective C, C, or C++ — a crackdown on Adobe Flash at the very least — many assumed that Unity would be banned as well. The company's kit is based on Mono, the open source incarnation of Microsoft's .NET, and it compiles .NET code straight to assembly.

For months, Unity and its users were left to wonder whether the Apple app police would evict the platform — Apple wouldn't provide an answer one way or another — but earlier this month, Jobs suddenly lifted his code-translation ban, officially allowing not only Unity-built but also Adobe Flash–built native apps onto iPhones and iPads.

Whatever Steve Jobs thinks of cross-platform kits, Unity lets you code for more than just Apple devices. In addition to fashioning apps for Android devices, Macs, PCs, the Wii, Xbox 360, and the PlayStation, it builds for the web via its own browser plug-in. Android love is new to version 3, and according to Unity the current tools do "not represent the final Unity Android quality."

Version 3 also offers Beast lightmapping from Swedish outfit Illuminate labs, deferred rendering, occlusion culling, audio filters, lens effects, and a source-level debugger. Like its predecessors, Unity 3 is available for free to students and new companies with less than $100,000 in revenue during the previous year. Larger companies must opt for the premium version of the product, Unity Pro, priced at $1,500 per developer per seat. Current Unity Pro users can upgrade for $750.

If you want to develop for Android, Apple's iOS, or game consoles, you pay additional fees. Unity iPhone (for the free version of Unity) is priced at $300 per seat for new users or $100 per seat for upgrades, and Unity iPhone Pro is $1,200 or $500. Unity Android is $1,500 (Unity Pro required). And game-console development is priced on a per-title license.

You can download Unity 3 here. ®

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