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Since real time hard and soft shadows are Unity 3D Pro only features I thought I will learn Cg programming and create my own shadow mapping shader. But after some digging I found that the shadow mapping technique uses depth textures, and in Unity depth values can be accessed through a Render Texture object, which is Unity Pro only again. So is it true, that I cannot create real time shadow shaders as a workaround to the limitations of the free version?

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If nothing else, you can manually calculate shadows using techniques similar to low-resolution ray tracing, then somehow put them on screen. I think this would be fairly easy, since unity supports hit detection with custom rays and all scene objects that have a collider, but of course this is highly inefficient.

If you can't afford unity pro (not even the student version), I suggest looking at other 3d or game engines that satisfy your needs better.

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