Arguably the most relevant thing to our interests that was announced during the WWDC keynote this morning was iOS 8's new Metal feature. Assuming you're playing a game that has been optimized for Metal, that particular game should perform way better. Backing things up a bit, the disadvantage iOS hardware has always had over dedicated gaming consoles is a total lack of direct access to the hardware. Everything you do on iOS has to go through OpenGL, which in the simplest way I can describe it basically serves as a middleman between the game you're trying to run and your iOS device's processor that's doing the heavy lifting. Comparatively, something like the PS Vita is far closer to having its software interface directly with its hardware which is among the many reasons why dedicated consoles can squeeze out such great graphics with (in some cases) so little horsepower.

apple_metal.0_cinema_1280.0

Again, this is a gross over-simplification, but if you imagine things before Metal as there being a translator in between the game you're playing and the hardware rendering it, with Metal that translator is reduced to the point of being almost a non-issue. As such, Apple is boasting a 10x boost in rendering performance for Metal-optimized games. During the keynote, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare was running inside the Frostbite engine used on consoles and Epic appeared on stage to demo an amped up Epic Citadel [Free]-like Zen Garden which provided some insane visual effects.

Talking to developers outside of the keynote, many mentioned that the optimizations Apple is making could have a very significant impact on game performance. Like everything, it comes with a catch- Taking advantage of Metal is going to require developers spending potentially significant amounts of time optimizing their game specifically for the iOS platform. These days, many developers work in multi-platform development environments like Unity, hoping to cast as wide of a net as possible by releasing their games on iOS, Android, PC, and any other platform they can.

According to developers I've talked to, the most realistic thing for gamers to expect is for existing Unity games to get a little better once Unity supports Metal. Unity games often come with their own overheard compared to developing natively specifically for iOS, so most developers think that when Unity supports Metal, the Unity overhead and the Metal performance boost will likely cancel each other out- Resulting in Unity games that play better than Unity games typically do across the board.

I'm sure there will be benchmark titles exclusive to iOS that take advantage of Metal in crazy ways that produce some jaw-dropping graphics... But, it seems a more realistic expectation is that existing Unity games, once updated follow the launch of iOS 8 will probably run a little better than they do now.

  • Leeabe51

    All those retro-graphic games are going to looks awesome once they are optimized for Metal!

    • thiagovscoelho

      Seriously! Sometimes I feel kinda guilty for getting "the new awesome high-resolution Retina iPad" and playing so many "retraux 8-bit inspired" games.

      • seinfeld95

        Fk that. Who needs intricate graphics when you have games with an aesthetic sense as beautiful as the one present in Wayward Souls?

      • Goggles789

        True, but for a device that supposedly touts so much power it would be nice to see more games that take advantage of it. I feel terrible knowing I own a $500 device that runs a majority of games that are inspired from the NES era. Not that that's a bad thing on its own, but for a $500 device I want more punch.

      • James M Wallace

        Exactly! I spent $500 USD on my device as well, but I've been playing games like Block Legend, Slayin' and others. Though I play high-res games as well, I sometimes feel like I'm using a supercomputer to play Checkers.

    • falco

      Not everyone like retro 8 bits style...

      • Michael Graham Jr

        I hate them games

      • LKR

        Then don't play them.

      • Michael Graham Jr

        I don't play them tough guy. But the comments were about who loves 8bit games.

      • Design by Adrian

        I do! I do!

    • theundertow

      Maybe for now - Living Room next and once that happens, I would expect a more console like experience to make its way as well.

  • hellscaretaker

    i wonder how long before my ipad comes to the point it simply not be able to run the latest operating system i seen countless people on the forums comment on a games say cant download it as its only for 7.1 which makes me wonder why they not downloaded 7.1 cause there device cant take it?

    • Kyle Trail

      I have a 4th gen iPad (first lightning one) myself. I love it and never run into something I can't run, but I wonder myself. Can't be much longer.

      • Themostunclean

        iPad 2 still has very little it can't handle. The performance gap between devices is getting smaller with each iteration so anyone with a 4 or Air should be good for at least 2-3 more years. I got an iPad Air 4 months ago and can't see there being any reason to upgrade for at least 3 years.

      • Leguro

        It's so hard to tell. I went from 2 to 3 (retina was an easy choice). But my air is tricky. I think I'll skip a generation, but when you can resell for 150 cheaper than new, it's tempting to sell and upgrade. But you have to ask yourself why your doing this. Just a doubling of performance is hard to notice with these things.

