Microsoft, Along with AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm, Will Announce DirectX 12 at GDC 2014

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 5, 2014 - 08:28 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, nvidia, microsoft, Intel, gdc 14, GDC, DirectX 12, amd

The announcement of DirectX 12 has been given a date and time via a blog post on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) blogs. On March 20th at 10:00am (I assume PDT), a few days into the 2014 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, the upcoming specification should be detailed for attendees. Apparently, four GPU manufacturers will also be involved with the announcement: AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm.

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As we reported last week, DirectX 12 is expected to target increased hardware control and decreased CPU overhead for added performance in "cutting-edge 3D graphics" applications. Really, this is the best time for it. Graphics processors are mostly settled into highly-efficient co-processors of parallel data, with some specialized logic for geometry and video tasks. A new specification can relax the needs of video drivers and thus keep the GPU (or GPUs, in Mantle's case) loaded and utilized.

But, to me, the most interesting part of this announcement is the nod to Qualcomm. Microsoft values DirectX as leverage over other x86 and ARM-based operating systems. With Qualcomm, clearly Microsoft believes that either Windows RT or Windows Phone will benefit from the API's next version. While it will probably make PC gamers nervous, mobile platforms will benefit most from reducing CPU overhead, especially if it can be spread out over multiple cores.

Honestly, that is fine by me. As long as Microsoft returns to treating the PC as a first-class citizen, I do not mind them helping mobile, too. We will definitely keep you up to date as we know more.

Source: MSDN Blogs

DirectX 12 and a new OpenGL to challenge AMD Mantle coming at GDC?

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 26, 2014 - 06:17 PM |
Tagged: opengl, nvidia, Mantle, gdc 14, GDC, DirectX 12, DirectX, amd

UPDATE (2/27/14): AMD sent over a statement today after seeing our story.  

AMD would like you to know that it supports and celebrates a direction for game development that is aligned with AMD’s vision of lower-level, ‘closer to the metal’ graphics APIs for PC gaming. While industry experts expect this to take some time, developers can immediately leverage efficient API design using Mantle, and AMD is very excited to share the future of our own API with developers at this year’s Game Developers Conference.

Credit over to Scott and his reader at The Tech Report for spotting this interesting news today!!

It appears that DirectX and OpenGL are going to be announcing some changes at next month's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.  According to some information found in the session details, both APIs are trying to steal some of the thunder from AMD's Mantle, recently released with the Battlefield 4 patch.  Mantle is na API was built by AMD to enable more direct access (lower level) to its GCN graphics hardware allowing developers to code games that are more efficient, providing better performance for the PC gamer.

mantle.jpg

From the session titled DirectX: Evolving Microsoft's Graphics Platform we find this description (emphasis mine):

For nearly 20 years, DirectX has been the platform used by game developers to create the fastest, most visually impressive games on the planet.

However, you asked us to do more. You asked us to bring you even closer to the metal and to do so on an unparalleled assortment of hardware. You also asked us for better tools so that you can squeeze every last drop of performance out of your PC, tablet, phone and console.

Come learn our plans to deliver.

Another DirectX session hosted by Microsoft is titled DirectX: Direct3D Futures (emphasis mine): 

Come learn how future changes to Direct3D will enable next generation games to run faster than ever before!

In this session we will discuss future improvements in Direct3D that will allow developers an unprecedented level of hardware control and reduced CPU rendering overhead across a broad ecosystem of hardware. 

If you use cutting-edge 3D graphics in your games, middleware, or engines and want to efficiently build rich and immersive visuals, you don't want to miss this talk.

Now look at a line from our initial article on AMD Mantle when announced at its Hawaii tech day event:

It bypasses DirectX (and possibly the hardware abstraction layer) and developers can program very close to the metal with very little overhead from software.

This is all sounding very familiar.  It would appear that Microsoft has finally been listening to the development community and is working on the performance aspects of DirectX.  Likely due in no small part to the push of AMD and Mantle's development, an updated DirectX 12 that includes a similar feature set and similar performance changes would shift the market in a few key ways.

olddirectx.jpg

Is it time again for innovation with DirectX?

First and foremost, what does this do for AMD's Mantle in the near or distant future?  For now, BF4 will still include Mantle support as will games like Thief (update pending) but going forward, if these DX12 changes are as specific as I am being led to believe, then it would be hard to see anyone really sticking with the AMD-only route.  Of course, if DX12 doesn't really address the performance and overhead issues in the same way that Mantle does then all bets are off and we are back to square one.

