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A necessary gesture
NVIDIA views the gaming landscape as a constantly shifting medium that starts with the PC. But the company also sees mobile gaming, cloud gaming and even console gaming as part of the overall ecosystem. But that is all tied together by an investment in content – the game developers and game publishers that make the games that we play on PCs, tablets, phones and consoles.
The slide above shows NVIDIA targeting for each segment – expect for consoles obviously. NVIDIA GRID will address the cloud gaming infrastructure, GeForce and the GeForce Experience will continue with the PC systems and NVIDIA SHIELD and the Tegra SoC will get the focus for the mobile and tablet spaces. I find it interesting that NVIDIA has specifically called out Steam under the PC – maybe a hint of the future for the upcoming Steam Box?
The primary point of focus for today’s press meeting was to talk about the commitment that NVIDIA has to the gaming world and to developers. AMD has been talking up their 4-point attack on gaming that starts really with the dominance in the console markets. But NVIDIA has been the leader in the PC world for many years and doesn’t see that changing.
With several global testing facilities, the most impressive of which exists in Russia, NVIDIA tests more games, more hardware and more settings combinations than you can possibly imagine. They tune drivers and find optimal playing settings for more than 100 games that are now wrapped up into the GeForce Experience software. They write tools for developers to find software bottlenecks and test for game streaming latency (with the upcoming SHIELD). They invest more in those areas than any other hardware vendor.
This is a list of technologies that NVIDIA claims they invented or developed – an impressive list that includes things like programmable shaders, GPU compute, Boost technology and more.
Many of these turned out to be very important in the development and advancement of gaming – not for PCs but for ALL gaming.
An new era for computing? Or, just a bit of catching up?
Early Tuesday, at 2am for viewers in eastern North America, Intel performed their Computex 2013 keynote to officially kick off Haswell. Unlike ASUS from the night prior, Intel did not announce a barrage of new products; the purpose is to promote future technologies and the new products of their OEM and ODM partners. In all, there was a pretty wide variety of discussed topics.
Intel carried on with the computational era analogy: the 80's was dominated by mainframes; the 90's were predominantly client-server; and the 2000's brought the internet to the forefront. While true, they did not explicitly mention how each era never actually died but rather just bled through: we still use mainframes, especially with cloud infrastructure; we still use client-server; and just about no-one would argue that the internet has been displaced, despite its struggle against semi-native apps.
Intel believes that we are currently in the two-in-one era, which they probably mean "multiple-in-one" due to devices such as the ASUS Transformer Book Trio. They created a tagline, almost a mantra, illustrating their vision:
"It's a laptop when you need it; it's a tablet when you want it."
But before elaborating, they wanted to discuss their position in the mobile market. They believe they are becoming a major player in the mobile market with key design wins and outperforming some incumbent system on a chips (SoCs). The upcoming Silvermont architecture pines to be fill in the gaps below Haswell, driving smartphones and tablets and stretching upward to include entry-level notebooks and all-in-one PCs. The architecture promises to scale between offering three-fold more performance than its past generation, or a fifth of the power for equivalent performance.
Ryan discussed Silvermont last month, be sure to give his thoughts a browse for more depth.
Hardware is still key
The show is over, but CES 2013 is still taking its affect on our feet and our minds. While the feet are healing I asked our team to give me a few stories that would summarize this year's show. What stood out and surprised us and really made an impact? Below are a handful of quick selections with links to the full stories, but if you really want the full CES 2013 experience, you should check out our stream of CES news at http://pcper.com/ces.
NVIDIA Tegra 4 / Shield
CES really kicked off with the announcement of Tegra 4 and Shield, an Android-powered mobile gaming system built off the company's newest SoC. Shield combines a 5-in touch screen, Tegra 4 processor, console-quality game controller, speakers, display output support and more in a small, battery powered package. They are promising the best Android gaming experience as well as the ability to stream PC games on your home network to Shield.
Check out our hands-on video with the device as well as some other information on the Tegra 4.
