The road to ABYSS Engine 4.0: Ten years of developing our proprietary mobile games technology, pt. 1
Welcome to this tech blog by our Head of Core Tech, Johannes. It has originally been published in late September on Develop Online and introduces you to an asset that has been playing a key role in our studio’s history for no less than a decade. We are talking, of course, about our proprietary ABYSS® Engine. It has brought more than a dozen games to life in the past decade. And it has just been upgraded to version 4.0!
Two screenshots of the first Galaxy on Fire game from 2006, running on Java phones and brought to life by the first iteration of our engine.
Introduction – A brief outline of the usage of ABYSS® Engine 1 to 3
Developing and building upon a proprietary in-house game engine has a long tradition at Deep Silver FISHLABS. We have been working on our ABYSS® Engine since 2006. By now, it has gone through a number of versions and iterations; each time improving on the previous version by applying new lessons learned and incorporating novel technologies.
It all started back in the Java "dumb" phone era with the first ABYSS® Engine for the original Galaxy on Fire (powered by JSR-184). Both the game and the engine were eventually ported to C++. Today, a full decade after its initial release on the App Store, you can still download and play the first Galaxy on Fire title on the iPhone. From there, we went on to develop ABYSS® Engine 2, which powers Galaxy on Fire 2 – a title many fans and reviewers still consider a benchmark for space action gaming on mobile. Next up was ABYSS® Engine 3, which served as the underlying technology for a variety of titles, including Galaxy on Fire - Alliances, Sports Car Challenge 2, or Snowboard Hero.
The x-ray mode helps to identify areas suffering from an abundance of overdraw, i.e. too many triangles layered on top of each other.
Milestone 4.0 – How we created an all-new engine rather than an update
If you look at the launch dates of the afore-mentioned apps, you see that they were all released in 2013 or earlier. That is three years or more – an eternity in today’s swift and agile mobile games market! When we realized where Galaxy on Fire 3 - Manticore was headed and what this game could become, we knew that we would need a new generation of our engine to push the limits once more. After all, our studio has always been known as a forerunner and innovator in the field of high-end 3D gaming “on the go”. Needless to say, we were very eager to continue that tradition with the next installment of our flagship series.
In 2013, we set out to rework core systems and substantial parts of the engine to be able to leverage all the power the mobile devices of future generations would offer. To achieve the ambitious goals we had set for ourselves, we needed a completely new architecture and a stronger focus on performance as well as more flexibility. Today, we are happy and relieved to proclaim the reach of the major milestone we had set for ourselves almost 36 months ago: Our ABYSS® Engine has reached version 4.0!
Compared to the previous version, we have replaced or removed around 95% of the source code, which makes version 4.0 more than just an update. Instead, we like to think of it as an all-new engine. With all the stuff we added, customized and optimized, ABYSS® Engine 4.0 is not only a perfect fit for Galaxy on Fire 3 - Manticore but also a very good foundation for our future endeavors.
The built-in profiler shows how much time each function takes. It helps us identify areas that would benefit from optimization.
What to expect from next week’s follow-up blog?
For reasons of brevity, I would like to make a cut here. But don’t worry. Our engine’s story is far from being over. I will continue it next week with another tech blog focusing on select features and capabilities of the brand-new version of the ABYSS®. In the meantime, feel free to post any questions you might have in the comments.
If you want to stay in the loop regarding the development of our ABYSS-powered sci-fi epic Galaxy on Fire 3 - Manticore, pre-register via http://bit.ly/gof3-signup-blog. And if you want to join our R&D team and help make the ABYSS® even more powerful and performant, check our open vacancies and apply!