Interestingly, OpenGL might also be getting into the ring with the session Approaching Zero Driver Overhead in OpenGL

Driver overhead has been a frustrating reality for game developers for the entire life of the PC game industry. On desktop systems, driver overhead can decrease frame rate, while on mobile devices driver overhead is more insidious--robbing both battery life and frame rate. In this unprecedented sponsored session, Graham Sellers (AMD), Tim Foley (Intel), Cass Everitt (NVIDIA) and John McDonald (NVIDIA) will present high-level concepts available in today's OpenGL implementations that radically reduce driver overhead--by up to 10x or more. The techniques presented will apply to all major vendors and are suitable for use across multiple platforms. Additionally, they will demonstrate practical demos of the techniques in action in an extensible, open source comparison framework.

This description seems to indicate more about new or lesser known programming methods that can be used with OpenGL to lower overhead without the need for custom APIs or even DX12.  This could be new modules from vendors or possibly a new revision to OpenGL - we'll find out next month.

All of this leaves us with a lot of questions that will hopefully be answered when we get to GDC in mid-March.  Will this new version of DirectX be enough to reduce API overhead to appease even the stingiest of game developers?  How will AMD react to this new competitor to Mantle (or was Mantle really only created to push this process along)?  What time frame does Microsoft have on DX12?  Does this save NVIDIA from any more pressure to build its own custom API?

Gaming continues to be the driving factor of excitement and innovation for the PC!  Stay tuned for an exciting spring!

Source: Tech Report

GDC 13: Intel announces PixelSync and InstantAccess

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 27, 2013 - 08:51 PM |
Tagged: Intel, GDC 13, GDC

GDC 2013 is where the industry comes together to talk about the technology itself. Intel was there, and of course the big blue just had to unveil developments to help them in the PC gaming space. Two new major rendering extensions and updated developer tools debut. And, if you are not a developer, encode your movies with handbrake quicker!

Intel-logo.svg_.png

First up is PixelSync, a DirectX extension for Intel HD Graphics. PixelSync is designed to be used with smoke, hair, and other effects which require blending translucent geometry. With this extension, objects do not need to be sorted before compositing.

Next up is InstantAccess. This DirectX extension allows CPU and integrated GPUs to access the same physical memory. What interests me most about InstantAccess is the ability for developers to write GPU-based applications which can quickly access the same memory as its CPU counterpart. Should the integrated GPU be visible alongside discrete GPUs, this could allow the integrated graphics to help offload GPGPU tasks such as physics while the CPU and discrete GPU handle the more important tasks.

Also updated is their Graphics Performance Analyzers toolset. If you are interested in performance optimization on your software, be sure to check those out.

And for the more general public... Handbrake is now set up to take advantage of Quick Sync Video. Given the popularity of Handbrake, this is quite a big deal for anyone wishing to transcode video using popular and free encoders.

Source: Intel

GDC 2013: AMD Announces Sky Graphics Cards to Accelerate Cloud Gaming

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 27, 2013 - 08:16 PM |
Tagged: sky graphics, sky 900, RapidFire, radeon sky, pc gaming, GDC, cloud gaming, ciinow, amd

AMD is making a new push into cloud gaming with a new series of Radeon graphics cards called Sky. The new cards feature a (mysterious) technology called "RapidFire" that allegedly provides "highly efficient and responsive game streaming" from servers to your various computing devices (tablets, PCs, Smart TVs) over the Internet. At this year's Games Developers Conference (GDC), the company announced that it is working with a number of existing cloud gaming companies to provide hardware and drivers to reduce latency.

AMD Sky Graphics In The Cloud.jpg

AMD is working with Otoy, G-Cluster, Ubitus, and CiiNow. CiiNow in particular was heavily discussed by AMD, and can reportedly provide lower latency than cloud gaming competitor Gaikai. AMD Sky is, in many ways, similar in scope to NVIDIA's GRID technology which was announced last year and shown off at GTC last week. Obviously, that has given NVIDIA a head start, but it is difficult to say how AMD's technology will stack up as the company is not yet providing any specifics. Joystiq was able to obtain information on the high-end Radeon Sky graphics card, however (that's something at least...). The Sky 900 reportedly features 3,584 stream processors, 6GB of GDDR5 RAM, and 480 GB/s of bandwidth. Further, AMD has indicated that the new Radeon Sky cards will be based on the company's Graphics Core Next architecture.

  Sky 900 Radeon 7970
Stream Processors 3,584 2,048
Memory 6GB 3GB
Memory Bandwidth 480GB/s 264GB/s

I think it is safe to assume that the Sky cards will be sold to other cloud gaming companies. They will not be consumer cards, and AMD is not going to get into the cloud gaming business itself. Beyond that, AMD's Sky cloud gaming initiative is still a mystery. Hopefully more details will filter out between now and the AMD Fusion Developer Summit this summer.

