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WWDC: Apple’s Metal platform to improve game performance on iOS

WWDC: Apple's Metal improves rendering performance
WWDC: Apple's Metal improves rendering performance
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

At the Worldwide Developer Conference yesterday, Apple announced new graphics technology for iPhone and iPad today called Metal, which makes more efficient use of the processing power of the mobile devices. Apple claims that the new platform can improve rendering performance for 3D graphics by tenfold. The Metal technology is designed for Apple’s A7 processor, which has built-in 3D graphics.

Metal is similar to AMD’s Mantle that circumvents Microsoft DirectX. iOS game developers can use Metal instead of Khronos’ OpenGL to dramatically improve the game experience. Craig Federighi explained that with Metal, game developers can write their programs "closer to the metal," and get direct access to the 3D graphics hardware. Metal will also improve the use of graphics chips in non-graphics functions, such as playing videos.

According to the Apple developer guide, Metal provides a single, unified programming interface and language for both graphics and data-parallel computation workloads and will enable you to integrate graphics and computation tasks much more efficiently without the need to use separate APIs and shader languages.
Apple is currently working with number of game engines, including Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Crytek and Unity Technologies in developing Metal. A series of presenters presented various demos running on Metal. Tim Sweeney, the chief executive of Epic Games, showed off the Metal demo of The Zen Garden, which will be free to developers when iOS 8 is launched. The demo included beautifully detailed scenes of a koi pond with hundreds of fish that quickly reacted to a finger swiping the water, a cherry tree with 5,000 individual petals falling to the ground, and a pond that transformed into stunning butterflies.

Zen Garden will be available on the Apple App Store for free, along with the third-quarter public launch of iOS 8. iOS 8 beta will be available for developers Monday.