Epic game developer calls iPad 2 graphics leap "astonishing," doubts Android can compete

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014
The blistering pace of graphics performance improvements on Apple's iPad 2 will enable a new class of handheld gaming titles, but Android devices aren't likely to get the same kind of attention due to platform fragmentation, says Epic Games's Tim Sweeney.



Sweeney, a key developer of Epic's Unreal Engine used in a series of 3D games over the past decade from the first "Unreal" in 1998 through such popular titles as "BioShock" and "Batman: Arkham Asylum," noted in an interview with Gizmodo that mobile devices are improving much faster than consoles historically have.



The 9x iPad 2 graphics leap



Sweeney described conventional game consoles as seeing "a 10-20x leap in performance every 7-8 years," compared to the 9x leap Apple claimed for the iPad 2 in just one annual refresh. Asked whether iPad 2 can really deliver a 9x improvement in graphics performance, Sweeny said, "I certainly believe 9x," although his group hasn't benchmarked the device's core chips yet.



Last year's A4 CPU used in the iPhone 4 and iPad is roughly "comparable to a single Xbox 360 core" Sweeney estimated. The new A5 used in iPad 2 holds the potential for "far, far more potential in that platform than we're exploiting today," he added.



Sweeney said iPad 2 delivers enough shader performance that "you can use the high-detail shaders we did during Gears of War." The interview noted that "more complex shaders and post-processing effects are going to remain the visual differentiators between high-end mobile devices and consoles for the time being, though we could 'see more of that with more time with the iPad 2.'"



Limitations of mobile devices



The biggest limitation for game development on mobile devices is OpenGL ES graphic drivers Sweeney said, which currently have "fairly high overhead" and are "not nearly as optimized as we'd like."



Optimizations could provide "a factor of 4 driver overhead reduction," he estimated, noting that the current software allows mobile games to look great but restricts them from rendering "a whole lot of objects" on the screen at once.



The result are games like Epic's "Infinity Blade" for iPhone and iPad, which focuses on one-to-one combat. Epic delivered a special version of the title for the new iPad 2 to take advantage of its greater graphics capacity (contrasted with the original iPad graphics below).



Another limitation is available memory, Sweeney said, although he was described as being "totally happy" with the iPad 2's 512MB of RAM, noting that "it's as much as the Xbox 360." The biggest issue with RAM is having a known amount available to work with he said.









Android hardware fragmentation a problem for high end games



Uncertainty about the hardware available across a given platform is a particular problem for higher end gaming developers. Sweeney explained, "when a consumer gets the phone and they want to play a game that uses our technology, it's got to be a consistent experience, and we can't guarantee that [on Android]. That's what held us off of Android."



Contrasted against a gaming platform where hardware aspects don't vary between models and makers, an "open" platform like Android becomes a difficult beast to target. "If you took the underlying [Sony] NGP hardware and shipped Android on it, you'd find far far less performance on Android," Sweeney said.



"Let's say you took an NGP phone and made four versions of it. Each one would give you a different amount of memory and performance based on the crap [the carriers] put on their phone," he added, alluding to the additional layers of software fragmentation that affect Android devices.



Apple's chief executive Steve Jobs described Android's software fragmentation as a growing problem for developers last fall, and a recent survey indicates that 87 percent of Android developers see fragmentation as being a problem for the platform.



For Epic to do the kinds of things they do on iOS, Sweeney said that "Google needs to be a little more evil. They need to be far more controlling." At the same time, he also said the main reason Epic has focused on Apple's iOS was because "it's really the best place to make money."



That observation underlines the the reality that despite shipping on lots of phone handsets (much as JavaME or Flash Lite did before it), Android isn't creating a viable development platform that is resulting in either web apps or native development that can rival Apple's iOS platform in smartphones, let alone other devices such as media players like iPod touch or tablets like iPad.



