Epic Games has telegraphed a desire to get its Unreal Engine titles running on lower-end hardware, potentially including mobile devices and self-contained virtual reality headsets, through its acquisition of Edinburgh-based start-up Cloudgine.
Founded in 2012 by Dave Jones, Maurizio Sciglio, and Marco Anastasi - all formerly of Realtime Worlds, with Jones having co-created the Grand Theft Auto and Crackdown franchises - Cloudgine's technology allows for remote compute clusters to carry out some of the heavy processing required by modern games, taking the load off the client device. 2016 saw the release of Toybox, an Oculus Rift VR titles, while the delayed Crackdown 3 is set to be the first Xbox One title to take advantage of Cloudgine's technology - which, the company has claimed, allows for physics calculations at a rate 13 times faster than would be possible locally. The company's flagship title, though, is They Came From Space, a physics-based team battle title for Windows and virtual reality platforms - revealed in August 2017 but not yet released.
The idea of making games more accessible to lower-end devices is a popular one, and one which has particular application for the next generation of self-contained virtual reality headsets powered by mobile system-on-chip (SoC) parts which lack the computational grunt of a high-end gaming PC. It's here where Epic Games may be looking to expand, and it has picked up Cloudgine for an undisclosed sum to help it along the way.
Games aren't the only focus, however - and where Cloudgine can be used to boost the performance of otherwise unplayable games on low-end hardware, it can also be used to increase the fidelity or complexity of software running on high-end systems. 'Since its inception, Cloudgine’s research and development has been based on Epic’s Unreal Engine 4,' explained Epic's Dana Cowley in the acquisition announcement. 'Cloudgine’s cloud computing and online technologies will enhance the UE4 feature set to help developers push the creative and technical limits of games, film, animation and visualisation through advances in physics simulation and networking.'
Epic has confirmed it is actively seeking new hires for Cloudgine's Edinburgh headquarters, to expand the current 17-person team. Six positions are currently listed as open: an engine developer for mobile, pointing to the push to use Cloudgine on low-end SoC-based hardware; console- and networking-specialised engine programmers; rendering programmers with and without Unreal Engine specialisation; and an Unreal Engine-experienced producer.