First off, sorry I didn't respond to anyone's questions earlier. I should probably subscribe to threads in the future.
Originally Posted by imbueFX
Great stuff! Do you have any experience with Cascade in Unreal? If so, I'd love to hear the good and bad between the two.
I am using Cascade currently for a one week contract at a local game company.
Cascade is a fantastic particle system and I'm enjoying using it. I have used it a bit in the past so I was not completely unfamiliar with it.
Cascade and the Unity particle system have different philosophies. Cascade is similar to Maya in that you are given modules and you create links between the modules. If you want to change colour over lifetime, you just add another module.
Unity has more of a 3D Studio Max philosophy where you are given a big, complete plugin that is designed to solve a particular problem. The particle system is ready to go with all of the standard features. To change colour over lifetime you open the rollout and change the values.
Cascade's curve editor gives you an additional way to edit values instead of typing them in. This can be useful in visualizing how sharp/smooth a transition is from one value to another. Unity by default only allows you to type values in. I have worked mostly with custom particle editors on games that only allowed you to type values, so Unity's typing by default is no problem for me.
The material editor in Unreal allows you to do some pretty cool stuff with particles. I've just started using more advanced materials but the guy I'm currently working with on this project is very good and has shown me some neat tricks. It is very easy to create connections between the materials and particles in Unreal, and to have those connections affect parameters between the two. This allows you to create more dynamic relationships between lighting, materials, and particles fairly easily.
You can create similar relationships in Unity, but it would require you to use scripting. For someone who isn't a programmer, this would limit their ability to create fancier particle systems.
One thing I notice about people that use the Unreal engine is they sometimes lean too heavily on technical solutions because the guts of the system are so exposed to them. A simple particle system with good textures and colour choices will often do the job.
Cascade and the Unity particle systems are both great and I can be happy using either one.
Watch for the Shuriken particle system in Unity 3.5!