When new technology comes out it tends to take time for systems and developers to get to grips with them, with their advertised bonuses normally offered at some price, but is it too steep with Hitman’s developer saying that if you want to experience DX12’s bonuses only achievable by dropping DX11 support completely.
Hitman was released earlier this year to favourable reviews, with an entire YouTube series putting people in command of Agent 47, including the likes of the chuckle brothers. The lead developer behind the game, Jonas Meyer of IO Interactive, has not stated that if you want the 20% CPU and 50% GPU bonuses that Microsoft promise with DX12 you will have to drop DirectX 11 support entirely. Hitman, on the other hand, was more of a port from the former framework to DX12.
With games getting released more and more often with DX12 at their core, such as the remake of the classic Gears of War games, suffering from less than amazing performances the new graphical library doesn’t look to show off as much as it was advertised just yet.
Last month, Google made a developer preview version of the upcoming version of their popular mobile operating system, named Android N, available for public download. This release included a number of great new features including split screen functionality and more. Now, a second version of the Android N developer preview has been released for use, which should come as a welcome update for current users of the developer preview as it includes a number of major bug fixes as well as some new functionality too.
Some of the bugs that are addressed in this updated developer preview address issues such as connecting to hidden Wi-Fi networks, pauses during multi window function and over 50 issues that had been reported through the public issue tracker. This doesn’t mean that Android N is ready for everyday use, though, and Google stresses that this is still an unstable preview build meant to allow developers and testers a chance to try out and help improve Android.
On the new features front, this build includes new support for the Vulkan 3D graphics API, launcher shortcuts defined by apps and support for Emoji Unicode 9 support. The addition of Vulkan is aimed entirely at developers and will assist in the development of games and 3D graphics heavy applications while also allowing them to be well optimized for low resource use and battery drain. Launcher shortcuts could make commonly used features in apps even easier to access, giving developers the ability to allow launcher shortcuts to point to a specific point in the app, such as messaging a friend or setting a route to home in a navigation app. Emoji support speaks for itself, but Google is moving away from the generic emoji used in previous Android versions in favour of more human looking designs.
Overall, this update should be a must-have for those already using the previous Android N developer preview, but there aren’t enough new features added in order to give a good reason for more people to adopt it unless some of the existing bugs were their main hang-up. As with the existing preview, this version can be gotten through the Android Beta Program on supported Nexus devices or flash their device manually.
Even though a lot of information was shared from the Capsaicin live stream, some details weren’t made known till the after party. In an interview, Radeon Technologies Group head Raja Koduri spoke in more detail about the plans AMD has for the future and the direction they see gaming and hardware heading towards.
First up of course, was the topic of the Radeon Pro Duo, AMD’s latest flagship device. Despite the hefty $1499 price tag, AMD considers the card a good value, something like a FirePro Lite, with enough power to both game and develop on it, a card for creators who game and gamers who create. If AMD does tune the drivers more to enhance the professional software support, the Pro Duo will be well worth the cash considering how much real FirePro cards cost.
Koduri also see the future of gaming being dual-GPU cards. With Crossfire and SLI, dual GPU cards were abstracted away as one on the driver level. Because of this, performance widely varies for each game and support requires more work on the driver side. For DX12 and Vulkan, the developer can now choose to implement multi-GPU support themselves and build it into the game for much greater performance. While the transition won’t fully take place till 2017-2019, AMD wants developers to start getting used to the idea and getting ready.
This holds true for VR as well as each GPU can render for each eye independently, achieving near 2x performance benefit. The benefits though are highly dependent on the game engine and how well it works with LiquidVR. Koduri notes that some engines are as easy as a few hours work while others may take months. Roy Taylor, VP at AMD was also excited about the prospect of the upcoming APIs and AMD’s forward-looking hardware finally getting more use and boosting performance. In some ways, the use of multi-GPU is similar to multi-core processors and the use of simultaneous multi-threading (SMT) to maximize performance.
Finally, we come to Polaris 10 and 11. AMD’s naming scheme is expected the change, with the numbers being chronologically based, so the next Polaris will be bigger than 11 but not necessarily a higher performance chip. AMD is planning to use Polaris 10 and 11 to hit as many price/performance and performance/watt levels as possible so we can possibly expect multiple cards to be based on each chip, meaning probably 3. This should help AMD harvest imperfect dies and help their bottom line. Last of all, Polaris may not feature HBM2 as AMD is planning to hold back till the economics make sense. That about wraps it up for Capsaicin!
DirectX 11 has been the dominant API for a significant amount of time and doesn’t really allow for effective scaling across a wide range of hardware configurations. Thankfully, DirectX 12 is a major step in the right direction and could revolutionize the way game engines communicate with hardware. Theoretically, the new API should reduce CPU overheads and result in better optimization, although this is down to the developers. DirectX 12 isn’t the only low-level API on offer and there’s a great open source alternative, codenamed Vulkan which supports Windows 7, 8.1, 10, Android and Linux!