      • Themostunclean

        Exactly. I'd need a significant performance increase or "killer" feature to upgrade. Going from an iPad 2 to an Air was an easy choice (retina, new form factor w/ narrow bezels, Siri, etc..) but I usually see very little reason to upgrade every cycle. Even with phones now the difference between generations isn't as drastic as it used to be. This applies to all brands, not just Apple. Mobile device evolution is certainly cooling down across the board.

      • star-affinity

        iPad 2 has trouble in some "heavier" games as it runs out of RAM, crashing the app.
        This happens for me in Fates Forever, Limbo, Oceanhorn and Heroes of Hearthstone (although it seems better in the later since the later updates to the game).

        Also, I wouldn't say performance is very good on an iPad 2 on Fates Forever, Oceanhorn and Heroes of Hearthstone, so it's definitely showing it's age. Nice if Metal can improve things for the iPad 2, but i feel the lack of memory (only 512 MB RAM) is a problem that's hard to work around for some games.

      • falco

        I have a iPad 4th too and I will give him 2 more years max.

    • ZarieoZ

      No. I think those don't wanna update cause maybe jailbreak is still not out for 7.1 (not really following the jailbreak drama) anyway any points added to numbers, are always general bug fixes & minor improvements, Apple don't ditch devices in points. But an entirely new number like 6,7,8 these numbered are the ones devices get ditched in.
      The way it's done (for the past couple of years at least) is that they ditch a device of each line every year. So last year, it was iPad 1 & iPhone 3GS that got ditched, then this year it'll be iPhone 4 (iPad 2 is still supported though, maybe it faired well in their tests ;-)). Calculate it respectively according to your device. Sorry it is long, wanted to make it easier for your to understand. Hope this helps.

      • Joseph

        Extensions for other apps, including Safari.
        Downloadable keyboards with as many features as you're willing to let them have.
        Lock screen and notification center customization.

        There's a lot less stuff now that I WANT a jailbreak for. About the only thing left I can think of is that I really would rather use my DualShock or WiiMote than what currently exists for an overpriced, underperforming rushed prototype Apple controller.

      • Leguro

        Same here. Love that ps3 controller and roms. Ppsspp is cool as hell. But if it's legit 10x performance (which I doubt) then I don't know if I'd wait for an ios 8 jailbreak.

      • TKO

        That's interesting, because all the jailbreak reasons cited there will be available for iOS8. ..there really isn't much reason to jailbreak any more. (yay)

        (I gave-up on the whole jailbreak thing ages ago .. too much hassle.)

  • Blankstar

    Infinity Blade IV is gonna look awesome ;-)

    • Boris Nguetie

      i thought the 3rd was an end!

      • the_rebel14

        It was the end of the trilogy. No one said it was the end of Infinity Blade! Fingers crossed!

      • ChilLama

        Ya maybe a free roam rpg this time.

  • JCman7

    I also liked the idea of app bundles that should open doors for a lot of developers to package some of their games together and try to increase revenue. I don't know the full details of how this works but this could possibly work for things like humble bundle.

  • dmn001

    On the image it says designed for A7 chip, does that mean only iPhone 5s + iPad air and above will stand to benefit from Metal, or would it be any device that can run iOS 8?, e,g. my archaic iPod Touch 5g, (hopefully they will release a new one later this year).

    • Themostunclean

      Likely it's just for 64bit architecture which only A7 has. iOS 8 compatibility won't be enough, you'll need the power to back it up.

  • ZarieoZ

    Hmmmm. So I assume Zen Garden won't work on my iPhone 5 or iPad 4. Right? Would have liked to see them, guess I'll download on iTunes for later use.

  • MaqueGenio

    Boy Imagine what Gameloft can do with the Metal Power. Redeeming themselves for all those years of underdeveloped/ outdated graphics enginees by doing an amazing comeback with a fully Metal optimized Modern Combat 5 with amazing realistic sparkling water effects that nobody else can replicate. I believe.

    • Michael Graham Jr

      I think that is what gameloft is waiting on

    • Jhrisado

      I can't wait for that either.....they might have to hold back on the release date again tho

  • spader623

    So... Could we see PVZ: garden warfare on iPad, like apple showed? That seems a bit unrealistic... Also, is this 'metal' thing basically a program that taps into the iphone/iPad/whatever's power more, by going directly into the processor instead of, I Guess, this open GL thing?

  • CioCio

    This is great news! I use both an Android and an iOS device daily - am very contented with both - and I do have to say that gaming is undeniably a better experience on iOS. Even if a lot more top games are coming out on both platforms these days, which is VERY good to see (you should have seen the garbage that was leading the 'Top Paid Games' charts on the Play Store a few years back) I can't see inherent issues going away given the plethora of Android screen sizes and dimension ratios out there.

