Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 19, 2014 - 08:15 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: unreal engine 4, gdc 14, GDC, epic games
Game developers, from indie to the gigantic, can now access Unreal Engine 4 with a $19/month subscription (plus 5% of revenue from resulting sales). This is a much different model from UDK, which was free to develop games with their precompiled builds until commercial release, where an upfront fee and 25% royalty is then applied. For Unreal Engine 4, however, this $19 monthly fee also gives you full C++ source code access (which I have wondered about since the announcement that Unrealscript no longer exists).
Of course, the Unreal Engine 3-based UDK is still available (and just recently updated).
This is definitely interesting and, I believe, a response to publishers doubling-down on developing their own engines. EA has basically sworn off engines outside of their own Frostbite and Ingite technologies. Ubisoft has only announced or released three games based on Unreal Engine since 2011; Activision has announced or released seven in that time, three of which were in that first year. Epic Games has always been very friendly to smaller developers and, with the rise of the internet, it is becoming much easier for indie developers to release content through Steam or even their own website. These developers now have a "AAA" engine, which I think almost anyone would agree that Unreal Engine 4 is, with an affordable license (and full source access).
Speaking of full source access, licensees can access the engine at Epic's GitHub. While a top-five publisher might hesitate to share fixes and patches, the army of smaller developers might share and share-alike. This could lead to Unreal Engine 4 acquiring its own features rapidly. Epic highlights their Oculus VR, Linux and Steam OS, and native HTML5 initiatives but, given community support, there could be pushes into unofficial support for Mantle, TrueAudio, or other technologies. Who knows?
A sister announcement, albeit a much smaller one, is that Unreal Engine 4 is now part of NVIDIA's GameWorks initiative. This integrates various NVIDIA SDKs, such as PhysX, into the engine. The press release quote from Tim Sweeney is as follows:
Epic developed Unreal Engine 4 on NVIDIA hardware, and it looks and runs best on GeForce.
Another brief mention is that Unreal Engine 4 will have expanded support for Android.
Subject: Processors, Systems | March 19, 2014 - 08:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: ready mode, Intel, gdc 14, GDC
Intel Ready Mode is a new technology that looks to offer some of the features of connected standby for desktop and all-in-one PCs while using new power states of the Haswell architecture to keep power consumption incredibly low. By combining a 4th Generation Core processor from Intel, a properly implemented motherboard and platform with new Intel or OEM software, users can access the data on their system or push data to their system without "waking up" the machine.
This feature is partially enabled by the C7 state added to the Haswell architecture with the 4th Generation Core processors but could require motherboard and platform providers to update implementations to properly support the incredibly low idle power consumption.
To be clear, this is not a desktop implementation of Microsoft Instant Go (Connected Standby) but instead is a unique and more flexible implementation. While MS Instant Go only works on Windows 8 and with Metro applications, Intel Ready Mode will work with Windows 7 and Windows 8 and actually keeps the machine awake and active, just at a very low power level. This allows users to not only make sure their software is always up to date and ready when they want to use the PC but enabled access to a remote PC from a remote location - all while in this low power state.
How low? Well Intel has a note on its slide that mentions Fujitsu launched a feature called Low Power Active Mode in 2013 that was able to hit 5 watts when leveraging the Intel guidelines. You can essentially consider this an incredibly low power "awake" state for Intel PCs.
Intel offers up some suggested usage models for Ready Mode and I will be interested to see what OEMs integrate support for this technology and if DIY users will be able to take advantage of it as well. Lenovo, ASUS, Acer, ECS, HP and Fujitsu are supporting it this year.
Subject: Processors | March 19, 2014 - 08:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: X99, Intel, Haswell-E, gdc 14, GDC, ddr4
While talking with press at GDC in San Francisco today, Intel is pulling out all the stops to assure enthusiasts and gamers that they haven't been forgotten! Since the initial release of the first Extreme Edition processor in 2003 (Pentium 4), Intel has moved from 1.7 million transistors to over 1.8 BILLION (Ivy Bride-E). Today Intel officially confirms that Haswell-E is coming!
Details are light, but we know now that this latest incarnation of the Extreme Edition processor will be an 8-core design, running on a new Intel X99 chipset and will be the first to support DDR4 memory technology. I think most of us are going to be very curious about the changes, both in pricing and performance, that the new memory technology will bring to the table for enthusiast and workstation users.
Timing is only listed as the second half of 2014, so we are going to be (impatiently) waiting along with you for more details.
Though based only on leaks that we found last week, the X99 chipset and Haswell-E will continue to have 40 lanes of PCI Express but increases the amount of SATA 6G ports from two to ten (!!) and USB 3.0 ports to six.
Subject: Processors | March 19, 2014 - 08:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: LGA, iris pro, Intel, gdc 14, GDC, Broadwell
We have great news for you this evening! The demise of the LGA processor socket for Intel desktop users has been great exaggerated. During a press session at GDC we learned that not only will Intel be offering LGA based processors for Broadwell upon its release (which we did not get more details on) but that there will be an unlocked SKU with Iris Pro graphics implemented.
