Intel talks mobile gaming, OpenGL ES 3.1 on Bay Trail

GDC — On Wednesday, Intel announced its renewed commitment to the desktop. Yesterday, the company talked specifically about gaming, especially on the mobile front. In the words of Richard Huddy, Intel's European Games Enabling Manager, Intel "takes gaming awfully seriously." To prove his point, Huddy kicked off the presentation with quote from our very own Scott Wasson:

Intel's gaming efforts take many shapes, from releasing performance analysis tools for developers to pushing for more ultrabook- and touch-friendly PC titles. Perhaps more excitingly, Huddy talked at length about OpenGL ES 3.1, which was announced earlier in the week. That API takes OpenGL ES "very close to parity with DirectX 11," Huddy said, and it's been "fully supported" from "day one" on Bay Trail.

In fact, Huddy asserted Intel is in a "leadership position" when it comes to the new API. He boasted that Intel had more OpenGL ES 3.1 demos than any of its competitors on the GDC show floor. The Intel demos showed cloth simulation, HDR bloom, deferred shading with antialiasing, and tessellation. (Tessellation isn't officially part of the OpenGL ES 3.1 spec, but Intel offers an extension pack that enables it. The same goes for deferred shading, although, to my knowledge, that wasn't demoed.)

Richard Kettlewell from Codemasters then took Huddy's place behind the podium. He said Codemasters is working on a mobile version of its GRID racing engine. The mobile engine is, of course, snazzed up with OpenGL ES 3.1 effects, and it runs on Intel's Bay Trail processors. Kettlewell demoed the engine in a Mario Kart-style racing game running on a Bay Trail tablet based on Android.

I got to play the demo myself for a couple of minutes. While the art assets weren't anything to write home about, the shader effects and detail level were quite good. The game ran smoothly with nicely responsive tilt controls, too, which is quite helpful for any handheld racing game.

There are other Android games in the works that will take advantage of Bay Trail and OpenGL ES 3.1. One of them is SSX, a snowboarding title from EA Sports.

Now, Android tablets based on Bay Trail aren't out yet. I was told they're coming in April. OpenGL ES 3.1 support isn't quite ready yet on that platform, anyhow. Validation still needs to take place (presumably with Khronos, the stewards of the OpenGL spec), and Google still needs to release an Android update to enable support.

I guess it's no wonder Intel is so gung-ho about OpenGL ES 3.1. Gaming is a big part of what draws folks to tablets, and if Intel is to carve itself a slice of the market—amid fierce competition from makers of ARM-based SoCs—then it needs not just good performance and battery life, but also impeccable support for the latest and flashiest mobile games. Clearly, some major developers are on board. It'll be interesting to see how many manufacturers wind up adopting Bay Trail for their Android tablets in the next little while.

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