Eyefinity, By The People
As important as DisplayPort may be to the overall Eyefinity effort, software may be the most important of all considerations for the end-user. If the software is buggy or doesn’t live up to end-user’s expectations, Eyefinity’s prospects will quickly dim. AMD is keenly aware of this, so the company took its development efforts out to the community it so much wanted to serve. The Eyefinity team went to the operator of Widescreen Gaming Forum, who set up for AMD a roundtable group of users—“his trusted cadre,” according to Shane Parfitt.
“We ran our Eyefinity software requirements around to a lot of insiders and got some really valuable feedback,” says Parfitt. “There was a lot of debate about the HUD. Where the HUD occurs in the game depends on the game itself. In a first-person shooter, you’ve got a targeting reticle somewhere in the center of the screen that hopefully maps where your bullets are going to go. With strategy, you may have HUD elements that include what you’re building, how many resources you have, and all that stuff. So I got some great feedback on where they want those elements to be. FPS shooters, they were very clear that they didn’t want the center screen clogged up. They want a clear field of view, because that center is what they’re focusing on. The real-time strategy players wanted elements spread across the entire array in locations that made sense to that type of gamer.”
Left 4 Dead HUD
Other hot topics included things like field of view and how much scaling or stretching should occur. Naturally, no one wants stretching on side panels, but AMD states that never having any stretching is “a bit of a mathematical impossibility,” depending on the field of view associated with the front and side panels. The question was how users want that stretching to be handled.
Another popular issue was the reticle (crosshairs), because some users wanting a two- or four-monitor Eyefinity array option. AMD took the request back to game developers but had no luck.
“The crosshairs issue came up a great deal in our focus group,” says Parfitt. “But it turns out that moving that targeting reticle even a little bit affects the ballistics of the gun, where the bullets end up going, and so on. It requires a major rewriting of their engine and code.”
You can’t win ‘em all, but the upshot of this and similar roundtable groups allowed AMD to go back to vendors with a list of best practices to try and make Eyefinity into what the bulk of users kept asking for.