Epic Games has a long-running relationship with Apple, dating back to the introduction of the iPhone 4 in September 2010. It was at that press conference that Epic-owned Chair Entertainment debuted Infinity Blade running on Unreal Engine 3. Each subsequent sequel in the bestselling iOS-exclusive franchise has debuted at an Apple press conference, showcasing what Unreal technology could do with Apple hardware and software.

At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, Epic CEO and founder Tim Sweeney and lead platform engineer Josh Adams were on stage to show Unreal Engine 4 running on the new iOS 8 software with Metal API (application programming interface) technology. They introduced a new to real-time demo called “Zen Garden” showing the API in action.

“We’ve had the opportunity to work with Metal and to illustrate the possibilities we created Zen Garden,” said Sweeney. “We can run it on iPad with full fidelity and performance. Developers like us can make a new generation of vivid and interactive 3D experiences.”

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Sweeney said Zen Garden was built using UE4 and designed to highlight detailed special effects, like drawing 5,000 leaves on a cherry tree in real-time and watching them flutter to the ground. The virtual garden included a coi pond with hundreds of fish, each running on individual artificial intelligence. Upon tapping a water fountain, 3,500 butterflies flew out all randomly generated.

The Zen Garden demo features a huge variety of materials without any impact on the hardware Adams was able to rake patterns in the sand garden. He said artists at Epic were able to build elements like this using UE4 without needing a programmer.

“Thousands of objects are being rendered here,” said Sweeney. “Having this level of technology on iPhone and iPad now is amazing. We’re proud to be a part of it.”

Zen Garden demonstrate the kinds of vibrant dynamic scenes and enormous vistas made possible by Metal’s order-of-magnitude increases in efficiency. Metal, which will be added to the UE4 code base, will reduce OpenGL overhead, giving developers deeper access to a device’s hardware. Designed for Apple’s A7 system on-chip hardware, it will offer efficient multithreading, shader technology and other technologies that game developers use to bring photorealistic virtual worlds to life. In layman’s terms, it will make it easier for game makers to access Apple’s powerful hardware.

“We are very excited about the new levels of graphical quality and efficiency made possible by Metal, and will be making Zen Garden available in the App Store for free after iOS 8’s public release, as well as making the Metal code in Unreal Engine 4 available at an appropriate time after the beta access NDAs are lifted,” said Adams.

Sweeney said Metal is literally an order of magnitude improvement for Apple. There’s a huge amount of overhead that OpenGL adds to the graphics pipeline. Sweeney added that game developers will be able to get 10X the kind of performance seen previously.

With UE4 now available for a $19 monthly subscription, this latest technology advancement means developers can create a single game and bring it out across Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Android and iOS devices. This type of cross-platform game development wasn’t possible before. The change in Epic’s business this past March to a subscription and royalty model has opened up Unreal technology to developers of all sizes. The growth of mobile game developers, especially smaller teams, will benefit from this new Metal technology.

Given the speed at which new Apple and Android mobile devices are entering the market – each with more powerful processors – portable game experiences are catching up to next gen consoles at a record pace. And Epic is at the forefront of this technology revolution.

While Apple showed gameplay of Electronic Arts’ Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare and Crytek’s The Collectibles games on screen, Epic was the only game company featured on stage. That’s the result of a long-running relationship – one that has kept Infinity Blade an Apple exclusive. Apple has slowly embraced gaming more and more over the years and its go-to company has always been Epic.