How Havok's tools are being used by mobile developers to deliver high-end graphics

The Havok Perspective: Triple-A gaming and mobile

Havok has been at the heart of triple-A console and PC gaming for over 15 years, from the early days of Half-Life 2 and Halo 2, contemporary classics like Assassin’s Creed and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, to modern blockbusters such as inFAMOUS Second Son and Watch Dogs. We continue to cover a wide swath of genres and triple-A franchises, with one of the key commonalities between them being the need for powerful, efficient solutions backed by Havok’s, often overlooked but undeniably world class, support team.

While Havok has long been associated with triple-A multi-million dollar projects, it might surprise some to learn that our toolsets have been available on mobile platforms, and have quietly been powering a growing number of mobile games and studios for quite some time.

As mobile hardware has advanced and matured, the gap between console and mobile fidelity is ever narrowing, with the recent release of the all-time PC and console classic BioShock on iOS continuing the strong trend of triple-A content finding a new home and eager audience on mobile. As gamers we’re excited to see BioShock on iOS but we’re especially proud that our suite of Havok mobile middleware was fundamental in empowering 2K to bring their cherished shooter to mobile. Yet while BioShock naturally rightly draws a lot of attention, it’s just the latest example of triple-A gaming coming to mobile via Havok’s tools.

The path to BioShock arriving on iOS is one that was laid through Havok’s long-term support of mobile publishers and studios. From the technical aspect, Havok’s approach to platform support is always to anticipate the requirements our customers will have far in advance. Our technology suite is architected in a way that allows us to be agile and fast to support new platforms. This combination allows Havok to quickly respond as new platforms emerge and in particular when there is a wide spectrum of devices to support and frequent platform updates as exists in the mobile space. We proudly point to a growing number of Havok powered games as proof that triple-A on mobile is a growing norm and not the exception.

Two genres that are inherently triple-A in their execution are open world sandbox games, and of course, shooters. Gameloft’s roster of ambitious mobile titles epitomises these genres with titles such as the open world epic, Gangstar Vegas, and the massively popular Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour. Gangstar Vegas made use of Havok Physics to control the realistic ragdoll effects and the crucial vehicle physics that facilitate the game’s amazing stunts and driving experiences. Modern Combat 4 also made use of Havok Physics, giving the game that extra level of polish to make it one of the most highly regarded shooters according to iOS and Android gamers.

Released in 2013, Microsoft and 343 Industries’ Halo: Spartan Assault saw one of the leading global game franchises make the leap from console to Windows Phone 8. Having already used Havok AI on Halo 4, 343 Studios with Vanguard Entertainment turned to Havok AI once again to create this new entry in the Halo franchise. Havok’s powerful pathfinding solution brought the Covenant to life, providing the familiar challenge that Halo fans have come to expect and proving that mobile enemy AI (and the games themselves) can aspire to be challenging, smart, adaptive and fun.

Of course, we cannot discuss mobile without celebrating the rise of the indie. Tengami by Nyamyam is a gorgeous iOS game that conveys the evocative world of feudal Japan drawn with a colourful palette and featuring innovative pop-up book mechanics to give the game a distinct aesthetic and inventive gameplay. Tengami used a combination of Havok AI, Havok Animation and Havok Physics to sew together a cohesive and beautiful game world. Tools once adopted by studios to control expansive streaming MMO worlds were adapted to this ambitious indie title to realise the team’s unique artistic vision.

These are but a few examples of the path that triple-A content has taken on its way to mobile and which is further celebrated through the release of BioShock on iOS. When first released in 2007, BioShock’s original use of Havok Physics was so critical to the game mechanics that physics itself became a weapon through the game’s Telekinesis Plasmid. Similarly, Havok Animation was employed to bring to life the deeply evocative Little Sisters and Big Daddies that gave BioShock the rich characterisation and emotion that made it such a beloved classic.

Havok’s platform portability allowed the 2K team to seamlessly take what was the cutting edge of 2007 to today’s iOS, with incredible parity and no sacrifice in functionality. This is a true testament to the flexibility and speed of the Havok Physics and Animation tools, the same fundamental tools used by the Irrational Games team when they made gaming history back in 2007.

Havok technology serves our customers in a manner that is both precise enough to be employed for a variety of technological needs, and powerful and speedy enough to power any game on any platform. Havok has evolved alongside the game industry from the early days of PC gaming, through several console generations, and now on the quickly growing mobile platforms. We’re not the first to notice that notions of triple-A are morphing, especially as we’re seeing similar if not identical gaming experiences across all hardware. As triple-A now becomes more and more applicable to mobile, as well as to PC and console games, we feel Havok will continue to be the key middleware choice for studios and their ever-growing creative and technical ambitions.

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