Tegra 3 technology is allowing even classic games like Snooker to take on a whole new look. And given the popularity of this billiard game around the globe, it’s a nice alternative to the arcade games and other offerings on mobile devices. Developer TickTock Games is offering a lot of depth with its International Snooker Pro for Android, including a full rolling year-on-year career mode, unlockable pool modes and a variety of customizable quick games. Jonathan Seymour, producer on the title at TickTock Games, explains what NVIDIA technology adds to the mobile development workflow and what consumers will experience on their latest devices in this exclusive interview.
What were your goals heading into this game?
To bring the best-looking, most in-depth snooker game on any mobile platform. Everyone involved in the game has made the attempt to really push the boat out, and I hope the people who buy the game agree.
What does your title bring new to the genre?
Depth. In the original game there was one tournament, one frame per match. This time you have a career mode, you manage your calendar, earn money, buy new kits, and unlock environments. There is so much more to do in there.
How did you work with NVIDIA on this game?
Right from the decision to bring International Snooker Pro to Android, we were talking to NVIDA, so it started there. They provided valuable feedback through the prototype version, along with suggestions on polish and performance.
What have they provided in terms of technology that has helped with development?
Since the outset, we used the NVIDIA Tegra Development Kit. This really did take the pain away from getting the game up and running and let us spend more time enhancing and refining it. We particularly got addicted to PerfHUD ES and the associated performance tools. All game developers think they understand how their game is rendering, but occasionally they discover they have made untrue assumptions. We were no exception, the PerfHUD tools allowed us to dig deep under the hood and optimize at a level we could only dream of a year ago.
How does your game make use of the latest Tegra technology?
In a few words, the Tegra hardware allowed us to ramp up the quality of the visuals. The texture compression allowed us to ratchet up the texture sizes an amazing amount. You can see it when you take your shot, just in the texture of the baize, the grain in the wood and in the environment you play the tournaments in. We were happy with that, but we decided we could take it a step further and implement anti-aliasing. Just smoothing out the jagged edges makes the lush environments feel even more realistic. Finally, because the Tegra hardware allowed us to make certain assumptions, we were able to get the game loading times very quick, nearly 400% faster despite the fact we were loading more textures at considerably larger sizes.
How does this impact the gameplay experience?
Well, the fast loading times mean you can get into the game really quick to enjoy the amazing visuals. It feels a little self-serving “bigging” up the graphics, but users who enjoyed International Snooker who we've shown the new game can't wait to try out the Pro version. It just makes the game more immersive.
What are the challenges of developing for Android devices today?
When it comes to challenges, I guess I would have to bring up the old favorite "fragmentation.” Over the years, Ticktock has learned that there are good opportunities if you embrace the plethora of devices out there. That said, targeting the Tegra hardware allowed us to push boundaries rather than supporting the lowest common denominator. We will be bringing International Snooker Pro to more devices, but those lucky enough to have Tegra chips in their mobile devices get the game sooner, which has been designed and coded to squeeze more out of their device.
How did NVIDIA help with this?
Help from NVIDIA came in a more chipset-agnostic form then I expected. Yes, they were very keen to have us get the most from the Tegra. However, they also gave us general advice on how to get the best from Android, they really are great proponents of the OS.
Can you talk about the gameplay experience and how consoles have inspired you?
From our very first meeting with the chaps at NVIDIA, their passion and belief to bring console experiences to mobile devices is obvious, and to be honest, infectious. After every meeting and phone call, we were motivated to push this envelope a little further. We were always proud of the original International Snooker, it’s a really good little game that plays well, but it is most definitely a mobile game. The Pro version is a different beast in the respect that there is more content, gameplay has been considerably enhanced and there’s plenty to keep you coming back for more. Basically, it’s everything you'd expect from a sequel. However, it really does feel like the game was designed to look good on a big screen. It’s just magical that it fits in your pocket to boot.
What are your thoughts on what can be done with tablet gaming today?
Thanks to our tool chain provided to us by NVIDIA, we are constantly surprising ourselves. We have another project in development at the moment, which is technically challenging, but when finished will bring a PlayStation 3 game experience to top-end tablets. We are pulling out all the stops when it comes to technical trickery, but it will be worth the blood, sweat and tears.
What do you think tablet gamers will really like about this title?
International Snooker Pro is a fantastic game when played on your phone, but it really does come into its own on a tablet. The game’s interface was designed to take advantage of all the different screen resolutions that are now common in the Android ecosystem. We resisted the urge to scale to fit, and the game runs in the tablets’ native resolution with the highest possible texture detail.
How do you see tablet gaming evolving over the next five years?
As game developers bringing our games to mobile devices, it’s clear we are living in very exciting times. The model appears to be following what has/is happening in the mobile phone market. There are very fast incremental changes, and these incremental changes are no small steps either, both in terms of computing and graphic horsepower. It’s hard to imagine how you wouldn’t be getting top-end console-quality games in the next five years. The inventiveness of the developers out there to use this hardware will mean more and more original games. Getting your tablet interacting with other Wi-fi enabled devices around your home is what’s really exciting me. Then you have the shorter hardware development cycles, which I believe will give us some seriously exciting surprises along the way, too.