This is going to be an enticing proposition for anyone who dislikes Windows 10, and it could help with optimization on SteamOS. AMD originally submitted the XGL proposal from their work on Mantle and this was accepted by the OpenGL Next working group. As a company, AMD’s open source ethos ties in extremely well with Vulkan and they are going to release a beta driver with Vulkan functionality.
Raja Koduri, Senior Vice President and Chief Architect, Radeon Technologies Group, AMD said:
“The release of the Vulkan 1.0 specification is a huge step forward for developers. The Vulkan API, which was derived from Mantle, will bring the benefits of low-overhead high-performance Graphics API to the benefit of cross-platform and cross-vendor targeted applications,“
“The promotion of open and scalable technologies continues to be the focus at AMD, as a pioneer in the low-overhead API space. As a member of the Khronos Group, AMD is proud to collaborate with hardware and software industry leaders to develop the Vulkan API to ignite the next evolution in PC game development.”
I cannot wait to see Vulkan’s impact compared to other APIs and it’s quite plausible to see major performance benefits. However, I think it will be challenging to encourage developers to adopt Vulkan because the majority of users seems to be excited for DirectX 12 and prepared to upgrade to Windows 10 despite many concerns regarding privacy.
The advent of low-level APIs such as DirectX 12 and Vulkan have the potential to revolutionize the way modern games scale across various hardware setups. Clearly the gains compared to DirectX 11 are still unknown until a game’s engine offers a direct comparison between the two APIs on identical hardware. Theoretically, it could be the most significant change to PC gaming in years and allow for enhanced optimization. There’s a huge debate regarding Microsoft’s DirectX 12 system and the open source Vulkan API. In a recent interview with Tom’s Hardware, AMD’s VR director, Daryl Sartain described the current state of modern APIs and how mantle contributed to the development of DirectX 12:
“I view Mantle as something – because we did a lot of contribution to the features into DX12 – that has been spun into DX12 in so many ways. But to your question on Vulkan versus DX12, without getting into all the religious aspect, what I said yesterday [on the VR Fest panel] is that I think that both serve a need and add value. Can you make an argument that one is better than the other? You can make an argument about anything. Just bring a lawyer into the room.”
“But I do believe that, and what I most am concerned about is our ISVs, the ISV community, where they gain the greatest benefit. You know, there are some people developing on Linux, all different flavors of life – so it’s a difficult question as to which [API] should we be focused on, which one is better”.
“My opinion is that Windows as a platform, as an OS, is far better and far more evolved today than some of the previous generations, and that’s to be expected. DX12 and its integration into Windows is a great experience, is a great development environment, and has great compatibility. Does that mean that Vulkan doesn’t have a place? No. I think that answer really has to come from the development community, not from us.”
This is a fairly non-committal response but it’s too easy to see a clear advantage from either API. At least there’s a clear alternative to DirectX 12 if you want to go down the open source route. Given the success of Windows as a gaming operating system, I cannot see DirectX 12 being overtaken unless there are some very clear performance or feature benefits.
AMD’s open source philosophy deserves a great deal of credit especially when you consider the competition utilizes proprietary features as demonstrated by NVIDIA Gameworks. During CES 2016, I had the pleasure of playing Star Wars Battlefront on AMD’s upcoming Polaris architecture. This open ideology is very impressive and showcases that AMD’s future chips are fully functional ahead of their launch. In contrast to this, details about Pascal are almost non-existent barring a few marketing photographs. Today, AMD released a huge blog post about their latest initiative entitled, GPUOpen. Here is a detailed run-down of the project in AMD’s words:
“GPUOpen is composed of two areas: Games & CGI for game graphics and content creation (which is the area I am involved with), and Professional Compute for high-performance GPU computing in professional applications.
GPUOpen is based on three principles:
The first is to provide code and documentation allowing PC developers to exert more control on the GPU. Current and upcoming GCN architectures (such as Polaris) include many features not exposed today in PC graphics APIs, and GPUOpen aims to empower developers with ways to leverage some of those features. In addition to generating quality or performance advantages such access will also enable easier porting from current-generation consoles (XBox One and PlayStation 4) to the PC platform.
The second is a commitment to open source software. The game and graphics development community is an active hub of enthusiastic individuals who believe in the value of sharing knowledge. Full and flexible access to the source of tools, libraries and effects is a key pillar of the GPUOpen philosophy. Only through open source access are developers able to modify, optimize, fix, port and learn from software. The goal? Encouraging innovation and the development of amazing graphics techniques and optimizations in PC games.
The third is a collaborative engagement with the developer community. GPUOpen software is hosted on public source code repositories such as GitHub as a way to enable sharing and collaboration. Engineers from different functions will also regularly write blog posts about various GPU-related topics, game technologies or industry news.”
