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AMD Gaming

18 Posts authored by: rhallock

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AMD and its retail partners would like to thank you for tuning into the #AMD30Live broadcast to celebrate 30 years of graphics and gaming with us! To commemorate the occasion, many of those fine retailers have assembled some killer deals for gamers all over the world. Check the list below and jump on the ones you gotta have!

 

RETAILERTHE DEALNEED IT?
NeweggGet a free SSD when you buy an AMD Radeon™ R9 295X2Get it!
Overclockers.co.ukGet a limited edition metal box Sapphire Radeon™ R9 295X2 and a FREE Superflower 1200W power supplyGet it!
TigerDirectSave up to $250 when you buy a new PSU with an AMD Radeon™ R9 295X2Get it!
NCIXSave up to $200 when you buy a new PSU with an AMD Radeon™ R9 295X2Get it!
NeweggSave up to $225 when you buy a new PSU with an AMD Radeon™ R9 295X2Get it!
CyberPowerPCBuying a rig? Get a free upgrade from an AMD Radeon™ R9 270X 2GB to XFX Radeon™ R9 280 3GBGet it!
iBUYPOWERPCs starting from $589 with a free upgrade to an AMD FX-6300 CPUGet it!
TigerDirectSave big on CPU+GPU bundles featuring AMD Radeon R9 290, R9 270 or R7 250 graphicsGet it!
LDLCGreat deals on an AMD Radeon™ R9 290 and power supply bundle starting at €379.95Get it!
CaseKingSave big when you purchase an XFX brand AMD Radeon™ graphics card and a Leadex power supplyGet it!
CSLGet a complete AMD Radeon™ R9 280X-based gaming PC from just €1099Get it!
UlmartMultiply retailer bonuses by five with the purchase of a Sapphire Radeon™ R9 290XGet it!
DanteGet a great deal on a Sapphire Radeon™ R9 295X2 and a Dell display!Get it!
Flipkart

CHOOSE ONE:
Buy any AMD Radeon™ R9 Series graphics card and get select games free.

Buy any AMD Radeon™ R9 Series GPU and get a chance to win a free gaming headset, mouse, keyboard and mousepad!
Buy any AMD Radeon™ R9 Series GPU and get 20% off any PC game. Offer valid for 90 days.

Get 'em!

As we head into the dog days of summer, EA wants to give thanks to all their loyal players and would  like to do that with a big ol’ AMD Radeon™-filled program called Battlefest! The program kicked off on July 9th, so you should get in on the action immediately after giving the below details a read!

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Here's what you need to know about Battlefest:

  • From July 9th through August 13th, there will be a daily contest called “Battleshots.” EA will ask you to send a screenshot in Battlefield 4™ based on a theme of their choosing. Screenshots get submitted here. Each day, they will crown a winning screenshot that will win an AMD Radeon™ graphics card, a DICE store gift card, and a Battlefield 4™ Premium membership on the platform of your choosing. (See official rules.)
  • Each Friday, the Battlefield™ team will be releasing a free camo unlock for all players.
  • To kick off the program on July 12th-13th there was a double XP weekend!
  • Each week of Battlefest will feature a global community challenge to reach an in-game goal. If the global BF4 community meets the goal, everyone gets a gold Battlepack. The first Community Mission begins July 15 with a challenge to reach 15 million revives by July 20. Good luck, soldiers!
  • Last but not least, the Stunt Video Competition runs July 14 through August 2. We want you to send us your best stunt video that can only be done in Battlefield 4™. The DICE team will pick the top 12 winners and then you, the loyal fans, will vote on the top three winners to receive a screamin’ fast AMD-based PC valued at $3100 US! The nine runners up won’t go home empty-handed, either: each one will receive a high-end AMD Radeon™ GPU. (See official rules.)

That’s it! A month of “thank you” to everyone. Keep your eyes on the Battlefield™ Blog for even more Battlefest prizes and announcements in the weeks ahead!


Robert Hallock does Technical Communications for Desktop Graphics at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.

rhallock

What is Project FreeSync?

Posted by rhallock May 29, 2014

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Take a look at this photo. See that horizontal break halfway down?1 That break is called a “screen tear.” You’d never tolerate it in your still photographs, but screen tears are a constant torment for PC gamers. They come and go in a flash, but that’s enough to annoy.

