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Hardware Companies Outside The Box

Relationships, Continued

There are generally three roles associated with developer relations (DevRel). At the forefront are the relationship managers. Companies need people to stay in consistent, ongoing contact with those making the games. These individuals find out what titles are in the pipeline and work with publishers on marketing titles for strong brand recognition for all parties. A support staff makes sure that all of the little things happen so the other two teams can focus on what they need to be doing. The managers make sure the right technical interactions are maintained and solve issues that arise.

The meat and potatoes of relations are the technical personnel who educate developers on the latest techniques, inform them of future developments within DirectX and OpenGL, and test to add performance to a title "right out of the box." Included in this segment are the hardware and software engineers who build drivers, create technology demonstrations, tools and software.

Education is a huge undertaking, but the hardware makers need to keep the industry informed. As an example of education, AMD just held three sessions focused on DX10 and some of the changes coming up, at the games convention in Germany. While AMD cannot speak publicly until Microsoft gives the "okay" to talk about it publicly, but they give hints as far as "when you are coding your game now for 6 month or longer delivery, here is the direction that you might want to go." The education involves sessions at GDC, Develop in the UK, Games Convention in Germany GCDC, GDC China, Tokyo Games Show, and more - all to get in front of as many developers and aspiring game makers as possible.

Tessellation is just one example of a feature that is now getting a lot of attention because it works so well. The memory footprint that tessellation can minimize is amazing. We have talked about this in the past, but if tessellation didn't do anything, developers should steer clear of features that don't improve image quality as well as performance. This is one of the functions that developer relations can manage. If a technique will ultimately waste time, resources or just not maximize the benefits of hardware implementations, the DevRel at AMD and Nvidia will influence development away from it. Tessellation, on the other hand, can help both performance and image quality. The issue now is getting developers to implement it. Even more important is getting tools in the hands of these developers so the current hardware and future DX 10.1 hardware can be used to its potential in ways gamers can see and feel.

Like ATI and other authorities in the graphics market, Nvidia has similar influences. Nvidia's Barthold Lichtenbelt is leading the revitalization of OpenGL as the Khronos OpenGL Architecture Review Board Steering Group Chair (OpenGL.org). Both companies have people positioned within both the professional as well as the academic worlds. AMD has close ties with Mike Houston at Stanford University, and his work with graphics processors as General Purpose Graphics Processor Units (GPGPU.org). With influential positions, AMD and Nvidia can represent the voice of the developer on industry standards panels, making sure that the standard works well for the developer (there are standards that work well for the hardware manufacturers but not so well for developers). There are some things in DX10 that developers will not take advantage of even though it can be integrated this into hardware. It was even stated to us that the DirectX group actually will listen to the manufactures a little more than some of the developers. Senior technical personnel interview lead developers and make sure that implementations are done in an effective way. You can see from DX10 implementations that many developers have not made use of all of the hardware that exists for them.