A report from February indicated that Apple continues to own 82.7 percent of all mobile software sales with its iOS App Store.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 68
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    I agree with the guy. I've only owned my iPad2 for less than a week and I'm not really a gamer, but I've been playing more games than I thought with it. Everything is pretty smooth on the iPad2.



    At the moment, I'm liking War Pinball HD. I think we'll be seeing a lot more great games coming out soon for the iPad. I want to see more big name companies start to make games and port their old catalogues over to the iPad.
  • Reply 2 of 68
    ghostface147ghostface147 Posts: 1,629member
    I still think that a physical d-pad of some sort is needed for it to really take off.....FPS type game wise. However some people have done some very innovative touch control games. Sliced HD comes to mind...
  • Reply 3 of 68
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,148member
    An ARM Cortex A8 at 1GHz equivalent to a single 360 processor core? I'm giving that a [citation needed]





    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instruc...ons_per_second



    The whole tri-core processor outputs 19,200 MIPS. An A8 like the iPad 1 outputs 2,000 MIPS at peak. And its 6 instructions per cycle vs 2. Even if you divide the former score by three, your nowhere close.



    And yes, I do know MIPS aren't a perfect indicator of performance, but they should give you a general sense of where things are.
  • Reply 4 of 68
    I think Epic has benefitted pretty handsomely from Apple featuring their games, so they're probably not really unbiased. I'm not saying there's any kind of quid pro quo going on - the Epic games are clearly head and shoulders above the mass of games out there, so of course Apple featured them - but just that it would be great for them if iOS devices really did beat out Android across the board. I for one don't think people are really going to see a 9x speed boost (5-7x? Yes. 9x? No.), and I doubt the Epic folks really believe that either.



    Also, I see the Tegras and the Adrenos coming down the line being quite competitive. By the 2011 holidays competing products will be as fast or even faster than the iPad 2, and probably have other buzzwords as well. Sure, it's 9 months after the iPad 2 we're talking about, and the iPad 3 will be around the corner, but I'm just saying that the hardware gulf is unlikely to persist through all release cycles.



    The more important that the details of what the developer is claiming, however, is *that* the developer is claiming it. That iOS is sticky for customers is well-established - see the AI article on "very satisfied" customers in the user polls today - but this shows the tendency for iOS to be sticky for developers as well. Lots of developers have at least dabbled in Android under the idea that someday it'll get better and/or become dominant, but if iOS continues to deliver the goods for developers while Android doesn't, developer experiments with Android may start to wane.
  • Reply 5 of 68
    Again, why even talk about those Android tablets when very few people are actually buying them? It doesn't matter if iPad2 has better graphics than the Xoom etc. or not, you won't find games for Android 3.0 because there's no market for it and nobody can make money if there's no market. The kind of attention these Android tablets are getting is so over the top.
  • Reply 6 of 68
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,105member
    All this doesn't matter. Each time Android fragmentation has been brought up, the Android and fandroid communities would raise their torches and pitchforks and scream at the top of their lungs that there was no such thing as fragmentation, the so called wannabe weekend-"developers" would spew all kinds of smoke and statistics to prove there was no problem at all, and that we Apple fans were just sipping too much of the Koolaid.



    I'm sure it's just my mind playing games with me because I swear I have not heard one peep from the fandroid trolls defending their positions, especially when Google came into the fragmentation arena.



    Is it possible Android really is the mess that it is???



    </sarcasm>
  • Reply 7 of 68
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tipoo View Post


    An ARM Cortex A8 at 1GHz equivalent to a single 360 processor core? I'm giving that a [citation needed]





    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instruc...ons_per_second



    The whole tri-core processor outputs 19,200 MIPS. An A8 like the iPad 1 outputs 2,000 MIPS at peak. And its 6 instructions per cycle vs 2. Even if you divide the former score by three, your nowhere close.



    And yes, I do know MIPS aren't a perfect indicator of performance, but they should give you a general sense of where things are.



