Recently, Nizar Romdan (Director, Developer Ecosystem ARM) made a somewhat spectacular, yet expected claim that graphics processor on mobile phones will overtake the current generation of consoles by 2017. He’s not the first – Jen-Hsun Huang often claims that NVIDIA Tegra processors rival desktop processors or graphics on gaming consoles.
While theoretical statements based on numbers are all nice and dandy, realities are that we haven’t seen ‘console-level’ or ‘desktop-level’ performance on mobile parts. Coming to the fore is Tim Sweeney (CEO and Founder, Epic Games), whose code wizards created the ProtoStar demo for Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone. ProtoStar is a demo based on Unreal Engine 4.10, and uses recently introduced Vulkan API. According to Tim, “The new industry-standard Vulkan API brings key elements of high-end console graphics technology to mobile devices, and Samsung is leading the way with the amazing new Galaxy S7. As the first engine supporting Vulkan, Unreal Engine 4 provides a solid foundation for developers joining in the mobile graphics revolution.”
This is a bit debatable, as you can already buy The Talos Principle, a puzzle-based game from CroTeam which uses Vulkan API natively.
As you can see in the video above, ProtoStar is very impressive. By using direct access to hardware, Unreal Engine 4 reduces the latency to a bare minimum. Thus, ProtoStar demo includes features which are common on PC games:
- Dynamic planar reflections (high-quality reflections for dynamic objects)
- Full GPU particle support on mobile, including vector fields
- Temporal anti-aliasing (TAA)
- High-quality ASTC texture compression
- Full scene dynamic cascaded shadows
- Chromatic aberration
- Mobile dynamic light refraction
- Filmic tonemapping curve
- Improved mobile static reflections
- High-quality mobile depth of field
- Vulkan API support with thousands of dynamic objects onscreen
Overall, Unreal Engine 4 is positioning itself as a high-end, high-spec, high-performance engine that delivers impressive visuals on mobile phones, as well as on consoles and PC’s. Given the realism of the early Vulkan demos, it is clear that low-level hardware API like Vulkan is perhaps that magic bullet that the developers needed to develop even the most demanding content in form factors we could only dream off.