AMD’s Mantle API is an interesting development in the PC Gaming industry, it allows developers to leverage low-overhead designs to improve the performance of their games on AMD hardware. Around a month ago we put AMD’s Mantle to the test in a trio of games and revealed some impressive results: Mantle was capable of boosting average frame-rates on AMD based systems by as much as 42.7%, with the lowest gain still being a healthy 13.6%. In our analysis we came to the conclusion that Mantle is an impressive technology, although we weren’t sure about the future of Mantle and how its criticisms can be addressed. From browsing forums, engaging with our readers and even having discussions with other media outlets I came across numerous criticisms of Mantle. We thought that it would be interesting to hear AMD’s responses to these criticisms because there are certainly a lot of myths that need to be busted and records that need to be set straight with regards to Mantle.
With all that in mind enter Richard Huddy. AMD were kind enough to allow us to quiz Richard Huddy to get his rebuttals of common criticisms of Mantle. For those of you who don’t know who Richard Huddy is, let us briefly introduce him. Richard Huddy is AMD’s “Gaming Scientist” – that’s his current official title since he returned to AMD this year in June. Huddy had previously worked for AMD but departed in 2011 to work for Intel. Richard Huddy is a veteran of the PC graphics industry and he’s had an impact on developing DirectX and a variety of other visual effects as well as influencing Intel’s graphics roadmap. In his professional career so far Huddy has worked for 3DLabs, AMD, ATI, Intel and Nvidia. AMD’s Gaming Scientist has been in and out of the news a fair amount in the last few months, most notably for his public criticism of Nvidia’s Gameworks program. Today we are hoping for a less controversial discussion!
For our interview with Richard Huddy I compiled a list of 6 questions and statements that encapsulated criticisms of Mantle that I had come across fairly frequently. I then pitched these to Richard Huddy for answering, so let’s get stuck straight in and see what Richard Huddy had to say in our interview:
Q1) Mantle only works with AMD hardware, as a result what incentives are there for more game developers to adopt Mantle when Nvidia and Intel have a larger share of the PC graphics market? Evidence of which has been presented by Jon Peddie Research and Steam’s hardware survey several times.
Right now Mantle only works with AMD hardware, yes, that’s true. But AMD has created what could become the foundation of a new Open Standard. That means that AMD is considering publishing an open SDK later this year, and at that time it would be up to NVIDIA and Intel (and anyone else who wants to consider this path) to decide whether they want to adopt it. If they do so, then they should be able to show performance wins like we have done – and that’s good for all PC gamers.
We already have somewhere in the region of 70 registered developers actively working with Mantle (7 with publicly-announced or released projects, so it’s pretty clear that Mantle is very attractive to the PC development community. That number of 70 is up very significantly from forty in May. And remember that Microsoft announced DirectX® 12 in March this year – so it’s clear that developers see good reason to move to Mantle. Indeed our momentum with Mantle is only increasing – and the simple reason is that it helps solve developers’ problems. Developers want to unlock the potential of the hardware – and Mantle lets them do exactly that.
The publicly announced titles for 2014 include:- Battlefield 4, Thief, Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare, Dragon Age Inquisition, Civilization Beyond Earth, Battlefield 4 Hardline. There have also been announcements by Crytek that they are including support in Cryengine and Oxide Games said they’re doing the same with their Nitrous Engine.
Q2) Mantle can act as a stepping stone from DirectX 11 to DirectX 12, as AMD’s whitepaper explains, but what incentives are there for game developers to use Mantle as a stepping stone when they can just miss it out altogether and go straight to DirectX 12?
I guess the incentives for jumping to Mantle comes in several guises…
(1) It’s a handy stepping stone to DirectX 12.
(2) It’s possible to address the many millions of gamers using AMD hardware right now, rather than waiting for a new version of DirectX which is not scheduled to ship until the end of 2015.
(3) Any extra features in AMD hardware now, or in the future, will be accessible through Mantle now or in a future version.
Q3) “Mantle will lose out to DirectX 12 simply because Intel, Nvidia and other game developers have more reason to trust Microsoft than AMD”. What is your response to that?
