I wanted to post less "news only" stuff but this merits it!
By accident I just saw the news RSS feed for the 2.1 release announcement. It comes with some very useful new features and looks like it's a free upgrade for 2.0 users. If I think how much people had to pay for the Virtools 4.0 to 4.1 upgrade …
They added a complete scriptable assets import-pipeline. This is hyper useful and important !!!!! What I did to improve our Virtools pipeline a couple of years ago, was a bit similar. We script our assets imports too, so our "BogBuilder", which is our single-click build-process, takes i.e. one CMO, instructions from a XML file, data resources to do some processing and then spits out a publishable VMO. This, in combination with the modded 3ds max exporter, boosted our iteration cycle excessively. So, scriptable assets imports … wow, cool addition! I mean most people doing projects will look for something like this, strangely Virtools never added it as feature.
Something I was missing in Unity was to load assets at runtime. Previously you had to create your own i.e mesh serializer etc. Now they have 'assets bundles' – so a weak point fixed. Also the scriptable Editor GUIs is cool. Virtools also has an Editor API but it's MFC and not the easiest stuff to use. Btw. I have a couple of free Virtools Editor Plugins for download (don't know if there are any others freely available).
There is a feature in Virtools which is (was?) one of those potentially good but not usable features, that is probably overlooked by many – maybe because Marketing never promoted it. It's the "Skin Join" BuildingBlock (Component). It joins two (skinned) meshes via a patch/bridge-mesh. I used a modified version for my Thesis project (~5 years ago) where the characters where customizable. The problem with this BB is, as with many others, that it's not targetable. This means it has to be attached directly onto the mesh at authoring time. This renders it useless for at run-time customizable characters.
Unity3D allows now to combine skinned meshes too. Haven't found any details online yet, so I don't know if it will also prevent any seams as the Skin-Join BB does.
Two other new key-features: streaming terrain and real-time shadows on terrain. They say that Unity3D is now ready to be used for MMOs!
Very nice update, congratz!
Picture: explosion view of my thesis character. Besides multiple body parts, you can see the 'patches' I used to join them during runtime without any seams. Skinning and animating this kind of setups is a bit of pain though. Had to script me extra controls to allow me to switch quickly between different combinations inside 3ds max.