    I don't typically support proprietary-type moves, but I'm glad to see that Apple is recognizing a legit, undeniable strength here.

  • Leguro

    I am obsessed with my ipad air, as I was with the "new" ipad (3) and the ipad 2 before it. So I'm not a hater. Far from it. I do believe that this will create improvements. But 10x?! Seriously? That HAS to be greatly exaggerated. Right? Even double seems a stretch. What do you guys think? I'm asking those who would know by the way. Uninformed guesses I can make (Clearly).

    • greatnoob

      10x DRAW calls isn't anything major. They're not promising 10x faster performance...

      • Leguro

        Yeah, I have no idea what "Draw" is. I know it's not draw distance. Is it a reference to triangles or polygons? Thank you for the schooling.

    • Lochheart

      Look at the difference between a PS Vita and a iPad Air ?

      PS Vita Hardware is like iPad 3, but provide much more power than ipad air.

      Marc Vaughan (Sigame => football manager) explain it like that :

      "iOS is built around long-term stability and ease of use with an inherantly 'interruptable' approach to applications so that external-kernel programs can come in interrupt applications.

      This is essential if you think about it because its first and foremost use is on phone devices - this does however mean that its constantly sharing its resources and processing power, restricting it hugely in comparison to a dedicated games device like the Vita.

      The easiest way to think about this is that the iOS/Android devices constantly get interrupted by things other than the 'active' game which slows down their effective processing power and what they can remember ... to put this in non-programmer terms, think how efficient you are if you're doing a task without interruption, then imagine you're doing that task with your wife constantly interrupting you and how much slower you'd be (and you'd probably forget where in the task you are because you're trying to remember what you're doing at the same time as what your wife is talking about)."

      • SherlockEB

        404- wife not found

      • apolloa

        I would agree but games like Dead Trigger 2 and Asphalt 8 or Real Racing 3 show that they can push some pretty impressive graphics, and that's on older hardware like the iPad 3 and the Nvidia Tegra 3 etc. So roll onto today or the end of this year, and I think mobile devices will be able to surpass the PSVita as well as do all those other things.

      • Leguro

        I pretty much understood that part. I guess I don't know what "10x greater draw" means. I know what "draw distance" is, and increased triangles means more polygons. I guess I just wonder how much performance we should expect from "10x greater draw." I appreciate the clarification.

  • the_rebel14

    Soooo... PVZ: Garden Warfare iOS anyone?

  • luckystrikeguy

    Wait so dream quest is gona look awesome then right ? ;)

  • Goggles789

    I'm glad that my phone will finally be able to run Flappy Bird at 60 fps.

  • jammyman

    GTA SA WITH GRAPHICS BOOST <33

  • pkmaximum

    God I would kill for Apple to make some kind of revolutionary iOS standard controller in a innovative way kind of like the smart-cover for the iPad. Where the controller feels natural to have as an extension of the phone and enhances it at the same time. Wishful thinking I know.....but it would get so many more devs on board I bet with getting games to the platform.

    • Leguro

      PS3 controller. Jailbroken for true flexibility.

  • Mike Castillo

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  • Hussein

    what was the name of the second game played in the demo?

  • Матт Реякіпѕ

    Let's put things in perspective. iOS already gets the highest quality mobile games first. A lot of games aren't released for Android until a year later like XCOM: Enemy Unknown (which was a PC game first). And with Metal, there's a chance for even better games than Enemy Unknown. Who knows maybe this is Apple's challenge to NVIDIA's Shield. If so we could see one hell of an increase in quality gaming for iDevices.

    • bluspacecow

      But only for A7 devices. Apple's programming overview document for Metal specifically says it's works with the A7 GPU only.

  • anabolicMike

    Everytime you decide on using something and start using it they change everything lol

  • darklegacyx3

    I bet you the next infinity blade is going to have console graphics

    • vai_levar_no_cu

      shame the gampelay is shallow

      • Leguro

        IOS grow by leaps and bounds every year. I bet it will pass consoles soon.

  • bluspacecow

    I've attempted posting this 3 times over the last few days but I've discovered something while looking through Apple's developer site -

    Metal is only for A7 devices. It's designed specifically for the A7 GPU.

    IE It will only be active on an iPhone 5S , iPad Air or iPad Mini (2nd Gen)

  • surirav

    Ios verry good for because Apple is good for graphics.
    And now console quality damm, no other os cant beat that.