AMD APU Relevance
To be honest, not much was expected from AMD at the show this year but they surprised many of us by talking about new APUs that looked to be much more relevant in the market than we thought they would be. Kaveri will be shipping before the end of the year and will be the first full HSA ready part, Kabini will be a high performance quad-core SoC for ultrathin notebooks and Temash could be a beast in the tablet and hybrid space.
We are Still Among the Living
The day after the official AMD presentation we were able to sit down with Leslie Sobon for a good hour and really dig into the products we are expecting throughout this next year. AMD did not officially announce any products, but they revealed more details about products on their roadmaps.
To say that AMD is in a somewhat precarious situation is an understatement. This does not necessarily mean that they won’t survive for some years. This was never mentioned to us by AMD, but we can assume that it is not in ATIC’s best interest to let AMD flounder too much. AMD is still GLOBALFOUNDRIES largest customer, and ATIC believes that they can become a fabrication giant in the next few years. So, while AMD is hitting some hard times, they will be around for some time to come in spite of their issues.
Believe it or not, AMD is still a CPU company with some relevant producxts. While Intel has the advantage in x86 performance and process technology, AMD has a distinct advantage in the integrated graphics portion. While Trinity was a big step in the right direction in terms of performance and power consumption, it was not enough to boost their flagging marketshare. Throughout the 2013 they are working on several products that will help to change their fortunes.
The first product that we will likely see is the Jaguar core based Kabini APUs. These are the next generation, low power APUs which will replace the Brazos 2.0 products that we currently are seeing. These quad core and dual core parts are manufactured by TSMC on their 28 nm process. Kabini will be the first APU to include the new GCN architecture that we currently see in the HD 7700 series and above. AMD will be breaking new ground in offering a true quad core part at price points unseen so far.
Intel is a yearly presence at CES and typically have a few interesting things to talk about. Last year we got to see Will.I.Am on stage telling us all about how the Ultrabook has changed his artistic life. Oddly enough, things have not changed dramatically for the company. Ultrabooks have inherited the latest Ivy Bridge processors which were released last Spring. Medfield is still the primary cell phone processor for Intel.
The first area they covered is the cellphone market. Medfield is still the go-to processor and Intel claims that it has better performance and battery life than even the latest Qualcomm products. Intel is introducing a new reference phone for emerging markets around the world codenamed Lexington. Based on the Z2420 and the XMM6265 modem, this budget smartphone will be Android based with certain optimizations instituted by Intel in collaboration with Google.
Intel has achieved more wins throughout the next few months. Acer, Safaricom, and Lava will all be announcing new smart phones based on Intel silicon. Details of these products will be released later in the quarter.
Medfield will be replaced by Clover Tail+ and then further on with their next gen 22 nm product.
Introduction, expert discussion panels, hardware workshop
The final day of Quakecon 2012 featured more expert discussion panels from leaders in the gaming industry about the latest games people at Quakecon were excited about like Dishonored, Halo 4, and Borderlands 2 to name a few. We also hosted our annual hardware workshop and gave away more than $30,000 worth of hardware and prizes to over 2,000 workshop attendees!
The BYOC area and exhibit hall also reached capacity for Quakecon attendees to see the semi-finals for the annual Bawls chugging competition and play in Tribes: Ascend mini tournaments at the Alienware exhibit. We also got a demonstration of John Carmack's original prototype virtual reality headset that he initially debuted at E3 this year. Carmack is working with Oculus Rift to design VR headsets for gaming that include stereoscopic 3D and a wide 110-degree field of view. The day concluded with a huge party to watch the annual case mod contest finals, Bawls chugging finals, and Quake Live finals.
Introduction, Virtual Insanity and Game of Making Games panels
Our second day at Quakecon 2012 started bright and early with expert panel discussions led by some of the gaming industry's elite game designers and programmers from around the globe. These panel discussions focused primary around the process different game studios go through to produce triple AAA titles and current developments in virtual reality headset technology. There was also more discussions about creating mods for games like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and utilizing modding communities as resources to produce higher quality games.
In between panel discussions, Quakecon hosted the first round of their annual Bawls chugging competition. BYOC gamers and event attendees were also able to try out a few game demos of Smite, Rise of the Triad, Dishonored, and Doom 3 BFG Edition. There were also several "quick draw" Quake Live matches to give out raffle tickets for a chance to win a new 2012 Ford Shelby GT500 Coupe.
