May 26 AT 3:48 PM Anthony Domanico 22 Comments

Modders at XDA hard at work to bring Tegra-only games to non-Tegra devices

One of the biggest gripes we’ve heard with the recent onslaught of Tegra 2-only games is the fact that they’re Tegra-only. If you don’t own one of the shiny new dual-core Tegra devices, you simply can’t play these new games.

Our readers (and some staffers) have lamented that this type of fragmentation is the worst kind to plague the Android platform. Rather than having applications restricted to version types (a problem Google is attempting to remedy with the upcoming Ice Cream Sandwich version update), the new wave of fragmentation will render an application unusable unless your phone has the correct chipset.

It seems the folks over at XDA feel the same way, as they’re already hard at work on a fix for the modding community. XDA member Chainfire has built Chainfire3D, an intermediary OpenGL driver that “sits between your applications and graphics drivers, and can intercept and/or change commands between the two.”

Perusing the comments on the Chainfire3D thread shows that they have some Tegra-only games working on the Samsung Galaxy S2, and it’s only a matter of time before they find a way to offer full support for non-Tegra devices. You can head over to XDA to read all about this work in these three threads:

  1. http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1087427
  2. http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1068567
  3. http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1090032

The very fact that people are working hard on this issue only does more to bring the issue to the forefront. With the proliferation of Tegra-only games and the device-selective release of the long-awaited Netflix application, it seems this chipset-based app fragmentation isn’t going away anytime soon, and highlights the growing sense of competition coming to the Android platform. With Amazon trying to score exclusive applications away from Google’s Android Market, and chipset manufacturers trying to do the same thing to differentiate their chips to both customers and cell manufacturers, the Android platform is increasingly becoming a battleground, and I fear that customers are the ones who are going to lose out in the end.

As is customary with our posts, we want to know what you think.

  1. Is this chipset-based fragmentation bad for Android, or is it necessary to deliver the top quality of games?
  2. Does the featured applications on a certain type of chipset influence your device purchases?
  3. Are you going to brave the XDA forums and try out Chainfire3d?

Answer these (and more) questions in the comments below.

Anthony loves all things technology, from hardware to apps and games. You can connect with him via Google+ or Twitter by clicking one of the fancy doo-dads above.

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  • http://Website James Taurasi

    This is the one thing that will make me buy an iphone 5. I won’t put up with all that.

    • http://Website schwiz

      I don’t think its a big deal, its just like needing a graphics card to play a pc game. Guess I’m just used to needing to buy stuff from nvidia :-)

      • http://Website Cruellyricisti

        The difference being you can change the chipset in your pc. When is the last time you changed the chipset in your phone? who wants to pay roughy 200 for a new phone with a specific gpu, just to have access to a 2 dollar game? Especially when they love the phone they already have just fine. Imagine how upset you would be if you had to replace your entire pc everytime you see a shiny new game you liked, because it “wasn’t supported”.

        • http://Website schwiz

          I am pretty sure tegra will have forwards compatibility once you have a tegra device you should be set, although performance will vary as the chip advances.

          • http://www.anthonydomanico.com Anthony Domanico

            More on that point this weekend. :)

        • http://Website Michael

          “who wants to pay roughy 200 for a new phone with a specific gpu, just to have access to a 2 dollar game?”
          What the…how did this come out of your brain? Look lets ignore gpu’s aside…who would want to pay 200 for a device just to play 2 dollar game to start with?! You’re look at it the wrong way. It’s this way: you have a phone? yes. Does it run a 2 dollar game? Yes, good for you. No, too bad but there are many many many many other apps and games you can use.

          GPU’s and games on the mobile market is the wild west. It will get better with time and in fact it’s actually good to start with the problems/fragmentation early on in the “mobile game” so that they can get tackled before it’s so late that standards are hard to put into place.

          “The difference being you can change the chipset in your pc.”
          No it isn’t the big difference. The big difference is that the market is mature so there are proper standards that are properly used such as DirectX AND the GPUs all have similiar functions. I mean if you don’t agree with me here then what about laptops? Can’t change chipsets there yet gaming is fine with a decently power GPU. Of course if you buy Intel integrated you’ll have problems running many games…but that’s only due to lack of power and not compatibility.

      • http://Website metafor

        Of course, on your desktop, if you swap out for an ATI card, the game will work just the same. This way, if ATI makes a faster card, you buy the ATI card. If nVidia’s ahead, you buy nVidia. This type of lockout would be equivalent to games only running on Intel processors and not AMD.

