Unity optimization tips

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I've picked up an odd assortment of knowledge for squeezing the most performance out of games. I very rarely work on the newest, most capable hardware so I've spent a lot of time finding ways to accomplish the ambitious goals of designers and artists.

While there are common patterns, every game is different. It's important to understand the unique performance problems in your game first before making decisions on where to focus your attention.

Avoid UnityEngine.Object comparisons when possible

UnityEngine.Object comparisons are expensive! This applies to null checks and dictionaries since they both compare the objects internally. A one off comparison here and there is okay, but doing it hundreds of times per frame is going to hit FPS, especially on lower end hardware (like the Nintendo Switch).

⛔ Don't null check a GameObject every frame:

GameObject collisionObject;
void OnCollisionEnter(Collision c)
{
    collisionObject = c.gameObject;
}

void Update()
{
    if (collisionObject != null)
    {
        // handle collision
    }
}

✅ Do set a simple boolean flag that you can check each frame:

bool hasCollided;

void OnCollisionEnter(Collision c)
{
    hasCollided = true;
}

void Update()
{
    if (hasCollided)
    {
        // handle collision
    }
}

Cache expensive methods

The following are methods/properties that you often learn to rely on as a beginner, but many tutorials don't explain that calling them many times per frame can have an impact on your performance. It's best to call these once, and locally cache the results.

  • Camera.main
  • GameObject.transform
  • Renderer.Material
  • Transform.Find
  • FindObjectOfType/FindObjectsOfType/FindObjectOfTypeAll

⛔ Use Camera.main every Update():

void Update()
{
    var cam = Camera.main;
    cam.transform.Translate(Vector3.forward * Time.deltaTime);
}

✅ Cache the result in Awake(), Start(), or OnEnable() once, and reference the result in Update():

Camera cam;

void Awake()
{
    cam = Camera.main;
}

void Update()
{
    cam.transform.Translate(Vector3.forward * Time.deltaTime);
}

Leverage data locality

This article on data locality and the impact of cache misses, but essentially: putting things next to each other in memory is going to make your CPU work less hard.

Use fewer shaders

Simply accessing Renderer.material will assign a new instance of the material. If assigning shader properties, use MaterialPropertyBlocks instead.

Each shader is another set of draw calls. And if you don't have GPU instancing enabled, each instance is also drawn separated instead of being combined into a batch.

Use integer ids

There's a few instances where Unity allows integer and string ids in their API. The string APIs are often used by they are much less performant than their int counterparts, such as:


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