Source: Joystiq

GDC 13: 17 Minute Battlefield 4 Trailer Released

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 27, 2013 - 03:25 AM |
Tagged: battlefield, battlefield 4, GDC, GDC 13

bf4_promo_image.jpg

Battlefield 4 is coming, that has been known with Medal of Honor: Warfighter's release and its promise of beta access, but the gameplay trailer is already here. Clocking in at just over 17 minutes, "Fishing in Baku" looks amazing from a technical standpoint.

The video has been embed below. A little not safe for work due to language and amputation.

Now that you finished gawking, we have gameplay to discuss. I cannot help but be disappointed with the campaign direction. Surely, the story was in planning prior to the release of Battlefield 3. Still, it seems to face the same generic-character problem which struck the last campaign.

In Battlefield 3, I really could not recognize many characters apart from the lead which made their deaths more confusing than upsetting. Normally when we claim a character is identifiable, we mean that we can relate to them. In this case, when I say the characters were not identifiable, I seriously mean that I probably could not pick them out in a police lineup.

Then again, the leaked promotional image for Battlefield 4 seems to show Blackburn at the helm. I guess there is some hope. Slim hope, which the trailer does not contribute to. I mean even the end narration capped how pointless the character interactions were. All this in spite of EA's proclaiming YouTube description of this being human, dramatic, and believable.

Oh well, it went boom good.

GTX 680, Turbo Cores, and Cuda Cores!

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 8, 2012 - 06:59 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, kepler, gtx 680, GDC

It seems that there have been a few leaks on NVIDIA's first Kepler based product.  Techpowerup and Extreme Tech are both reporting on leaks that apparently came from Cebit and some of NVIDIA's partners.  We now have a much better idea what the GTX 680 is all about.

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Epic's Mark Rein is showing off his own GTX 680 which successfully ran their Samaritan Demo.  It is wrapped for his protection.  (Image courtesy of Extreme Tech)

The chip that powers the GTX 680 is the GK104, and it is oddly enough the more "midrange/enthusiast" offering.  It has a total of 1536 CUDA cores, runs at 703 MHz core and 1406 MHz hot clock, has a 256 bit memory bus pumping out 196 GB/sec, and has a new and interesting feature that is quite a bit like the Turbo core functionality we see from both AMD and Intel in their CPUs.  Apparently when a scene gets very complex, the chip is able to overclock itself up to 900 MHz core/1800 MHz hot clock.  It will stay there for either as long as the scene needs it, or the chip approaches its upper TDP limit.

These reports paint the GTX 680 as being about 10% faster than the HD 7970 in certain applications, but in others it is slower.  I figure that when reviews are finally released the two cards will have traded blows with each other over who has the fastest graphics card.  Let's call it a draw.

The GTX 680 should be unveiled in the next week or so, but initial reviews will not surface until later in the month.  Retail availability will be relegated until then, but with the issues that TSMC has had with their 28 nm process (it has been stopped since the middle of February) we have no idea how much product NVIDIA and its partners has.  Things could be scarce after the introduction for some time.

Source: NVIDIA
Author:
Manufacturer: Epic Games

The Truth

There are few people in the gaming industry that you simply must pay attention to when they speak.  One of them is John Carmack, founder of id Software and a friend of the site, creator of Doom.  Another is Epic Games' Tim Sweeney, another pioneer in the field of computer graphics that brought us the magic of Unreal before bringing the rest of the gaming industry the Unreal Engine. 

At DICE 2012, a trade show for game developers to demo their wares and learn from each other, Sweeney gave a talk on the future of computing hardware and its future.  (You can see the source of my information and slides here at Gamespot.) Many pundits, media and even developers have brought up the idea that the next console generation that we know is coming will be the last - we will have reached the point in our computing capacity that gamers and designers will be comfortable with the quality and realism provided.  Forever. 

tim-sweeney.jpg

Think about that a moment; has anything ever appeared so obviously crazy?  Yet, in a world where gaming has seemed to regress into the handheld spaces of iPhone and iPad, many would have you believe that it is indeed the case.  Companies like NVIDIA and AMD that spend billions of dollars developing new high-powered graphics technologies would simply NOT do so anymore and instead focus only on low power.  Actually...that is kind of happening with NVIDIA Tegra and AMD's move to APUs, but both claim that the development of leading graphics technology is what allows them to feed the low end - the sub-$100 graphics cards, SoC for phones and tablets and more.

Sweeney started the discussion by teaching everyone a little about human anatomy. 

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The human eye has been studied quite extensively and the amount of information we know about it would likely surprise.  With 120 million monochrome receptors and 5M color, the eye and brain are able to do what even our most advanced cameras are unable to.

Continue reading our story on the computing needs for visual computing!!

