Intel and Unity Technologies are collaborating to bring native support for Android apps built with the gaming-oriented Unity platform to Intel processors.
Millions of developers using the gaming-focused Unity cross-platform development framework “can now bring native Android games and other apps to Intel-based mobile devices,” states a news release from Intel and Unity Technologies. Unity is adding Android support for all of Intel’s current and future processors including the Core and Atom processors. Unity will test and support tablets and handsets based on Intel’s Bay Trail, Clovertrail+, and Merrifield Atom processors before moving on to Core processors. Unity, which appears to be the first gaming engine to offer native Android-on-x86 support, is no stranger to x86, having already supported Windows apps on x86.
Unity developers can now “easily add support for Intel architecture in their applications or produce native applications for Intel architecture only with minimal extra effort,” say the partners. Unity will create a fat binary supporting both IA and ARM, but developers will also be able to produce a “slim” binary that targets only x86. Current NEON-optimized functions in Unity apps will be optimized for Intel’s SSE instructions “to achieve equivalent or superior performance,” says Intel. Unity’s Android build will also support Intel’s OpenGL ES implementation.
Starting with Unity 4 (the latest release is 4.2) and Unity 5, Unity Technologies will integrate advanced information from Intel about its future processor and system-on-chip enhancements. These improvements are said to include new GPU changes, CPU instructions, and threading support.
SEGA’s Sonic Dash
According to Intel, SEGA’s Hardlight mobile gaming unit is one of the first to use the new code, and has added x86 support to SEGA’s Unity-based Sonic Dash Android title. “We’ve seen impressive performance gains by ‘going native’ — it’s been great working with Unity and Intel on this,” stated Chris Southall, Studio Head of Hardlight.
Formerly called Unity3D, Unity is one of the most popular gaming-oriented frameworks that support Android, along with Unreal Engine and Corona. Compared to general-purpose Android-ready cross-platform development frameworks, it offers specialized level-creation features, game engines, and 3D animation support. Unity is not limited to games, however.
The native implementation of Android on x86 will replace a binary translation stopgap that Intel offers for ARM-based Android apps, which come with a “performance and power penalty,” according to an AnandTech report on the partnership. AnandTech also says that the native x86 version of the Unity game engine for Android is available only to selected developers today, but should be publicly released by the end of the year.
According to the story, an Intel rep clarified to the publication that Core compatibility mainly applies to Core M (Broadwell Y or Skylake Y) for Android tablets rather than for Core processors used in smartphones. Intel is also working with other game engine projects on similar ports, says AnandTech.
As part of the new collaboration, Intel and Unity will offer technical assistance for using Android on x86 using the Unity engine at the following events:
- Intel Buzz Workshop for Game Developers — London, Oct. 2014 (date to be finalized soon)
- Intel Buzz Workshop for Game Developers — Stockholm, Oct. 2014 (date to be finalized soon)
- Unite 2014 Brazil — São Paulo, Oct. 20-21
- Unite 2014 Australia — Melbourne, Oct. 27
- GDC.next — Los Angeles, Nov. 3-4