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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

March 7, 2011 at 9:50 AM

Q&A: Epic co-founder on iPad 2’s gaming potential

SAN FRANCISCO — One of the most enthusiastic people at last week’s Apple iPad 2 launch was Mark Rein, co-founder and vice president of Epic Games.

Epic, based in Cary, N.C., is known for full-bore, action blockbusters, such as “Gears of War” on the Xbox. Its “Unreal” game platform is also widely used by other studios to build games on multiple platforms.

reinmug.jpg

Apple has highlighted Epic’s work on “Infinity Blade,” a high-definition fantasy title released in December for the iPhone and iPad.

Rein (left) said the iPad is on its way to becoming a game console, with the new version coming Friday having a dual-core processor, improved graphics system and a new accessory for connecting the device to a digital TV.

“For us, it’s like Christmas,” he said, when we talked at Apple’s launch event.

Here’s an edited excerpt of our conversation:

Q: I’ve heard a lot about the iPad being great for casual games. Will this power boost make it better for hard-core action games as well?

A: That’s what “Infinity Blade” was — the first core, triple-A game designed specifically for these environments. So we already think it is.

It means that now, even [with] the casual experiences, you’ll be able to make those look even better. Even “Angry Birds” could take advantage of having more computing power.

Q: When will games appear that take advantage of the new iPad’s increased power?

A: I don’t think it will take very long. “Infinity Blade” (below) will already run faster and better because of this, and we can now turn up the texture detail and turn on some of the effects that we’d turned off on iPad because iPad was a more challenging development environment than iPhone, given the higher resolution screen.

An iPad has 20 percent more pixels on the screen than an iPhone 4, yet the CPU [central processing unit] and GPU [graphics processing unit] in the iPad were introduced before the iPhone 4, so the iPhone 4’s more powerful and has more features.

infinityblade1.jpg

Now this leapfrogs that again, and gives plenty of power to take advantage of the full resolution of the machine.

Q: If you bought the game for an iPad 1, then upgraded to an iPad 2, would you have to buy a new version of the game to get the improvements?

A: No, we will just adjust the game to take advantage of what it can do, the same way we adjust the game for iPhone 4 and 3GS. For us, it’s just settings.

Q: Will game developers take advantage of the new HDMI adapter for displaying iPad content on a big TV screen? Could that make it more like a handheld console?

A: Yes, absolutely. I’ve been actually saying that since the first iPad came out: This is a great way to play games.

It’s going to get more feasible — your game console could be a tablet you walk around with, and you use it as a controller in your home game experience. Or eventually you’ll put this down, you’ll pick up a DualShock [game controller], this will talk wirelessly or through HDMI to your TV, and you’ll play.

That’s the future, and Apple has clearly made a big step toward that with their digital [AV] adapter.

Q: Does the iPad 2’s processor have enough oomph for big-screen games?

A: I hate to say it, but there are game consoles you buy today that you connect to your TV that don’t even hold a candle to this.

Q: Are you talking about the Nintendo Wii?

A: I didn’t say a name. This is now more powerful than the first-generation Xbox. This is probably more powerful than a PlayStation 2 or a PlayStation 1 for sure. This is on the road to that, if it’s not already.

You can set this down, connect it in and get like a PlayStation controller — a controller that has Bluetooth — and away you go. I’d love to see where we could use a controller and play the hard-core experiences on these because that would be great. Especially with a stand, you just stand the thing up and play.

You know, like Microsoft’s Kinect — there’s a camera in here and some pretty good processing horsepower. You could make a “Dance Central” game for this thing. The possibilities are getting better and better every year.

Q: Are you going to release Epic’s “Bulletstorm” on the iPad now?

A: Would “Bulletstorm” or “Gears of War” be on here? The IP [intellectual property] could be, but I don’t think that we’d make that kind of dual-stick type game unless this thing spawned dual sticks — you know what I mean?

It’s just a different experience, what you do for this and what you do for a game console.

The really best experiences for [the iPad] are ones that are really designed for what you do on a touch screen.

But I play “Call of Duty” on it, I like shooters on it. It can be all things.

If you want to be super successful, you have to make the thing that people really want to play on this instead of a game console.

Q: So when will Epic open a Seattle office?

A: When we buy Microsoft.

Comments | Topics: Apple, bulletstorm, epic games

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