Frostbite is not only the heart of the Battlefield games on PC and console, it’s also pushing technical boundaries on mobile. Kristoffer BenJamison, Product Owner for Mobile at Frostbite, tells you about the team’s greatest mobile challenge yet.
Frostbite is known for being cutting edge. Everything from rendering to destruction to the scale of our worlds is constantly pushing the boundaries for video games. Highly detailed and dynamic environments are key pillars to any Frostbite game and mobile is no difference. Whatever you can do on console should be doable on mobile as well!
The Frostbite engine has already explored mobile gaming with the Battlefield 4 Commander App, and at the Apple WWDC event earlier this year we showcased a Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare tech demo running on an iPad Air. 1.3 million triangles showing up on screen simultaneously showed what the engine was capable of.
The next step? We wanted to get parts of Battlefield 4 running on iOS.
It has been quite a challenge. To handle dynamic features such as destruction or moving light sources, most things in the Frostbite engine happen in real time. This puts extra demand on performance to be able to deliver large, highly detailed worlds with superb visual quality. We were making great progress feature-wise, but hardware and software limitations forced us to either scale down the number of objects and their complexity to retain visual fidelity, or accept lower visual fidelity to cope with a larger number of objects.
This all changed when Apple introduced Metal, their new low-level graphics API, which allowed us to make full use of the hardware. Together with the latest range of hardware, Metal has created possibilities previously out of reach and for the first time we can include both high visual fidelity and a large number of objects.
So to see exactly how far we could take the engine on mobile we set ourselves up for a real challenge: getting selected parts of the Battlefield 4 truly a visually demanding game running on iOS! I want to stress that this has been a tech demo to test the engine capabilities, and nothing else.
There is still much to do, but we’re very happy with the results so far. It’s a great feeling porting a system, get it running, and discover that there’s actually performance left. Even though we have much room for performance improvements on our end, we’re pleasantly surprised of the performance we’re getting from the hardware.
We’ll wait for future posts to dig into more details about this, but we are ready to share some screenshots of our work in progress. We hope you find them as exciting as we do.