Skip to main content

GDC 2010, Day 1: The Missing Middle

AMD's Open Standards

Every Game Developer Conference seems to have an unstated theme, a subtext that yields clues to the overall direction and health of the game industry. This year is no exception.

The center of gravity seems to have shifted away from the middle ground--game consoles--and to the sides, if you will. One side is represented by the mobile, handheld devices, particularly smartphones. Microsoft is busy pushing development on Windows Phone 7, an entire set of tracks is devoted to iPhone game development, developers who registered for key mobile sessions received free Google Nexus One phones, and even Palm was showing game development on Palm’s WebOS.

At the other end of the spectrum is the PC, which has been much maligned in the past few years as a dying platform for gaming. Intel announced its Core i7-980X Extreme Edition, along with a leading game title, Napoleon: Total War, able to take advantage of the six-core, twelve-thread monster.

But it’s not just one new CPU. 2K games was showing off Firaxis’ Civilization V, a PC-exclusive sequel in the venerable Civilization franchise--also scalable to many threads. AMD is out pushing its Eyefinity multi-display technology. Microsoft’s public displays more strongly emphasize Games for Windows Live, with more prominent placement than the Xbox 360. Even the show keynote will be given by Sid Meier, arguably one of the industry’s more influential designers, with a long and storied history in PC gaming.

With these ideas in mind: mobile gaming seems to be coming of age, while the PC is resurgent--let’s take a look at the first half of GDC.

AMD Pushes Open Standards

AMD’s ATI graphics group has been shipping a new DirectX 11 GPU every few weeks since the launch of the original Radeon HD 5870. AMD announced a branding strategy revolving around PC gamers, which it's dubbing “AMD Gaming Evolved.”

Branding aside, perhaps the most interesting part of the AMD announcement involved Bullet Physics, an open source physics library gradually gaining steam in the developer community. AMD helped the Bullet Physics teams develop libraries that work with both OpenCL and Microsoft’s DirectX 11 DirectCompute APIs. This allows game developers to take advantage of GPU acceleration using readily-available standards not tied to particular hardware. Bullet Physics will work with GPUs from both Nvidia and AMD, Intel integrated GPUs and x86 CPUs.

Also announced was an initiative to promote open standards for stereoscopic 3D, currently the hot button among consumer electronics suppliers. AMD will be working with makers of stereoscopic glasses of all types, (polarized, active, and passive shutters) and more panel makers and middleware providers to ensure hardware-independent access to stereoscopic 3D for gaming.

In addition to efforts promoting more open standards for physics and stereoscopic 3D, the company announced a certification program for Eyefinity, so that game developers can more robustly implement the massively multi-screen capabilities of AMD’s latest GPUs. Simply scaling a game up to a huge, six-screen surface isn’t all you need to do--that’s  maybe the easiest part of the puzzle. Game developers need to put more thought into the user interface and input architectures when so many visible pixels are available.

  • Onus
    nVidia, please take a Bullet for the team. Let PhysX die, and embrace a shared, open standard.
    ATi, if it will help them swallow a bitter pill, do your 3D their way.
    To get the best features, I don't want to be limited to only certain games based on whose GPU I bought. You'll fracture the PC gaming market, and I really don't see how that is in anyone's interests.
    Reply
  • rad666
    jtt283nVidia, please take a Bullet for the team. Let PhysX die, and embrace a shared, open standard.ATi, if it will help them swallow a bitter pill, do your 3D their way.To get the best features, I don't want to be limited to only certain games based on whose GPU I bought. You'll fracture the PC gaming market, and I really don't see how that is in anyone's interests.
    I second the motion.
    Reply
  • JohnnyLucky
    Interesting developments. I don't think the major players really want to share unless it is absolutely, positively necessary.
    Reply
  • bitterman0
    jtt283nVidia, please take a Bullet for the team. Let PhysX die, and embrace a shared, open standard. ATi, if it will help them swallow a bitter pill, do your 3D their way.To get the best features, I don't want to be limited to only certain games based on whose GPU I bought. You'll fracture the PC gaming market, and I really don't see how that is in anyone's interests.rad666I second the motion.It's called "competition". And it is considered a norm to have two or even more (in extreme cases) competing technologies to become "standard". After a while only one technology remains and becomes a de-facto standard. Nothing to get yourself worked up about, really.
    Reply
  • falchard
    Since nVidia does not have the performance crown, they most likely will be unable to push a closed standard like PhysX or nVision. Any game developer who uses such technology will do so at a dive in the total amount of customers they can have.
    Reply
  • shin0bi272
    I thought amd didnt want anything to do with physics... are they scared of nvidia's physx now or something? All of a sudden they are pushing for an open source standard when 3 or 4 years ago when ageia was up for sale they wouldnt touch it with a 10ft pole. Seems amd is scrambling to find a solution that will benefit them equally with their competitors because they screwed up and are now covering their asses while pointing their finger at nvidia saying that a hardware dependent solution is unfair etc etc.
    Reply
  • Trueno07
    Ahhh i love seeing this.. Rebirth of the PC and with it, new and flourishing competition.

    Makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
    Reply
  • Onus
    Oh, I'm all for competition. Compete on price and performance though, not on a mutually exclusive feature set that forces uncomfortable choices. People complain about game quality now, how do you think it will get when developers know they're only writing for that portion of the market that uses {ATi | nVidia} ? Ugly. Or compete on a value-add. Write a driver that uses one vertical column of pixels at each edge as a sort of "sound level meter," so those of us who are deaf in one ear (or entirely) will know where the sound is coming from; stuff like that.
    Reply
  • I don't see any reason for nVidia to drop PhysX, since Bullet will run on the GeForce chips just fine using OpenCL or DirectCompute, but if the game supports PhysX then nVidia can get a boost in performance since that's specifically designed for their chips.
    Reply
  • Isnt the Xbox "Microsoft" Natal compatible with windows? Wonder how many games will support it.
    Reply