This is fantastic news for developers and assists the optimization process through open source tools. In theory, the GPUOpen model allows developers free reign to properly understand the hardware and code in a much more efficient manner. Time will tell how popular this endeavour is, but it looks like a really good idea to build a strong relationship between developers and AMD users.
Valve developer Dan Ginsburg spoke at length regarding the two upcoming APIs, DirectX 12 and Vulkan, during this year’s SIGGRAPH event. While both are much anticipated, offering low-level access to a PC’s GPU and CPU, Ginsburg claims that there is no reason to create a DX12 back-end for games, and that Vulkan is the superior API.
“Unless you are aggressive enough to be shipping a DX12 game this year, I would argue that there is really not much reason to ever create a DX12 back end for your game. And the reason for that is that Vulkan will cover you on Windows 10 on the same class of hardware and so much more from all these other platforms and IHVs that we’ve heard from. Metal is single platform, single vendor, and Vulkan… we are gonna have support for not only Windows 10 but Windows 7, Windows 8 and Linux.”
It must be noted that Ginsburg is working on the Khonos Group’s Vulkan API, and so may have a vested interest in its success. Conversely, he is also in a fine position to extol the virtues of Vulkan, having worked so closely on it.
Intel showcased the benefits of the Vulkan API during SIGGRAPH 2015 and exemplified its viability as a mainstream alternative to OpenGL. The Stardust graphics demonstration was conducted on an Intel PC with a fairly modest quad-core processor to gauge typical performance gains. The OpenGL benchmarks signified a complete lack of multi-threaded optimization and only fully utilized 1 core. The other 3 cores were virtually dormant and showed how OpenGL heavily relies on single threaded performance. Subsequently, this resulted with a final benchmark figure of 25fps.
In direct contrast to this, the Vulkan API provided a more consistent workload and spread the processing power across 4 cores. This improved the framerate by almost 50% and hovered around 50fps. Additionally, the CPU power consumption was exponentially reduced. To work out the exact figure, the benchmark featured an fps lock and compared each API at identical performance numbers. Unbelievably, Vulkan’s CPU power demands hit a maximum wattage at almost half the figure of OpenGL.
Other benefits surrounding Vulkan include an open ethos allowing it to run to any operating system such as Ubuntu, SteamOS, Windows XP and Android. Additionally, the API is designed to work across a wide array of devices from mobiles to gaming PCs. This makes it extremely flexible and should scale quite well across various software packages. Also, the API is backed by industry behemoths and has a bright future ahead.
At this time, Vulkan is rather impressive and could be the future API of direct 3D graphics. I highly recommend checking out the video footage below which shows Vulkan in all its glory.
Google has announced that it is introducing low-overhead API Vulkan to its Android devices, bringing with it improved speed and graphics while reducing the load on the CPU.
“Even the most careful developers can hit unforeseen bottlenecks, in part because the drivers for some graphics processors may reorganize all of that data before it can actually be processed,” Shannon Woods, Shannon Woods for Google’s Android operating system, explained in a blog post. “In order to address some of the sources of CPU overhead and provide developers with more explicit control over rendering, we’ve been working to bring a new 3D rendering API, Vulkan, to Android.”
Vulkan allows programmers to access the hardware of whichever Android device a game is running on, much in the same way as Apple’s Metal, giving them more flexibility and power to exploit while saving the processor much of its usual overhead.
“We’ll be working hard to help create, test, and ship Vulkan, but at the same time, we’re also going to contribute to and support OpenGL ES,” Woods added. “As a developer, you’ll be able to choose which API is right for you: The simplicity of OpenGL ES, or the explicit control of Vulkan. We’re committed to providing an excellent developer experience, no matter which API you choose.”
High-end Android smartphones and tablets released over the last six months – featuring Qualcomm’s Adreno 400-series GPUs and Nvidia’s Tegra K1 – should support Vulkan, with further hardware integration planned for future devices.
Thank you readwrite for providing us with this information.
WorldsFactory interviewed the developers of Magicka 2 – Pieces Interactive this week.
They asked the developers what they thought of DirectX version 12 from a development point of view. Turns out they have a very positive view on it. However at the same time, they said that Vulkan may be even better.
“DX12 is a big improvement over DX11, it enables games to move to the next generation of graphics. But we’re also eagerly awaiting the official release of OpenGL Vulkan, which might even be better than DX12. Currently we are only experimenting with the API’s but we will of course support them eventually.”
If Vulkan could indeed offer further improvements remains to be seen. It is understandable that Vulkan could indeed prove to be as effective if not more so than DX12, as it retains some of Mantle’s most essential components. Adoption of the new APIs is what would be the deciding factor though, as both offer huge advantages over the previous generation. DX12 will be available with Windows 10 this summer.
Vulkan also has the advantage that it supports several operating systems. Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. Whereas DX12 can only function on windows operating systems. Either way, it works out well for us gamers. We can expect a much better performance increase and a decrease in CPU requirements.
Thank you to WorldsFactory for providing us with this information