 

Vertical synchronization, or v-sync, is the traditional solution to screen tearing, but it introduces its own problems. Project FreeSync helps solve tearing without those problems or the use of proprietary technology. Project FreeSync what gamers have been waiting for, but its benefits go beyond gaming.

 

MEET PROJECT FREESYNC

Computer monitors are refreshed at a constant rate, usually 60 times per second. On the other hand, game framerates are sporadic: the computer draws frames as fast as it can, and that varies constantly. Meanwhile, normal video content plays back at a steady rate, usually 23.976 frames per second.

As you can see, your content and your monitor are never in complete sync. That’s what causes the screen to "tear:" the monitor is being fed a new frame before it’s finished drawing the last one. For a variety of reasons, games are the worst offender.

 

Traditionally, we solve the gaming problem with vertical synchronization, or v-sync. When v-sync is on, the computer lets the monitor set the pace. The PC delivers frames only at intervals that fit the monitor’s refresh rate exactly; the content and monitor are now synced and the tears are gone.

But there’s a catch: when the game action picks up and your PC's framerate dips, the monitor may not receive a new frame from the GPU in time for its next refresh, so the monitor displays the current frame a second time. Where you might have had a tear in the picture with a higher framerate, now you have stuttering or lag. It's a short lag, but it's obvious and intolerable to many gamers. There are even ways to alleviate the stuttering with v-sync, but these methods introduce "input lag," or a delay between the time the player moves the mouse and the movement appears on-screen. These scenarios demonstrate a traditional wisdom that every attempt to fix the basic problem of "tearing" introduces problems of its own.

 

But there is a solution that upends traditional wisdom: allow the monitor's refresh rate to vary (e.g. 9-60 times per second), and let that refresh rate be controlled by and synchronized to the graphics card. That very ability was proposed by AMD to VESA, the standards body that oversees the DisplayPort specification. Our proposal was accepted and integrated into the DisplayPort 1.2a specification as a feature going by the name of "DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync."


Thanks to AMD's help, monitors that support the DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync specificationand there will be a lot of themwill feature dynamic refresh rates. To actually utilize the features of such a monitor, however, you need a graphics card and a graphics driver that can leverage the Adaptive-Sync feature to manage how the content and monitor are synchronized.

Project FreeSync is AMD's name for the complete solution: a compatible AMD Radeon™ graphics card, an enabled AMD Catalyst™ graphics driver, and an Adaptive-Sync-aware display. Together, these three pieces will abolish tearing, eliminate stuttering, and greatly reduce input latency.

 


Jay Lebo is a Product Marketing Manager at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.

 

FOOTNOTES:

1. This image is a simulation.

Mantle has consistently proven itself in a number of games and engines, to the extent that low-overhead APIs were one of the hottest topics at the 2014 Game Developer Conference. Microsoft announced DirectX® 12, a “console-like” iteration of their famous API that promises to streamline development and address programming overhead. Others talked low-overhead OpenGL™, and the practices that might need to be adopted to get there.

 

It’s important to highlight that AMD was an essential voice in both of these discussions, and the chronology plainly demonstrates that Mantle has been highly influential to both the theme and the existence of these discussions. Naturally, we are 100% behind any decision that provides the benefits of low-overhead game development accessible to more gamers and developers.

 

As DirectX® 12 games sits about 20 months away by Microsoft’s estimation (“holiday 2015”), there exists a long  period of time from today where game developers must prepare their studios for a future when all major graphics APIs seek to extract the same sort of benefits that Mantle has pioneered. As the industry’s only proven low-overhead API for PC graphics, Mantle stands ready and waiting to address that gap.

 

Beyond that point, we expect DirectX® 12 to be every bit the robust and powerful solution Microsoft has promised it will be. We know that because we, too, are a member of the consortium Microsoft assembled to help shape this and every other version of their API since the 1990s.

 

When DirectX® 12 lands in late 2015, millions of AMD Radeon™ products based on the GCN Architecture will be compatible on day one. Thanks to Mantle and our presence in the console space, AMD will also stand alone with a graphics architecture that has received years of attention from developers working with low-overhead graphics APIs.