GDC 12: Blast from GDC Past - Programmer's Challenge 2007

Subject: Editorial, Shows and Expos | March 6, 2012 - 04:45 AM |
Tagged: GDC 12, GDC

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) has a long history of being underappreciated by the general public. GDC has become more mainstream than it once was. Five years ago, a panel called “Programmer’s Challenge” -- Jeopardy for videogame programmers -- was in its fifth iteration and submitted to Google Video. Check out what GDC once was.

Take a bunch of programmers and ask them what happens when you XOR Frosted Flakes and Frosted Cheerios

I'm not kidding.

Questions from the Programmer’s Challenge are very entertaining and well worth the 45 minutes it takes to watch. It is exactly what you should expect from a Jeopardy game with “Blizzard Sues Everyone” as an example category title.

You are a high level EA executive. You have 327,600 man hours of game development to complete in the 12 weeks before Christmas. If you have 300 employees working 40 hours a week, how many hours of unpaid overtime per week should you force each employee to do before laying them off in January?

Part of the fun is keeping up with the logic puzzles which get quite difficult. The game rounds out near the end with binary algebra of breakfast cereals. Put a little smile in your Tuesday.

Source: Google Video

GDC 12: Valve & Razer renew their motion partnership vows

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 6, 2012 - 03:41 AM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Box, GDC, GDC 12

Valve and Razer formally agree to support Razer Hydra motion controller in Valve’s four most popular titles and two upcoming ones.

A little over two years ago, Valve and Razer announced a partnership for their Sixense high-precision motion controllers. During CES 2010, attendees were able to experiment with a prototype motion controller from Sixense to control Left 4 Dead 2. Sixense TrueMotion controllers were later released by Razer last June as the Razer Hydra.

Now you're thinking with controllers.

This Game Developers Conference (GDC) fast forwards us to almost a year after the launch of the Razer Hydra. The price for the controller has dropped $40 to $99.99 at some point between then and now. Valve has also announced that support would be extended from Portal 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 to include Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2 and upcoming Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

The fishiest part of this whole announcement involves the Steam Box rumor from a few days ago. Valve appears to be very focused on the best portions of console gaming for the PC all of a sudden. I could easily see motion controls be used to support The Steam Box or whatever it might be called -- especially if it were used for more than just gaming and by more than just gamers.

So what do you all think?

Source: WebProNews

GDC 12: Cry moar! Crytek to demo GFace, Warface, and more.

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 3, 2012 - 09:18 PM |
Tagged: GDC 12, GDC, crytek

Crytek unveils their large presence at Game Developers’ Conference (GDC 2012) occurring next week: what projects will be on the show floor and what projects will be discussed privately by appointment.

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) tends to be where most gamers get their overdose of gaming news. Much fewer gamers know of the Game Developers’ Conference which occurs about three months earlier. Especially over recent years, GDC coverage sometimes ends up more exciting than E3 with announcements being more technical and oriented to developers.

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A call out to interested developers.

Crytek published a press release on their website outlining their products. The release is quite cryptic in its wording, but more information should be available soon.

GFACE

GFACE, our recently announced social entertainment service, and its business development team is on the lookout for fun third-party social, casual, core free2play games that can complement our launch line up. Everyone interested in becoming part of GFACE should contact us at dev@gface.com to set up an appointment to learn more about the GFACE Social Media Publishing Platform to “Play.Together.Live.”

Warface

Crytek’s first freemium PC Online FPS Game Service Warface invites players to check out our PVE and PVP gameplay.

CryENGINE® 3

GDC attendees can participate in CryENGINE presentations every full hour. Topics that will be covered are next-generation DX 11 graphics and tools upgrades, Cinebox, creating characters for CryENGINE, AI Systems, UI Actions and Flow Graph and After Action feature set for Serious Games.

CryENGINE®3 Cinebox™ will also be on the showfloor and we’d love to show you more about it. For more information, please visit mycryengine.com or contact us at mycryengine@crytek.com

RTI

Real Time Immersive, Inc. (RTI) is a simulation and serious games studio established to support CryENGINE® licensees in the serious game and simulation market space. The team will be present on the show floor and show their latest developments.

Crytek uses their own vocabulary to categories projects which use their engine. Your project is a “Game” if it is a typical videogame such as Crysis or Mechwarrior Online. Your project is a “Serious Game” if you use their game technology for professional applications such as Lockheed Martin developing or demonstrating aircraft technology. Your project is a “Visualization” if you use game technology to demonstrate architecture or produce TV, film, and similar content in the engine.

I am most interested to find out more details about Warface and specifically find out what they could possibly be describing as a FPS Game Service with PVE gameplay. How about you? Comment away.

Source: Crytek