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GDC China: Developing For The N-Gage And 3D Graphics In A 3G World

In this last dispatch from GDC China, Games On Deck correspondent Marcelo Careaga Muster summarizes Peter Lykke Nielsen, SDK Product Manager at Nokia’s “Developing for the N-Gage Platform” session and the “Mobile 3D Graphics in 3G World and Beyond” session from Petri Tatala of Futuremark.
TitleDeveloping for the N-Gage Platform

Peter Lykke Nielsen's lecture, "Developing for the N-Gage Platform" was directed mainly to developers that want to work with the N-Gage platform from Nokia. The main point that Nielsen made outside of purely technical details included that the N-Gage SDK is a "layer" that covers the development for all Nokia devices, so publishers can be sure that the game will work in any of them - with the caveat that "Nokia devices" means the high-end devices that include in the N-Gage platform. However, with N-Gage titles no conversion or porting of any kind should be required.

The release of OpenGL ES 1.1 enabled devices will probably be during Q2 2008, according to Nielsen. The phones will support the N-Gage API natively and be capable of hardware 3D acceleration. All future models from that point on will support OpenGL ES 1.1.

Nielsen stressed that the "N-Gage" is not just the development tools, but also N-Gage Arena, a system that is independent from operator and location run through Nokia's servers and so a valuable aspect for developers to take advantage of.

Nielsen did admit however that the platform is a closed one, and there are no plans to open it. However, there will be some APIs made available for developers.

Mobile 3D Graphics in 3G World and Beyond

Futuremark provides a suite of performance analysis applications and services, and Futuremark Vice President of Mobile Business, Petri Talala presented Futuremark's opinion of the future direction of 3D graphics related mobile applications and gaming in his session "Mobile 3D graphics in 3G world and beyond."

According to Tatala, after many setbacks, 3G is finally coming into its own, which means a world where mobile devices will no longer just be "phones", but be multi-function devices.

As with other electronic devices, Tatala continued, games are the leading media applications for 3G mobile handsets, and he felt that the opportunity for the future is in the development of the 3D gaming market, hypotheising "an increase on revenues of 50-100% over 2D games."

"Of course," Tatala said, "there are many issues to solve yet":

  • * Growth of mobile games market (the user base needs to increase.)
  • * The fragmentation of the market.
  • * Performance against power consumption. "This is probably the biggest issue given the need for performance," said Tatala.

"The bottom line is that during the next two years we will see the apparition of devices that will support 3D hardware acceleration with native APIs, mainly OpenGL ES," Tatala argued, "There is going to be a very big difference in performance when using this hardware acceleration, which can be exchangeable with power consumption. "

Java, in particular, Tatala continued, does not have an optimum performance against power consumption.

At this point, Talata showed a couple of videos showcasing the difference in performance between Java J SR 184 vs. Open GL ES 1.1 in running the same demo.

The conclusion presented from the videos was that there is a huge impact in performance, with a change from 25fps to more than 400fps. There are going to be new Java 3D APIs in the near future (JSR 239 and JSR 297), "but it is doubtful that they will mean a change so important in quality," Tatala stated.

Talata felt that the future of mobile 3D is in generating PC-like quality, even using programmable shaders. In order to illustrate this, Talata showed a video demo created using an Open GL ES emulator in a tool made by AMD, which shows a girl practicing Tai Chi moves, in a complex environment that showed shaders, textures and even water effects in real time.

In answering one the questions from the audience following his session, Tatala showed doubts that DirectX will be a factor in mobile gaming, mainly because he felt the plans for the deployment of Open GL ES 1.1 were already too firmly in place.

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