 

Above all, Mantle will present developers with a powerful shortcut to DirectX® 12, as the lingual similarities between APIs will make it easy to port a Mantle-based render backend to a DirectX® 12-based one if needed or desired. In addition, Mantle developers that made the bold decision to support our historic API will be well-educated on the design principles DirectX® 12 also promises to leverage. Finally, we will ensure that tomorrow’s game engines have an easy time of supporting a Mantle render backend, just as talented devs are comfortable with supporting multiple backends today to better address the needs of gamers.

 

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IN CONCLUSION

Over the last seven months, we have been quite transparent about the origins of Mantle rooted in requests from developers, the problems we hope to solve with Mantle, and the effect it has had on this incredible industry. In our communications, even within this very blog, we’ve also been open and honest about the nature of our data and the areas we’re still actively addressing to make Mantle an even better solution for problems in game development. And today, we’ve shared with you our vision for the future of graphics, along with Mantle’s place in that future.

 

We heartily welcome discussion and analysis of the nature of Mantle in ways that comprehensively and accurately consider both CPU-bound and GPU-bound scenarios. We also invite inquisitive and philosophical investigation into why Mantle’s adoption has been so rapid, why Mantle is gaining traction amongst the largest and most experienced development studios, and how Mantle has shaped the direction of the graphics industry as a whole.

 

Whatever the future ultimately holds, we at AMD are simply proud the industry is joining us in making faster hardware through smarter software. That was our prime philosophy since the day game developers came to us—as they did each hardware vendor—asking us for a better way. We’re glad others respect that philosophy, too, and we can’t wait to put our GPUs to work in support of that mission wherever it may go.


Robert Hallock does Technical Communications for Desktop Graphics at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.

rhallock

The performance of Mantle

Posted by rhallock May 28, 2014

Mantle is an API made in service to the game development industry, optimized to handle the performance challenges most often encountered by developers. A key challenge for these developers is engine performance that has been constrained by poor multi-core scaling or processing overhead, particularly in scenes with a large number of objects.

 

The performance benefits of Mantle are very important to industry titans like DICE and Crytek. Figures 1 and 2 reflect the efficiency gains that have captured their attention.


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FIGURE 1: The performance of the Mantle graphics API is extracting untapped performance from existing hardware by removing bottlenecks in CPU-bound scenarios.

 

Figure 1 shows the built-in benchmark mode for Thief, which is designed to deliberately pressure systems with a high number of draw calls including characters, weather, carts, stalls, reflections, complex shadowing and many more objects.

 

Behind the scenes, each object represents a “draw call,” or a moment in time when the CPU and GPU must communicate to put something on the screen for your enjoyment. Historically, the quantity of draw calls—the image quality and detail provided to you—has reached a software limit before the hardware limit. The money you are investing in powerful hardware has been hamstrung by software inefficiencies!

 

Mantle is specifically designed to address this case by significantly raising the draw call limit by up to 900%.1 While increasing the draw call limit does not necessarily yield an equivalent jump in FPS, the data in figure 1 certainly demonstrates big performance gains can be achieved when you allow for better parallelization.

 

HARDCORE GAMERS: A LOOK AT MANTLE & MULTI-GPU

Moving on to multi-GPU platforms, we enter into an area where hardware has been even more constrained by software, as limited multithreading capabilities must now be stretched thin across two graphics cards hungry to get data and do work—even at 1600p!

 

Visiting the “Angry Sea” mission in Battlefield 4™ with this configuration demonstrates a large performance delta between DirectX® 11 and Mantle, even when one of those graphics cards is using a driver allegedly tuned to improve performance by reducing driver overhead in DirectX® 11.


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FIGURE 2: The data reveals that Mantle better equips a processor to feed a hungry dual-GPU configuration than DirectX® 11.

 

We would be remiss if we didn’t put a fine point on this and remind you that this performance disparity represents a squandering of the money you invested in your hardware. Mantle isn’t just a way to increase detail or performance--it’s a return on your investment as a gamer.