    • http://Website Jon Garrett

      buying an iphone 5 wont solve your problems, Im betting the iphone 5 wont even have a Tegra chip in it.

      besides, look at all those poor iphone 2G, 3G, ipod touch 1G-3G that cant run anything pass iOS 4!!! those users are S.O.L and wishing they had an Android device.

    • http://Website Ric

      Me too.

      I’m not dropping €50 on apps over a year, only for them not to be compatibile with my next phone cuz of some dodgy chipset i don’t even give a sh*t about

  • http://Website Ban

    I had emailed you telling you about this :) And you might want to mention that in order to play tegra games you must use certain plugins that aren’t provided by chainfire (because they contain illegal code). Though google is always your friend :)

    And this new form of fragmentation as you it is the most discouraging thing about getting an android phone to me, though my s2 should be arriving soon.

  • http://Website Hollow.Droid

    I’ve been using this for the past few days on my GS2 and it works pretty damn well. Some games don’t work but most work flawlessly. There’s also a market fix so you can buy the games on the device. Brothers in Arms 2 and Samurai 2 are just a couple of the awesome ones :)

  • http://Website B2L

    With Chainfire3D my Nexus S can no play Samurai II with no problems at all. Thanks a ton to Chainfire who worked on this.

  • http://Website Oscar

    I’ve been a fan of Android since I first heard of the G1, and have always felt that a little fragmentation is inevitable when phones of different power are available at the same time. However, this issue is the first time I’ve felt that even the most savvy consumer could be screwed over. The idea that I could buy a brand new, top of the line phone, and be unable to use the latest software is really worrying to me. I was all set to replace my Galaxy S with a GS2, until I read that the Mali-400 GPU was incompatible with many texture compression formats, therefore making the phone unable to run many of the latest games. This is something that hasn’t been mentioned much, and certainly isn’t something that the average consumer would know! This very issue is the reason I have avoided PC gaming over the years, and stuck to consoles, but at least with computers you can replace componants when necessary, and you aren’t trapped in a 2 year contract! If this is the future of Android, we’re all in a lot of trouble…..

    • http://Website NotRelevent

      Incompatible texture formats is not an issue in PC gaming, so its kind of a stupid reason to not to play PC games.

      The only issue I would see is one of performance, one that is likely part of the reason certain games are Tegra-only as other hardware isn’t powerful enough.

      • http://Website metafor

        Except that isn’t true. The very fact that with even with an intermediary layer graphics driver layer — one that would decrease performance — the SGS2 can handle these games just fine, means that there is no lack of performance. It’s just nVidia being nVidia and trying to lock out other chipsets through “exclusive deals”. Up until now, all the major manufacturers have at least played nice by sticking to a common OpenGL standard.

  • http://Website watbetch

    I know the Galaxy S phones can run these Tegra 2 games no problems.

    HTC devices need not apply, because Adreno is lackluster.

    • http://Website JaylanPHNX

      I beg to differ. The MyTouch4G is quite capable of running these games. Heck, the Youtube video that I’ve seen demoing this has Samurai II running on a Nexus One, which is first-gen Snapdragon with Adreno 200. The newer Adreno 205s are even better.

  • http://Website Oscar

    Okay, my avoidance of PC games isn’t specifically because of texture compression formats, but rather incompatibility between systems because of different chips. And if it’s true that the GS2 can run all these games fine, that’s great. Believe me, nothing would make me happier – I’d go out and buy one right away!

  • http://Website Lucian Armasu

    Nvidia is bringing some cool games to the platform, though. We might not have them at all otherwise, like that upcoming console-quality Shadowrun game.

  • http://Website mekeni

    all i can say, thanks to the developers. kudos to them! :)
    and this is good news for individuals who always wanted to play those tegra games only.

    [if you appreciate and like the apps, roms and mods of the developers, do support them and donate]

    ..my i9000 can play most of the tegra games which is better than not playing any games at all..
    ..except for PvZ, Bang Bang Racing and Monster Madness us chainfire’s app with the plugins.
    ..peace all..
    ^_^

  • http://Website Name required

    Tegra is exclusive and so far only the Atrix on AT&T that has it. What surprises me Nvidia actually expects this ploy to work. The Atrix is a first generation dualcore and I’ve only heard nothing but people having problems with it. And forget about the Android tablets selling. The Ipad far outranks them in current sales.

  • http://Website Brainiac Systems

    Pinball HD for Tegra runs perfectly on the Samsung Galaxy S2. There Is a version of this game floating round the interwebs that has been cracked to run on all devices (without the use of Chainfire). This only goes to show that these games are being locked down by NVIDIA. Were you surprised though? Look what they did with Physx.