Iris Pro, in its current version, is a high performance version of Intel's processor graphics that includes 128MB of embedded DRAM (eDRAM). When we first heard that Iris Pro was not coming to the desktop market with an LGA1150 SKU we were confused and bitter but it seems that Intel was listening to feedback. Broadwell will bring with it the first socketed version of Iris Pro graphics!
It's also nice to know that the rumors surrounding Intel's removal of the socket option for DIY builders was incorrect or possibly diverted due to the reaction. The enthusiast lives on!!
UPDATE: Intel has just confirmed that the upcoming socketed Broadwell CPUs will be compatible with 9-series motherboards that will be released later this spring. This should offer a nice upgrade path for users going into 2015.
Subject: Processors | March 19, 2014 - 08:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: tim, Intel, hawell, gdc 14, GDC, 9-series
An update to the existing Haswell 4th Generation Core processors will be hitting retail sometime in mid-2014 according to what Intel has just told us. This new version of the existing processors will include new CPU packaging and the oft-requested improved thermal interface material (TIM). Overclockers have frequently claimed that the changes Intel made to the TIM was limiting performance; it seems Intel has listened to the community and will be updating some parts accordingly.
Recent leaks have indicated we'll see modest frequency increases in some of the K-series parts; in the 100 MHz range. All Intel is saying today though is what you see on that slide. Overclocks should improve with the new thermal interface material but by how much isn't yet known.
These new processors, under the platform code name of Devil's Canyon, will target the upcoming 9-series chipsets. When I asked about support for 8-series chipset users, Intel would only say that those motherboards "are not targeted" for the refreshed Haswell CPUs. I would not be surprised though to see some motherboard manufacturers attempt to find ways to integrate board support through BIOS/UEFI changes.
Though only slight refreshes, when we combine the Haswell Devil's Canyon release with the news about the X99 + Haswell-E, it appears that 2014 is shaping up to be pretty interesting for the enthusiast community!
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 19, 2014 - 05:00 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Mantle, gdc 14, GDC, crytek, CRYENGINE
While I do not have too many details otherwise, Crytek and AMD have announced that mainline CRYENGINE will support the Mantle graphics API. CRYENGINE, by Crytek, now sits alongside Frostbite, by Dice, and Nitrous, by Oxide Games, as engines which support that alternative to DirectX and OpenGL. This comes little more than a week after their announcement of native Linux support with their popular engine.
The tape has separate draw calls!
Crytek has been "evaluating" the API for quite some time now, showing interest back at the AMD Developer Summit. Since then, they have apparently made a clear decision on it. It is also not the first time that CRYENGINE has been publicly introduced to Mantle, with Chris Robert's Star Citizen, also powered by the 4th Generation CRYENGINE, having announced support for the graphics API. Of course, there is a large gap between having a licensee do legwork to include an API and having the engine developer provide you supported builds (that would be like saying UnrealEngine 3 supports the original Wii).
Hopefully we will learn more as GDC continues.
Editor's (Ryan) Take:
As the week at GDC has gone on, AMD continues to push forward with Mantle and calls Crytek's implementation of the low level API "a huge endorsement" of the company's direction and vision for the future. Many, including myself, have considered that the pending announcement of DX12 would be a major set back for Mantle but AMD claims that is "short sited" and as more developers come into the Mantle ecosystem it is proof AMD is doing the "right thing."
Here at GDC, AMD told us they have expanded the number of beta Mantle members dramatically with plenty more applications (dozens) in waiting. Obviously this could put a lot of strain on AMD for Mantle support and maintenance but representatives assure us that the major work of building out documentation and development tools is nearly 100% behind them.
If stories like this one over at Semiaccurate are true, and that Microsoft's DirectX 12 will be nearly identical to AMD Mantle, then it makes sense that developers serious about new gaming engines can get a leg up on projects by learning Mantle today. Applying that knowledge to the DX12 API upon its release could speed up development and improve implementation efficiency. From what I am hearing from the few developers willing to even mention DX12, Mantle is much further along in its release (late beta) than DX12 is (early alpha).
AMD indeed was talking with and sharing the development of Mantle with Microsoft "every step of the way" and AMD has stated on several occasions that there were two outcomes with Mantle; it either becomes or inspires a new industry standard in game development. Even if DX12 is more or less a carbon copy of Mantle, forcing NVIDIA to implement that API style with DX12's release, AMD could potentially have the advantage of gaming performance and support between now and Microsoft's DirectX release. That could be as much as a full calendar year from reports we are getting at GDC.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 19, 2014 - 09:03 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: WebCL, gdc 14, GDC
The Khronos Group has just ratified the standard for WebCL 1.0. The API is expected to provide a massive performance boost to web applications which are dominated by expensive functions which can be offloaded to parallel processors, such as GPUs and multi-core CPUs. Its definition also allows WebCL to communicate and share buffers between it and WebGL with an extension.