Event kickoff, hardware workshop prizes, packed BYOC!
Yesterday marked the official start of Quakecon 2012 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas. This four-day event includes PC gaming awesomeness for more than 2,800 gamers in the Bring Your Own Computer LAN section as well as access to numerous gaming vendors and PC hardware exhibits. The event is sponsored by many big names in the gaming and PC hardware industry as well like Alienware, Intel, Ventrilo, Plantronics Gamecom, Cooler Master, Western Digital, and many others.
The day got off to a rocky start as id Software co-founder John Carmack's annual keynote address was delayed by more than two hours. Hundreds of gamers also lined the hallways waiting throughout the day for the opportunity to get into the already packed BYOC. But, unfortunately many were turned away from gaming at the event. This is one of the first times in almost a decade that the BYOC area was filled to capacity on the very first day of Quakecon!
NVIDIA puts its head in the clouds
Today at the 2012 NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference (GTC), NVIDIA took the wraps off a new cloud gaming technology that promises to reduce latency and improve the quality of streaming gaming using the power of NVIDIA GPUs. Dubbed GeForce GRID, NVIDIA is offering the technology to online services like Gaikai and OTOY.
The goal of GRID is to bring the promise of "console quality" gaming to every device a user has. The term "console quality" is kind of important here as NVIDIA is trying desperately to not upset all the PC gamers that purchase high-margin GeForce products. The goal of GRID is pretty simple though and should be seen as an evolution of the online streaming gaming that we have covered in the past–like OnLive. Being able to play high quality games on your TV, your computer, your tablet or even your phone without the need for high-performance and power hungry graphics processors through streaming services is what many believe the future of gaming is all about.
GRID starts with the Kepler GPU - what NVIDIA is now dubbing the first "cloud GPU" - that has the capability to virtualize graphics processing while being power efficient. The inclusion of a hardware fixed-function video encoder is important as well as it will aid in the process of compressing images that are delivered over the Internet by the streaming gaming service.
This diagram shows us how the Kepler GPU handles and accelerates the processing required for online gaming services. On the server side, the necessary process for an image to find its way to the user is more than just a simple render to a frame buffer. In current cloud gaming scenarios the frame buffer would have to be copied to the main system memory, compressed on the CPU and then sent via the network connection. With NVIDIA's GRID technology that capture and compression happens on the GPU memory and thus can be on its way to the gamer faster.
The results are H.264 streams that are compressed quickly and efficiently to be sent out over the network and return to the end user on whatever device they are using.
Introduction, Hardware Vendors
This year's South by Southwest (SXSW) Trade Show brought together many small and global companies with computer hardware and information technology backgrounds as well as creative industries that produce art, music, and movies. SXSW interactive badge holders and showcased artists got an inside look at the newest innovations in mobile social media platforms and applications, open source web content management systems, professional audio/video technologies, and other multimedia products.
Since I write for PC Perspective, I narrowed the focus of my trade show coverage to companies creating innovative computer hardware, PC and Mac peripherals, and other gadgets that may interest our readers. I also scoured the rest of the trade show for the best booth babes handing out swag and watching other fun, promotional events to get expo visitors to engage with companies to find out more about their products.
See our video coverage of the SXSW Trade Show!
Introduction, LAN Fest, Game Demos, Future of Gaming panel
Check out our video coverage of the SXSW Screenburn Arcade!
The 19th Annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival kicked off on Mar. 9 and wraps up Mar. 12 in Austin, Texas. While most of the event featured interactive workshops and panels of experts from within the web development and social media communities, I focused most of my efforts covering the SXSW Screenburn Arcade at the Palmer Event Center. This is where most of the PC and console gaming enthusiasts attending SXSW converged to watch pro gamers from the IGN Pro League battle in League of Legends, Starcraft II, and check out several game demos like Lollipop Chainsaw for the XBox 360 and Quantum Conundrum and FireFall for the PC.
