Multi-core future is the new challenge for game engines, Epic boss says

Next gen tech ‘will probably launch from 2014’

The next generation of games console and engine technology will likely reach consumers in three years, the CEO of Epic Games has said.

Company founder Tim Sweeney said he spends “about 60 per cent of my time every day doing research work that’s aimed at our next generation engine and the next generation of consoles”.

“This is technology that won’t see the light of day until probably around 2014,” he said in an interview with IGN.

Sweeney’s claim is the latest indication that next generation consoles will not arrive next year nor the year after.

The company began licensing Unreal Engine 3 to development studios in 2005 – an ‘early bird’ strategy which preceded six years of dominance in the console engines space.

Unreal Engine 4 has been in development since 2003, according to the company’s vice president Mark Rein.

Sweeney said his work on Unreal Engine 4 “enables me to do some really cool things that just aren’t practical today, but soon will be”.

“Some of our most productive work in the industry was on the first Unreal engine back in 1996, when I wrote a software vendor with a bunch of new features that hadn’t been seen before,” he explained.

“I feel like that’s what I’m doing now on Unreal Engine 4 in exploring areas of the technology nobody else is really yet contemplating because they’re still a few years away from practicality.

“I see a huge amount of potential there and so it’s very, very fun work.”

He said the biggest challenge for next generation systems “is scaling up to tons of CPU cores”.

“The way we write software today in Unreal Engine 3 is to have one processor handle all the graphics and it’s only a single CPU core with another processor that’s dedicated to all gameplay that’s running on another CPU core. The next challenge is going to be scaling up to tons of CPU cores.

“Once you have 20 cores, you can’t easily say this one is going to be for animation and this one is going to be for details on the face of the character, because all these parameters change dynamically as different things come on screen and load as you shift from scene to scene.

"So the big challenge will be redesigning our engine and our workload so that we scale more of these different computer tasks between CPU cores seamlessly in real-time and dynamically so that you’re always getting the maximum computing power out with the engine, regardless of what sort of work you’re doing.”

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