ON THE TOPIC OF ROI

Another interesting trend arises from the data, in that the low-overhead benefits of Mantle are evidently unlocking the true performance of processors across the board, allowing contenders at very different prices to churn out approximately equal performance regardless of their retail cost. The importance of this trend, when extrapolated to an industry now focused on low-overhead APIs, cannot be understated.

 

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FIGURE 3: The AMD FX-8350 is $850.99 less expensive than the Intel Core-i7 4960X, but it’s faster in Thief, a game equipped with the Mantle graphics API.2

 

Consider the implications of a new landscape where the budgetary choices you make for your PC have been democratized by software that totally deemphasizes the importance of your processor decision (and, by extension, the corresponding motherboard).

 

What would that do to the cost of your system when low-overhead APIs like Mantle become the norm? Would you purchase a less costly CPU and a more powerful graphics card instead? Would you simply reduce the cost of your system, perhaps by several hundred dollars? Little has been discussed on this topic, but we invite you to consider it in greater detail in your communities and articles.

 


Robert Hallock does Technical Communications for Desktop Graphics at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.


FOOTNOTES:

  1. Testing performed at AMD Labs by isolating API CPU performance.  “Draw” defined as the minimum unique entity that can be rendered by an API draw command and a typical unique state associated with it.  Mantle performed an average draw of 0.36 microseconds over two CPU threads.  DirectX 11 performed an average draw of 3.89 microseconds over a single API thread and a single driver thread.  Mantle results discounted by 20% for conservatism (i.e. 3.89/0.36/1.2 = 9.00).    Test configuration:    Intel Core 2 CPU X9650 at 3GHz, 4 GB of PC2-6400 RAM, AMD Radeon HD 7970 video card with 3 GB VRAM. [MAN-36]
  2. Pricing data obtained from Newegg.com on 05 May, 2014. Intel Core i7-4960X ($1049.99). AMD FX-8350 ($199.99).

We’ve said much about Mantle’s goals and merits of late, but now it’s time to listen directly to the brilliant people who are actually in the business of making games.

 

Dan Baker, a partner at Oxide Games and the former graphics lead for Sid Meier’s Civilization® V, knows a thing or two about driver overhead and graphics APIs. In an interview conducted by MaximumPC regarding their Mantle-enabled “Nitrous” engine, he explained that Mantle is a cure for an industry that is in need of greater parallelization.

 

[…]APIs are still designed in this functional threading model where you have a series of processes that pass work back and forth to each other. The idea is that you have say, one thread for rendering, one thread for audio, one thread for gameplay, etc. This is really not a scalable way to build things,” Baker said.

 

“In situations where you have a shared L3 cache, you also create contention from all the different processes running, since they all access completely different memory. The industry continues to move to a job-based setup, where we have lots of tiny jobs that run asynchronously. This can now scale to a large number of CPUs, and we can fill up most of the previously unused time where one of the processors isn't doing something.”


On the topic of driver overhead, Baker’s insights were also particularly enlightening, noting that his team has been “completely limited in what [they] could do by driver overhead problems.” With Mantle, however, his team rapidly discovered that Mantle is such an elegant solution that it “dwarfs” the Direct3D 11 performance they could achieve in their engine with any hardware vendor.

 

The team at Firaxis, authors of the upcoming Civilization: Beyond Earth, unequivocally voiced the same opinion in a recent blog on Mantle: “Simply put, Mantle is the most advanced and powerful graphics API in existence.  It provides essentially the same feature set as DX11 or OpenGL, and does so at considerably lower runtime cost.”


For game developers, who live and breathe time-to-market pressures on their titles, Mantle has an added benefit. Mantle is their only opportunity to spend less time “tricking the system” to overcome software limitations, and more time getting on with the business of designing cool stuff for gamers. Our development partners have praised Mantle for reducing developmental complexity, which cannot always be said for API extensions or laborious code optimization efforts.

 

A notable proponent of this philosophy is Chris Roberts, CEO of Cloud Imperium Games and the brains behind Kickstarter sensation “Star Citizen.” In announcing support for Mantle, he noted that the API was key for achieving his vision without fighting the software to get there.