Intel LAN Fest
I also had the opportunity to visit the Intel-sponsored, non-profit LANFest where event visitors could jump on one of their Alienware systems and play a variety of PC games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Team Fortress 2, MineCraft, Half Life 2 Death Match, WArsaw, Alien Swarm, Portal, World of Tanks, and Left 4 Dead 2 . LAN participants paid a $5 donation to play, which helped raise funds that will be sent to the city of Bastrop, Texas that lost more than 400 homes because of wildfires last September. They also raffled off a new ASUS Ultrabook to raise money for the United Way non-profit organization.
Last week we were in Dallas, Texas covering Quakecon 2011 as well as hosting our very own PC Perspective Hardware Workshop. While we had over 1100 attendees at the event and had a blast judging the case mod contest, one of the highlights of the event is always getting to sit down with John Carmack and pick his brain about topics of interest. We got about 30 minutes of John's time over the weekend and pestered him with questions about the GPU hardware race, how Intel's intergrated graphics (and AMD Fusion) fit in the future of PCs, the continuing debate about ray tracing, rasterization, voxels and infinite detail engines, key technologies for PC gamers like multi-display engines and a lot more!
One of our most read articles of all time was our previous interview with Carmack that focused a lot more on the ray tracing and rasterization debate. If you never read that, much of it is still very relevant today and is worth reading over.
This year though John has come full circle on several things including ray tracing, GPGPU workloads and even the advantages that console hardware has over PC gaming hardware.
Introduction, PCPer Hardware Workshop
The third and final day drew thousands of gamers and curious people to Quakecon's exhibition hall and Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC) area. Some gamers were pretty weary from all-night gaming sessions, while others continued to press on by playing Tribes: Ascend, Rage, Team Fortress 2, and Left 4 Dead 2. Others took time out from gaming to make the rounds to various panel discussions with community managers from Respawn, id Software, Bethesda Softworks, and Insomniac and learn more about first-person gaming from id Software's Tim Willits and other developers in the gaming industry.
Each day started with Ventrilo's Rage Quick Drive drawing that gave gamers an opportunity to win $1,000 and tickets for a chance to win a brand-new 2011 Molten Orange Ford F-150 Raptor SVT, complete with the Hennessey VelociRaptor 600 SC upgrade package. Today's quick drive drawing started with Marty Stratton from id Software crowd surfing at the main stage in the exhibition hall.
Introduction, 20 years of id Software, Skyrim, Prey 2
To commemorate 20 years in the gaming industry, several senior members of id Software came together for a “20 Years of id Software” panel to relive some of the history and mystery surrounding the company. John Carmack, Todd Hollenshead, Kevin Cloud and Tim Willits gave Quakecon gamers a fresh and candid look at id Software's humble beginnings and an in-depth view of their philsophies on PC, console, and mobile gaming.
During the question and answer session, the panel was asked about their advice and opinions on becoming an artist and programmer and their vision of the future of PC and console gaming. At the end of the panel discussion, the id Software team thanked the Quake community for their continued support as well as the Quakecon volunteers for their commitment to making the annual event a success every year.
One pleasant surprise was having G4TV’s Morgan Webb as the panel moderator for the event. Webb was her usual smart and sassy self and helped make the event fun and lively for everyone. Overall, the event was very engaging and we got to see the id Software team in a different light that most gamers don't get to see from today's game developers.
id Software executives Todd Hollenshead, Paul Steed, and John Carmack provided the opening remarks to kick off the start of this year's Quakecon 2011 today at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas. Quakecon is the largest LAN party in North America and typically draws thousands of gamers from all over the world.
Hollenshead got the crowd going with several announcements for discounted games on Steam and the first public demonstration of The Elder Scrolls V: SkyRim. He also mentioned the first demo of sequel Prey 2. Every iOS game put out by id Software, which includes game titles like Rage, Doom II RPG, Wolfenstein, and others, will be 50 percent off from Thursday to Sunday. Hollenshead also challenges Quakecon participates and stated that if the Rage Facebook pages gets 100,000 likes by the end of the weekend, the Rage iOS games will be free for a limited time. PC gamers were not left in the cold as the Doom and Quake pack that includes every Doom and Quake game available on Steam can be purchased for $29.99. Gamers can also drop some cash for the Quakecon Pack, which includes every Bethesda Softworks and id Software title available on Steam for only $69.99. This price will be reduced for gamers who pre-order Rage, Skyrim or both game titles.
