Wednesday, March 17, 2010

One small step for Epic

I've often idly wondered about the actual footprint/overhead of modern game engines, imagining that modern memory-rich gaming platforms have probably rendered them fat and resource-greedy. Turns out that, at least as far as Unreal Engine 3 is concerned, that couldn't be farther from the truth - it's a downright spry beast. So damn spry, in fact, that those mad fools at Epic managed to stick it onto the iPhone. Witness the madness:

Epic are crazy people, is what I'm saying.

So what, you might say. iPhone is an expensive toy, limited, not something you'd ever buy, etc. Why should you care?

You should care because they've got a version of the Unreal Engine 3 that works on platforms with low processing power and OpenGL ES graphics. Still not getting it? You know which other platform has low processing power and OpenGL ES graphics? The freakin' Internet.

The HTML 5 page coding standard that is starting to be widely used on the Net (supported by all modern Web browsers except the archaic Internet Explorer, and even IE will support it in version 9) will soon come with a companion standard called WebGL, an API for displaying hardware accelerated 3D graphics on webpages without plugins, which is heavily based on (and actually uses) OpenGL ES. Modern Web browsers also have lightning-fast engines for JavaScript, the standard Web coding language that WebGL is used from. Of course, JavaScript is still an order of magnitude slower than real compiled application code on a modern desktop CPU, but it's much more competitive against application code on an iPhone CPU.

Which all boils down to this: it will very soon be possible to create a UE3-class game engine that will run in your Web browser without any plugins. You know Quake Live? In a year or so you'll be able to do that without any plugins, and it will look more like UT2004.

The future's so bright, I gotta wear etc.

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