Well, I guess you must be underestimating how much trust AMD has right now. The large number of active developers is a clear indication that games developers see Mantle as a great solution to some of their important problems. You might want to talk to some of the publicly disclosed advocates of Mantle. They can explain their position themselves, and it’s clear that there is a great deal of passionate support for Mantle.
We can see exactly that, in Oxide Games blog about the next generation of API’s where Dan Baker answers the question in his blog (http://www.oxidegames.com/2014/05/21/next-generation-graphics-apis/). “Does D3D12 mitigate the need for Mantle? Not at all. Though it is difficult to deteminre without more complete information on D3D12, our expectation is that Mantle will have the edge of D3D12 in terms of CPU performance. This is because that GCN architecture by AMD is the most general of all the current GPU’s and therefore the driver needs to do a bit less”
We have also seen similar from Kevin Floyer-Lea from Rebellion in his interview with dsogaming.com – “The bottom line is that we’ll support and use whichever APIs give our players the best performance. D3D12 is definitely a step in the right direction in that regard. As it currently stands there is no reason to see why D3D12 and Mantle can’t co-exist – especially if it turns out that D3D12 is limited to newer versions of Windows. If nothing else Mantle is establishing the importance of low-level, minimal APIs, for which we’re very thankful.”
Q4) “With Mantle AMD undercut Microsoft, AMD just wanted to be the first to produce a low-overhead API”. How far would you agree with this?
I think I’d put this very differently. AMD didn’t “undercut” Microsoft, instead AMD lead the way in bringing low level APIs into the 21st Century.
Q5) “Mantle cannot succeed overall without getting traction in the console market”. Is this true?
We have already validated the initial success and future outlook for Mantle with support for Crytek, Thief, Battlefield 4, and the more than 70 or so active developers now supporting Mantle. I’ll give you two more numbers to demonstrate the success of Mantle.
Number one – we have (as I mentioned)somewhere in the region of seventy active registered developers. I think that’s clear proof of traction if you want it.
Number two – we expect to have more games published in Mantle’s first year than there were games published using DirectX 11 in its first year. That’s amazing. As you mention AMD is not the only player in the PC graphics market – but we are clearly having an impact that’s simply astonishing.
Q6) “The creation of Mantle was a selfish move designed to reduce the importance of the CPU in gaming with the ultimate goal of making AMD CPUs more competitive with Intel CPUs.” Does this have any substance?
No, this has no substance.
Having Mantle is a public spirited move that allows games developers to fully expose the potential of any hardware which runs Mantle. When we publish the full SDK that will means that Mantle will allow Intel and NVIDIA to fully expose any untapped potential in their hardware too Mantle is all about solving developers’ problems. I find it hard to see how giving games players a better experience on our hardware can be seen as selfish. It’s the developers and the players who benefit.
Reducing the importance of the CPU in gaming is a direction that must be considered.. AMD’s idea was so good, that we’re seeing others take a similar path as they’ve realised that doubling down on the GPU as the sole arbiter of gaming performance is a great idea for gamers.
Before Mantle it was often the case that DirectX 11 or OpenGL based games would have artificial bottlenecks in them which meant that the full potential of the platform was under-utilized. Mantle does a great job of removing those bottlenecks and allowing the games developer to deliver everything the platform is capable of… It’s a win for developers and it’s a win for games players.. What’s not to like?
So there you have it: AMD’s Richard Huddy has certainly done a good job at robustly defending some criticisms of AMD’s Mantle API. There are probably many more questions about Mantle that remain unanswered but we certainly think this has been a good start. We’d like to say a big thank to AMD’s Richard Huddy for taking the time to rebut criticisms of Mantle that we presented him with in this interview.
Edit: AMD’s Richard Huddy also wanted us to mention the fact that AMD will continue to support all modern Windows operating systems with its Mantle API: notably Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. As we’ve written before DirectX 12 is likely to be a Windows 9 exclusive.
We’d be very interested to hear what you, our readers, think about Mantle in general. Furthermore, has this interview made you see criticisms of Mantle differently? Do you think the criticisms were adequately rebutted? Are there any other criticisms you think we should have addressed? Please do let us know your thoughts in the comments below.