 

"AMD's Mantle will allow us to extract more performance from an AMD Radeon GPU than any other graphics API," Roberts said. "Mantle is vitally important for a game like Star Citizen, which is being designed with the need for massive GPU horsepower. With Mantle, our team can spend more time achieving our perfect artistic vision, and less time worrying about whether or not today’s gaming hardware will be ready to deliver it."


Firaxis also had something to say on this topic, noting that Mantle’s thinner abstraction layer empowers them to make better-informed game development decisions.

 

“The Mantle API is able to be backed by a very small, simple driver, which is thus considerably faster,” Firaxis said in their blog.  “It also means that this work, which must still be done, is done by someone with considerably more information.  Because the engine knows exactly what it will do and how it will do it, it is able to make design decisions that drivers could not.”


Dan Baker has a related philosophy, noting in his opening remarks (figure 1) at GDC14 that Mantle addresses fundamental development challenges that cannot addressed by a retrofit of an existing API.

 

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FIGURE 1: Dan Baker of Oxide Games said it plainly when he presented this slide at the 2014 Game Developer Conference: you can’t retrofit old APIs.


Baker continued this line of thinking in a recent blog, saying: “[…] many of the most experienced developers, Oxide included, had for years advocated a lighter, simpler API that did the absolute minimum that it could get away with. We believed we needed a teardown of the entire API rather than some modifications of current APIs.”

 

Johan Andersson, technical director of the Frostbite engine at DICE, has also praised Mantle for making development easier. That was the central theme of his keynote presentation at the APU13 developer conference late last year, which opened with exactly that sentiment (figure 2).

 

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FIGURE 2: An opening slide from Johan Andersson's keynote presentation at the AMD APU13 developer conference.


In review, it is evident that Mantle is addressing a clear need within the industry to reimagine or reinvent the graphics API, and to flush out tired problems that have long stifled game development. Together, AMD and top game developers are collaborating not only to undertake that effort, but to share the results widely throughout the gaming industry so that gamers of every stripe might ultimately benefit.

 

 


Robert Hallock does Technical Communications for Desktop Graphics at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.

rhallock

Mantle 101

Posted by rhallock May 28, 2014

In the six months since Mantle’s January launch, it has quickly grown to be incredibly successful: seven game developers have pledged support, four game engines have adopted and 20+ games will be Mantle-based. Within those figures, Crytek and AMD recently announced Mantle support in Cryengine, and AMD joined forces with 2K Games to bring Mantle support to Sid Meier’s Civilization®: Beyond Earth™. In addition, this month marked the start of the private beta program for the Mantle SDK, which boasts another 40 developers committed to exploring the benefits of our revolutionary API.

 

With all this momentum for Mantle, we thought it would be a good time to look forwards, backwards and sideways at Mantle to give a comprehensive view of  how and why it has achieved overwhelming industry praise. Let’s start, however, by looking at how Mantle reclaims lost performance for gamers.

 

With a basic implementation, Mantle was designed to improve performance in scenarios where the CPU is the limiting factor (so-called “CPU-bound” cases). CPU-bound scenarios are commonplace in gaming, as existing APIs are laden with heavy validation overhead, and have difficulty scaling out to multiple CPU cores. By addressing these problems, games developed with Mantle improve the experience for the majority of global PC gamers that have entry-level and mid-range processors.

 

Mantle achieves this through:

  • Low-overhead validation and processing of API commands
  • Explicit command buffer control
  • Close to linear performance scaling from reordering command buffers onto multiple CPU cores
  • Reduced runtime shader compilation overhead

 

Mantle is also designed to improve situations where high resolutions and “maximum detail” settings are used, although to a somewhat lesser degree, as thess settings tax GPU resources in a way that is more difficult to improve at the API level (so-called “GPU-bound” scenarios). While Mantle provides some built-in features to improve GPU-bound performance, gains in these cases are largely dependent on how well Mantle features and optimizations are being utilized by the developer. Some of those features include:

 

  • Reduction of command buffers submissions
  • Explicit control of resource compression, expands and synchronizations
  • Asynchronous DMA queue for data uploads independent from the graphics engine
  • Asynchronous compute queue for overlapping of compute and graphics workloads
  • Data formats optimizations via flexible buffer/image access
  • Advanced Anti-Aliasing features for MSAA/EQAA optimizations

 

For even more detail, we recently published our first whitepaper on Mantle. This 11-page brief contains essential technical information on the form and function of the Mantle graphics API. In addition, you might also read these recent blogs by Oxide Games and developer Josh Barczak, which detail some specific and significant ways Mantle is improving their development experience.

