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Key takeaways from GDC 2018 to enhance your mobile game development

Game development—whether it be for consoles or mobile—can be complex. However, it can be hard to appreciate all of the hard work that goes into making games when we engage with the seamless experiences on screens big and small today. Make no mistake, developing a compelling game takes immense talent, powerful technology, and high-performance processing. There was no better place to see this all come together than at the Game Developer Conference (GDC) 2018 in San Francisco.

Through our Qualcomm Developer Network presence at GDC over the past six years, we demonstrated our commitment to mobile game developers through new platforms, tools, and resources for graphics and other core features of games.

This year, we took mobile innovation one step further by demonstrating the powerful union of premium content and premium mobile platforms that are engineered to deliver cutting-edge graphics and immersive, engaging player experiences. Here, PC-quality and console-like quality games came to life on mobile, giving GDC attendees the freedom to game virtually anytime and anywhere on mobile devices optimized by our Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ mobile platforms. For a recap on the demo areas featured in our booth, revisit our GDC 2018 Showcase blog.  

Now that the event has wrapped up, we wanted to share our thoughts on some overall trends and technological takeaways from the show for you to consider as game development continues to evolve.

XR (VR/AR) was arguably among the hottest topics. There were multiple summits on how to approach development as well as countless demonstrations from hardware and software vendors large and small. Of particular note was the need for high framerates when rendering VR, with multiple vendors citing 90 fps as the minimum to provide a seamless experience and avoid user discomfort. Also of note was the OpenXR presentation by Khronos Group discussing the convergence of AR and VR technology at the API level. And finally, let’s not forget our demonstration of HoloGrid’s Monster Battle AR game which demonstrated the power of Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835 for AR gaming.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) was also another hot topic. Using AI, developers are striving for more realism than ever before through more intelligent game enemies to more engaging non-playable characters (NPCs). For example, one summit discussed how game AI could use facial recognition and eye tracking data to analyze a player’s behavior and provide ultra-immersive and customized experiences.

Another huge area of discussion revolved around mobile and web as gaming platforms. The general takeaway we heard is that players want to be free from the tethers of a stationary gaming device. Players want to play anytime and anywhere, and they want the ability to put down their game and then continue where they left off at a different time and location, often on a different device.

From a web standpoint, we saw repeated messaging around social-based games that bring people together and tap into the large communities of existing and potentially new players that are engaged with social media and messaging platforms. There also seems to be an increasing trend towards “instant” web games for immediate playability, using the high-level nature of browser-based technologies that can bypass the need for monolithic game installations.

We saw how the concept of interactive experiences is evolving. The industry is buzzing about the convergence of TV and gaming as television programs are experimenting with increased engagement with the audience, with some shows even allowing viewers to control the story script. On the flip side, games are taking on characteristics of rich story-telling through interactive experiences. And one summit even mentioned that TV viewers are increasingly engaged with online content through mobile devices while watching programs on their TV screens.

The theme here is that viewers and gamers want to be continually engaged through varying dimensions of content that is always available. We feel this is an interesting area of growth, particularly for mobile, where more powerful mobile platforms and ever-increasing rates of bandwidth are fueling the appetites of users for on-demand content.

Support for game development trends was well represented with summits and expos of SDKs covering core features like graphics, audio, and world building to name a few. Some of the notable topics included:

Vulkan and OpenXR sessions by Khronos Group;
Optimizing Unreal Engine for Fortnite: Battle Royale by Unreal Engine which included discussion of shipping a game across PC, console, and mobile; and
Mobile AR: Simple Optimizations to Improve Thermal Conditions and Conserve Battery Life as well as a range of other topics by Unity.

  
Just as exciting was the plethora of APIs­ from smaller vendors rounding things out in areas like AR and in-game monetization features. For example, we saw a number of smaller vendors offering “AR as a service “, with APIs that mobile developers can “drop” into their applications to add immediate AR functionality with minimal groundwork.

Of course, delivering on these trends is one thing, but to do it well and make a premium game is another. Like any platform, mobile game development requires powerful hardware and a rich toolset backed by a strong support network.

Our demonstrations of Knives Out and Lineage 2: Revolution on devices powered by our Snapdragon Mobile Platforms, showed just what is possible in commercial mobile game development. Whether it be XR, AI, or rich content, the Snapdragon mobile platform is well positioned to help developers execute on these trends in the mobile gaming space. Thanks to features like 4K video, support for Unreal Engine, Vulkan, and other cross platform SDKs, a 5G-ready x20 modem, and a rich set of processors like the Qualcomm® Hexagon™ 685 DSP, Qualcomm Spectra™ 280 ISP, Qualcomm® Adreno™ 630 GPU, and Qualcomm® Kryo™ 385 CPU, developers can be confident the Snapdragon mobile platform can help you develop games for mobile. If you’re interested in exploring what you can create with the Snapdragon platform, we encourage you to look at our Snapdragon VR Development Kit.

Through our years at GDC, and our leadership in mobile platforms and tools for game development, we believe that gaming, and mobile gaming in particular, will see continued growth and innovation. And while game development will likely remain complex, we at QDN are excited to continue working with our ecosystem of mobile game developers to bring about the next great evolution in this ever-changing discipline.

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