    That's a valid comparison if is was the Cortex A8 that was being compared but he's not comparing the A8 to a 360 core but the Apple A4 as a whole. The A4 is more than an off the shelf Cortex A8.
  • Reply 8 of 68
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,148member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jmillermcp View Post


    That's a valid comparison if is was the Cortex A8 that was being compared but he's not comparing the A8 to a 360 core but the Apple A4 as a whole. The A4 is more than an off the shelf Cortex A8.



    Its hard to isolate the processor because of the software that runs on top of it, but the A8 in the iPad 1 isn't hugely more powerful than any other A8 at the same speed (snapdragon for instance), looking at the early benchmarks of it. Even if Apple did manage to substantially improve the performance over a stock A8, it would not be close to the 360 core in MIPS and again the instructions per second.



    And then there's memory bandwidth and latency, channel bandwidth between graphics and processor components, the storage limitations of apps, etc, all to factor in.
  • Reply 9 of 68
    constable odoconstable odo Posts: 1,041member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sflocal View Post


    All this doesn't matter. Each time Android fragmentation has been brought up, the Android and fandroid communities would raise their torches and pitchforks and scream at the top of their lungs that there was no such thing as fragmentation, the so called wannabe weekend-"developers" would spew all kinds of smoke and statistics to prove there was no problem at all, and that we Apple fans were just sipping too much of the Koolaid.



    I'm sure it's just my mind playing games with me because I swear I have not heard one peep from the fandroid trolls defending their positions, especially when Google came into the fragmentation arena.



    Is it possible Android really is the mess that it is???



    </sarcasm>



    It's not that just the Droidtards were saying there was no fragmentation, but Google itself WAS saying that there wasn't a serious fragmentation issue on the platform. I believe they've recently changed their tune. I'm sure it would be very difficult for game developers to have to make a game run decently on literally dozens of various Android smartphones. I'm sure that most top-of-the-line Android smartphones probably have similar performance but those lower-end processor models would be trouble. It would just seem easier for a game developer to work with iOS because of the fewer models and Apple's tighter controls over the platform. That just makes sense.



    Apple's platform will continue to draw the best developers and the most money, so I don't care how large a market share Android gets, Apple will continue to get the largest revenue share with the iOS platform. No other mobile platform is going to be as open and uncontrolled as Android unless Google changes the model. I think the Droidtards are screwing themselves if they want Google to just allow anything to take place on the platform.



    Anyway, it's good to hear that developers like taking advantage of the A5. If Apple can continue to design its own processors specifically for their own hardware that's a great advantage to have so it can plan its products' capabilities well in advance.
  • Reply 10 of 68
    datsonddatsond Posts: 10member
    I think we will see the 9x with the release of iOS 5. I think pervasive OpenCL & Grand Central Dispatch optimizations will make it happen. Here's hoping for 9x + improvement.
  • Reply 11 of 68
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,893member
    There is a reason Sony, Nintendo & Microsoft each sell only one console model at a time. It's the same reason Apple is cleaning up in gaming while Android is eating Apple's dust. Google requiring less fragmentation among Android phones is tantamount to demanding that Samsung, Motorola, HTC and all the others sell interchangeable, generic handsets. Good luck with that.
  • Reply 12 of 68
    freerangefreerange Posts: 1,597member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tipoo View Post


    An ARM Cortex A8 at 1GHz equivalent to a single 360 processor core? I'm giving that a [citation needed]





    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instruc...ons_per_second



    The whole tri-core processor outputs 19,200 MIPS. An A8 like the iPad 1 outputs 2,000 MIPS at peak. And its 6 instructions per cycle vs 2. Even if you divide the former score by three, your nowhere close.



    And yes, I do know MIPS aren't a perfect indicator of performance, but they should give you a general sense of where things are.



    So we should believe you versus someone who actually develops the games and knows the performance characteristics of devices intimately?
  • Reply 13 of 68
    Once again, Stevo was right.



  • Reply 14 of 68
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,148member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by FreeRange View Post


    So we should believe you versus someone who actually develops the games and knows the performance characteristics of devices intimately?



