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Real Racing 2 HD: 1080p comes to iOS • Page 2

iPad 2 establishes a new mobile benchmark.

Setting the target of adding more detail and actually increasing the performance level in comparison to the iPhone and iPod Touch versions required extensive re-engineering of Real Racing 2 before Firemint was happy releasing it.

"After we had solved both of those problems, all we would have is a game that would be perceived as similar to the iPhone 4 version. So the big screen was a big problem," admits Murray.

"We are on top of it now. We have been working for so many months on iPad optimisations and we have a build that looks great and runs well on iPad 1. The exciting thing of course was that we were also working on an awesome build of the game in anticipation of the iPad 2. The iPad 2 is out there now, Real Racing 2 HD looks absolutely gorgeous on it, and plays like a dream... so it's all great now."

You may think that the yearly refresh pattern adopted by Apple would give developers something of a headache, as the range and scope of the devices out there encompasses a fairly diverse range of CPUs and graphics processors that is growing all the time. Even devices close to each other in the line-up can see significant differences: an iPhone 4 has twice the amount of onboard RAM as the fourth-gen iPod Touch, for example (512MB vs 256MB).

Despite the potential complications, Firemint is far more positive about the possibilities of the annual model refresh approach.

"It's great when you can be confident the hardware you're developing for is being updated and refreshed on a regular basis," says Murray.

"Having such great support behind the platform allows us to build on our games and tech; to let them mature in a way that's only possible with time and iteration. New hardware brings new users who may not have played our game before, so it is a new opportunity to sell also."

Time for a quick comparison between the game running via the tablet display (top) along with equivalent shots operating via the 1080p HDTV hook-up (below). Clearly the widescreen version has a tangible advantage in terms of field of view, though anti-aliasing is omitted.

In five generations of Apple hardware, arguably there have only been two major leaps in specification - the introduction of the OpenGL ES 2.0-compliant SGX535 in the iPhone 3GS and now the new dual-core CPU and GPU in iPad 2. Moving onto the A4 platform was clearly a big deal for Apple, but the speed bump given to the GPU was offset to a certain extent by the increased resolution of the Retina display.

"Apple has done an admirable job of keeping things relatively consistent. The only difficult thing is when to keep the old hardware running smoothly while also pushing the limits on the new hardware," muses Murray.

"We think that we have done remarkably well in this regard and if you get Real Racing 2 or Real Racing 2 HD on any device it should run smoothly and look as awesome as possible on your particular device. We have had a hiccup or two along this path, but we have been very fast to get on top of any issues on older devices with updates, to make sure that everyone is having an awesome experience."

After the release of iOS versions of RAGE, John Carmack lamented that perhaps too much focus had gone on supporting older iPhone and iPod Touch hardware as the vast majority of the game's audience were using OpenGL ES 2.0-compliant devices. Bearing in mind that Real Racing 2 is in the same bracket of technically advanced games, we might have expected Firemint to have taken that lesson onboard, but the studio's refreshing approach was to be as customer-friendly as possible.

"Yes, I agree with John Carmack that cutting-edge games would be mostly played on newer hardware," Murray concurs.

"Our attitude is to do our best to support older hardware where we can, not because there are a lot of users on the older hardware, but simply because there are some users there and every customer matters. However there is a limit to what we can do and it is getting very difficult to support OpenGL ES 1.0 devices with 3D games as the gap grows."

With Real Racing 2 HD complete and with its headline-grabbing 1080p update now available on the iTunes App Store, the focus at Firemint shifts to its next project.

"Agent Squeek, our third new IP, is coming out on both iPad and iPhone this year. We consider Agent Squeek to be a very ambitious project, but more in a design sense than in the technology," Murray teases.

"It is an accessible sort of game that looks deceptively simple, but it is very big in terms of development and iteration with over 22 months of work on it so far..."

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About the author

Richard Leadbetter

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry  |  digitalfoundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.


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