Frequent readers of the site might remember that I have a particular interest in WebCL. Based on OpenCL, it allows web apps to obtain a list of every available compute device and target it for workloads. I have personally executed tasks on an NVIDIA GeForce 670 discrete GPU and other jobs on my Intel HD 4000 iGPU, at the same time, using the WebCL prototype from Tomi Aarnio of Nokia Research. The same is true for users with multiple discrete GPUs installed in their system (even if they are not compatible with Crossfire, SLi, or are from different vendors altogether). This could be very useful for physics, AI, lighting, and other game middleware packages.
Still, browser adoption might be rocky for quite some time. Google, Mozilla, and Opera Software were each involved in the working draft. This leaves both Apple and Microsoft notably absent. Even then, I am not sure how much interest exists within Google, Mozilla, and Opera to take it from a specification to a working feature in their browsers. Some individuals have expressed more faith in WebGL compute shaders than WebCL.
Of course, that can change with just a single "killer app", library, or middleware.
I do expect some resistance from the platform holders, however. Even Google has been pushing back on OpenCL support in Android, in favor of their "Renderscript" abstraction. The performance of a graphics processor is also significant leverage for a native app. There is little, otherwise, that cannot be accomplished with Web standards except a web browser itself (and there is even some non-serious projects for that). If Microsoft can support WebGL, however, there is always hope.
The specification is available at the Khronos website.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 19, 2014 - 09:02 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: OpenGL ES, opengl, opencl, gdc 14, GDC, EGL
The Khronos Group has also released their ratified specification for EGL 1.5. This API is at the center of data and event management between other Khronos APIs. This version increases security, interoperability between APIs, and support for many operating systems, including Android and 64-bit Linux.
The headline on the list of changes is the move that EGLImage objects makes, from the realm of extension into EGL 1.5's core functionality, giving developers a reliable method of transferring textures and renderbuffers between graphics contexts and APIs. Second on the list is the increased security around creating a graphics context, primarily designed for WebGL applications which any arbitrary website can become. Further down the list is the EGLSync object which allows further partnership between OpenGL (and OpenGL ES) and OpenCL. The GPU may not need CPU involvement when scheduling between tasks on both APIs.
During the call, the representative also wanted to mention that developers have asked them to bring EGL back to Windows. While it has not happened yet, they have announced that it is a current target.
The EGL 1.5 spec is available at the Khronos website.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 19, 2014 - 09:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: SYCL, opencl, gdc 14, GDC
To gather community feedback, the provisional specification for SYCL 1.2 has been released by The Khronos Group. SYCL extends itself upon OpenCL with the C++11 standard. This technology is built on another Khronos platform, SPIR, which allows the OpenCL C programming language to be mapped onto LLVM, with its hundreds of compatible languages (and Khronos is careful to note that they intend for anyone to make their own compatible alternative langauge).
In short, SPIR allows many languages which can compile into LLVM to take advantage of OpenCL. SYCL is the specification for creating C++11 libraries and compilers through SPIR.
As stated earlier, Khronos wants anyone to make their own compatible language:
While SYCL is one possible solution for developers, the OpenCL group encourages innovation in programming models for heterogeneous systems, either by building on top of the SPIR™ low-level intermediate representation, leveraging C++ programming techniques through SYCL, using the open source CLU libraries for prototyping, or by developing their own techniques.
SYCL 1.2 supports OpenCL 1.2 and they intend to develop it alongside OpenCL. Future releases are expected to support the latest OpenCL 2.0 specification and keep up with future developments.
The SYCL 1.2 provisional spec is available at the Khronos website.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 17, 2014 - 09:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: OpenGL ES, opengl, Khronos, gdc 14, GDC
Today, day one of Game Developers Conference 2014, the Khronos Group has officially released the 3.1 specification for OpenGL ES. The main new feature, brought over from OpenGL 4, is the addition of compute shaders. This opens GPGPU functionality to mobile and embedded devices for applications developed in OpenGL ES, especially if the developer does not want to add OpenCL.
The update is backward-compatible with OpenGL ES 2.0 and 3.0 applications, allowing developers to add features, as available, for their existing apps. On the device side, most functionality is expected to be a driver update (in the majority of cases).
OpenGL ES, standing for OpenGL for Embedded Systems but is rarely branded as such, delivers what they consider the most important features from the graphics library to the majority of devices. The Khronos Group has been working toward merging ES with the "full" graphics library over time. The last release, OpenGL ES 3.0, was focused on becoming a direct subset of OpenGL 4.3. This release expands upon the feature-space it occupies.
OpenGL ES also forms the basis for WebGL. The current draft of WebGL 2.0 uses OpenGL ES 3.0 although that was not discussed today. I have heard murmurs (not from Khronos) about some parties pushing for compute shaders in that specification, which this announcement puts us closer to.
The new specification also adds other features, such as the ability to issue a draw without CPU intervention. You could imagine a particle simulation, for instance, that wants to draw the result after its compute shader terminates. Shading is also less rigid, where vertex and fragment shaders do not need to be explicitly linked into a program before they are used. I inquired about the possibility that compute devices could be targetted (for devices with two GPUs) and possibly load balanced, in a similar method to WebCL but no confirmation or denial was provided (although he did mention that it would be interesting for apps that fall somewhere in the middle of OpenGL ES and OpenCL).
The OpenGL ES 3.1 spec is available at the Khronos website.