Introducing the AMD FSA
At AMD’s Fusion 11 conference, we were treated to a nice overview of AMD’s next generation graphics architecture. With the recent change in their lineup going from the previous VLIW-5 setup (powered their graphics chips from the Radeon HD 2900 through the latest “Barts” chip running the HD 6800 series) to the new VLIW-4 (HD 6900), many were not expecting much from AMD in terms of new and unique designs. The upcoming “Southern Isles” were thought to be based on the current VLIW-4 architecture, and would feature more performance and a few new features due to the die shrink to 28 nm. It turns out that speculation is wrong.
In late Q4 of this year we should see the first iteration of this new architecture that was detailed today by Eric Demers. The overview detailed some features that will not make it into this upcoming product, but eventually it will all be added in over the next three years or so. Historically speaking, AMD has placed graphics first, with GPGPU/compute as the secondary functionality of their GPUs. While we have had compute abilities since the HD 1800/1900 series of products, AMD has not been as aggressive with compute as has its primary competition. From the G80 GPUs and beyond, NVIDIA has pushed compute harder and farther than AMD has. With its mature CUDA development tools and the compute heavy Fermi architecture, NVIDIA has been a driving force in this particular market. Now that AMD has released two APU based products (Llano and Brazos), they are starting to really push OpenCL, Direct Compute, and the recently announced C++ AMP.
Continue reading for all the details on AMD's Graphics Core Next!
AMD and Virtual Vsync for Lucid Virtu
Lucid has grown from a small startup that we thought might have a chance to survive in the world of AMD and NVIDIA to a major player in the computing space. Its latest and most successful software architecture was released into the wild with the Z68 chipset as Lucid Virtu - software that enabled users to take advantage of both the performance of a discrete graphics card and the intriguing features of the integrated graphics of Intel's Sandy Bridge CPU.
While at Computex 2011 in Taiwan we met with the President of Lucid, Offir Remez, who was excited to discuss a few key new additions to the Virtu suite with the new version titled "Virtu Universal". The new addition is support for AMD platforms including current 890-based integrated graphics options as well the upcoming AMD Llano (and more) APU CPU/GPU combinations. It is hard to see a reason for Virtu on current AMD platforms like the 890 series as there are no compelling features on the integrated graphics on that front but with the pending release of Llano you can be sure that AMD is going to integrate some of its own interesting GP-GPU features that will compete with the QuickSync technology of Sandy Bridge among other things. To see Lucid offer support for AMD this early is a good sign for day-of availability on the platform later this year.
The second pillar of Lucid's announcement with Virtu Universal was the addition of support for the mobile space, directly competing with NVIDIA and AMD's own hardware-specific switchable graphics solutions. By far the most successful this far has been NVIDIA's Optimus which has filtered its way down basically into all major OEMs and in most of the major notebook releases that include both integrated and discrete graphics solutions. The benefit that Lucid offers is that it will work with BOTH Intel and AMD platforms simplifying the product stack quite a bit.
Read on for more information and some videos of Virtual Vsync in action!
Day 1 Keynote
We are live in San Francisco from the Intel Developer Forum 2010 ready to report on anything and everything we see about upcoming products including Sandy Bridge, Atom and more! Check in here for our live blogging coverage of the keynotes and other sessions!
Introduction, Brink Demonstration, Quake Live Tournament Finals Winners
The final day of Quakecon 2010 brought more gamers from the local area who were trying to get one day of gaming in before the event was over. More than 2,800 gamers played their favorite titles in the BYOC over the course of the three-day event. Those who were able to stick around for the final day were treated with a special demonstration of Brink, our PC Perspective Hardware Workshop, and the Quake Live tournament finals.
Come one, come all!
The second annual PC Perspective Hardware Workshop is coming up very soon! August 14th in Dallas, Texas during the Quakecon 2010 BYOC/Tournament is date and place that you need to get in on the show! We will have some cool technology demonstrations as well as $25,000 in prizes to raffle off!!!
Get notified when we go live!