 

Altogether, these mechanisms have proven unquestionably attractive for a legion of game developers, to the extent that the first-year adoption rate for the Mantle API is projected to exceed the adoption rate of DirectX® 11 (see fig. 1 below).

 

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FIGURE 1 - Industry interest in a picture: the number of games in development with Mantle support through Q1 2015.

 

We’re thrilled to see so many industry luminaries in active development with Mantle in its beta phase, as these studios have a vested interest in making the ideal, high-performance API for PC graphics. Throughout this process, we are discovering new opportunities to reduce inefficiency, and we’re evolving how we make better use of the technologies we have on-hand today.

 

As the famous lyrics go: “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

 


Robert Hallock does Technical Communications for Desktop Graphics at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.

 

FOOTNOTES:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_games_with_DirectX_10_support
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_games_with_DirectX_10_support
  3. AMD internal estimates

NOTE: This blog has been reprinted with permission from Firaxis Games. This blog originally appeared on the Firaxis dev-blog network on 28 April, 2014.

 

What is Mantle?

A “Graphics API” (Application Programming Interface) is a protocol that rendering engines use to send commands to a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit).  The API provides an abstract set of commands like “draw” which are translated by a GPU driver into commands which a particular device can understand.  At present, the two most well-known graphics APIs are DirectX and OpenGL.  DirectX is dominant on Windows, and OpenGL is dominant on many other platforms.

 

Mantle is a new graphics API developed by AMD, and supported on all newer AMD devices beginning with the Radeon HD 7000 series.

 

What is important about Mantle?

As game developers, we want to maximize our products’ reach while minimizing our development costs.  Why then, would we spend a great deal of time and effort in something that would benefit only a subset of our user base?  The idea of a platform-specific API, while not unheard of was not often implemented.  After all, why would anyone write their application twice, when they could write it once?

 

In software, the only numbers of significance are 0, 1, and N.  Every cross-platform graphics engine that we have ever worked with has been designed around some kind of API abstraction which separates the game code on top from the graphics platform on the bottom.  If the abstraction layer is well built, then the cost of maintaining two graphics platforms is not worse than the cost of one.  It is also important to understand that, with the right architecture, graphics APIs are essentially a fixed cost.  Mantle has required an up-front investment, but the cost for future products to continue offering it will be considerably lower.

 

Because Mantle is so new, and so different, the development cost is higher than normal.  In order to understand why it’s worth it, you need to understand just how important Mantle is.

 

What does Mantle buy you?

Simply put, Mantle is the most advanced and powerful graphics API in existence.  It provides essentially the same feature set as DX11 or OpenGL, and does so at considerably lower runtime cost.

 

The conventional wisdom in real-time rendering is that batches, or “draw calls” are expensive.  On the PC, with current APIs, this notion is firmly rooted in fact.  This is a problem that has plagued engine and driver design since at least the DX9 era, and a large body of real-time rendering tradecraft is motivated by it (instancing, state sorting, texture atlasing, texture arrays, “uber-shaders”, to name a few).  Civilization, it turns out, requires a significant amount of rendering to generate our view of the world, and that in turn means we are required to make many, many more draw calls than you might expect..  Our birds’ eye view of the world means that we have a lot more “stuff” on screen than is typical, and our UI (a rich source of draw calls) is considerably more complex than the average.

 

Mantle changes things by working at a lower level than its competitors.  Much of the work that drivers used to do on an application’s behalf is now the responsibility of the game engine.  This means that the Mantle API is able to be backed by a very small, simple driver, which is thus considerably faster.  It also means that this work, which must still be done, is done by someone with considerably more information.  Because the engine knows exactly what it will do and how it will do it, it is able to make design decisions that drivers could not.

 

Besides being more efficient, core per core, Mantle also enables fully parallel draw submission (this has been attempted before, but never with the same degree of success). Until now, the CPU work of processing the draw calls could only by executed on one CPU core.  By removing this limitation, Mantle allows us to spread the load across multiple cores and finish it that much faster.

