updated 03:45 pm EDT, Tue April 5, 2011
Epic rules out Android gaming for now
Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney in an interview on Tuesday ruled out game development on Android in favor of the iPhone and iPad. Games like Infinity Blade couldn't come to Android because Epic "can't guarantee" a baseline experience on every device. Even if a fast quad-core device like the Sony NGP were underneath, Sweeney told Gizmodo, the free rein hardware makers and carriers have to impose apps and custom interfaces meant you would get a different experience that could slow it down.
"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 explained, adding that Android largely made it slower as a whole.
The actual NGP would be faster than what both Apple and Google by necessity have to deal with software overhead that the PlayStation doesn't, he quickly added.
Google has usually tried to deny any fragmentation problems but has increasingly faced problems as OS upgrades are delayed or cancelled and some of the core experience gets hurt. Rumors have swirled that it's cracking down to get to a better experience, including for games.
Sweeney noted that there was also a strong financial motivation to work on iOS, since it was the "best place to make money." He did have some complaints about iOS in the unpredictability of how it handled RAM. While the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 had enough RAM at 512MB, iOS didn't always set aside memory gracefully and forced users to either close some apps or reboot to set aside enough memory. OpenGL ES drivers for mobile graphics were also to blame and, with proper optimization, could show much more detail or considerably more characters onscreen. Infinity Blade was deliberately capped at one-to-one fighting to reduce the overhead.
From early investigations, however, the developer said he believed the claims of a ninefold speed boost in the iPad 2's graphics and saw it as having a large amount of potential. An iPhone 4 was roughly comparable to one of the three cores in an Xbox 360, but the iPad 2's chip had "far far more potential." At a minimum, the PowerVR SGX543 graphics could use the same pixel shader effects as in Gears of War where most other devices couldn't manage as much.
In the long term, Sweeney estimated that the iPad 3 or future generations could be fast enough to equal or pass the Xbox 360 in speed. That wasn't true of the Nintendo 3DS, which despite being pitched as better than an iPod for gaming couldn't run Unreal Engine 3 at all without the necessary effects shaders.