    Should we believe everything developers say? Not like they would have an interest in hyping new engines or anything, right? Or not like they've ever over-hyped a new platform?



    I'm not saying take my word for it, just look at the table I posted. Three times the instructions per cycle, three times the clock speed, astronomical Million Instructions Per Second rating in comparison, faster bandwidth, faster interconnects, faster and larger caches...Come on now. Even the original AMD Athlon had a higher Instructions Per Second. This isn't a clock speed comparison, MIPS can be compared across architectures. They don't reflect all workloads, but all I'm going for here is a general sense.
  • Reply 15 of 68
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tipoo View Post


    Its hard to isolate the processor because of the software that runs on top of it, but the A8 in the iPad 1 isn't hugely more powerful than any other A8 at the same speed (snapdragon for instance), looking at the early benchmarks of it. Even if Apple did manage to substantially improve the performance over a stock A8, it would not be close to the 360 core in MIPS and again the instructions per second.



    And then there's memory bandwidth and latency, channel bandwidth between graphics and processor components, the storage limitations of apps, etc, all to factor in.



    You're not counting the integrated PowerVR graphics processor. That's where most of the "9x" performance improvement is supposed to come from.
  • Reply 16 of 68
    pbrstreetgpbrstreetg Posts: 184member
    Your a bit delusional, it doesn't take a Google expert to find articles where Android developers and Google acknowledge that fragmentation is a serious problem.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sflocal View Post


    All this doesn't matter. Each time Android fragmentation has been brought up, the Android and fandroid communities would raise their torches and pitchforks and scream at the top of their lungs that there was no such thing as fragmentation, the so called wannabe weekend-"developers" would spew all kinds of smoke and statistics to prove there was no problem at all, and that we Apple fans were just sipping too much of the Koolaid.



    I'm sure it's just my mind playing games with me because I swear I have not heard one peep from the fandroid trolls defending their positions, especially when Google came into the fragmentation arena.



    Is it possible Android really is the mess that it is???



    </sarcasm>



  • Reply 17 of 68
    myapplelovemyapplelove Posts: 1,515member
    I too think this comment doesn't make sense, the one from the dev where he compares cpus.
  • Reply 18 of 68
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,148member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by illimiter View Post


    You're not counting the integrated PowerVR graphics processor. That's where most of the "9x" performance improvement is supposed to come from.



    Ehh? Why would I count the GPU when I'm specifically talking about the CPU comparison he made? He made a per-core processor comparison. Not GPU. I'm not talking about Apple's 9x graphical performance claim.
  • Reply 19 of 68
    archosarchos Posts: 152member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tipoo View Post


    An ARM Cortex A8 at 1GHz equivalent to a single 360 processor core? I'm giving that a [citation needed]





    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instruc...ons_per_second



    The whole tri-core processor outputs 19,200 MIPS. An A8 like the iPad 1 outputs 2,000 MIPS at peak. And its 6 instructions per cycle vs 2. Even if you divide the former score by three, your nowhere close.



    And yes, I do know MIPS aren't a perfect indicator of performance, but they should give you a general sense of where things are.



    Well, given that this is the author of the Unreal Engine, I'd defer to the expert opinion over some anonymous commenter citing wikipedia stats
  • Reply 20 of 68
    archosarchos Posts: 152member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tundraboy View Post


    There is a reason Sony, Nintendo & Microsoft each sell only one console model at a time. It's the same reason Apple is cleaning up in gaming while Android is eating Apple's dust. Google requiring less fragmentation among Android phones is tantamount to demanding that Samsung, Motorola, HTC and all the others sell interchangeable, generic handsets. Good luck with that.



    And if you compare the business model of 3DO, which attempted to basically be the "Android" of video game consoles back in the 90s, you'll have additional evidence that "open" platforms just add a bunch of issues.



    Apple's "open" Mac licensing program was a similar failure, and started becoming expensive and difficult for Apple to support.
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