 

All of this means that Mantle has, quite literally, reduced the cost of a draw call by an order of magnitude.  This is an amazing technical achievement and difficult for us to exaggerate the importance of this savings.  It is a disruptive technical development which will have far-reaching implications for PC gaming.  It will alter the dynamics of the market.  It will re-write portions of the real-time rendering book.  It will change the design of future APIs and engines and greatly enhance their capabilities.

 

What does this mean to the player?

By reducing the CPU cost of rendering, Mantle will result in higher frame rates on CPU-limited systems.  As a result, players with high-end GPUs will have a much crisper and smoother experience than they had before, because their machines will no longer be held back by the CPU.  On GPU-limited systems, performance may not improve, but there will still be a considerable drop in power consumption.  This is particularly important given that many of these systems are laptops and tablets.  The reduced CPU usage also means that background tasks are much less likely to interfere with the game’s performance, in all cases.

 

Finally, the smallness and simplicity of the Mantle driver means that it will not only be more efficient, but also more robust.   Over time, we expect the bug rate for Mantle to be lower than D3D or OpenGL.  In the long run, we expect Mantle to drive the design of future graphics APIs, and by investing in it now, we are helping to create an environment which is more favorable to us and to our customers.

 

What about these other vendors?

At present, the benefits of Mantle extend only to those customers which can run it.  We recognize that a large fraction of our customers will not have access to Mantle, and we do not intend to discriminate.

 

Our philosophy is to strive to use our customers’ machines to their fullest potential.  To the extent possible, DirectX customers will see the same images as Mantle customers, and we will provide DirectX customers with the highest performance that their systems are capable of.   It is precisely this motivation which impels us to offer Mantle to those customers who can use it, because their machines possess great untapped potential.   By tapping that potential, we hope to drive positive changes which will eventually spread to all of our other customers.

 

We expect that future graphics APIs will follow Mantle’s lead, and become much lower-level, out of necessity.  There is nothing preventing other vendors from following AMD’s example and offering low-level access to their own hardware, and we are perfectly willing to support such efforts.  One API is clearly better for us than many, but if having many allows us to maximize performance across the board, then that is where the future will take us.

 

In the irreverently paraphrased words of Sir Winston Churchill:

“If we can standardize it, all drawcalls may be free, and the life of the gamers may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands”.

 

That, dear friends, is why “I Am Mantle.”

 

Joshua Barczak and John W. Kloetzli Jr. are the Lead Graphics Engineer and Principal Graphics Programmer, respectively, for Sid Meier’s Civilization®: Beyond Earth™ at Firaxis Games. This posting contains their own opinion(s) and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.

With the extreme popularity of AMD Radeon™ R9 Series graphics cards over the past few months, some gamers have found it hard to get their hands on these great products at suggested list prices.

 

We have good news! Supply has now caught up with demand, and for most retailers, street prices now match the original suggested list prices on the AMD Radeon™ R9 Series graphics cards.

 

If you’re unsure whether now’s the time to purchase an R9 Series graphics card, you needn’t worry. We’ve worked hard to make sure there are plenty of AMD Radeon™ graphics cards available in the market at suggested manufacturer prices for everyone to get one. Armed with Mantle, AMD TrueAudio technology and the recently refreshed Never Settle Forever game bundle, the AMD Radeon™ R9 Series graphics cards offer the performance and value in every segment from $179.99 to $1499!1

 

In addition to terrific availability and pricing, don’t forget these other great reasons to buy AMD Radeon™ graphics now:

  • AMD’s Mantle2 is a groundbreaking graphics API that promises to transform the world of game development to help bring better, faster games to the PC. For example, Mantle increases Battlefield 4™ performance by up to 23.8%.3 All AMD Radeon™ R9 Series GPUs include Mantle support.
  • AMD TrueAudio technology4 is available on the AMD Radeon™ R9 290, R9 290X and R9 295X2 graphics cards, and gives sound engineers the freedom to follow their imaginations and the power to make their games sound as convincing as they look. Hear a demonstration, or discover the significance this technology holds in a stealth-based game title like Thief.
  • The AMD Gaming Evolved Client powered by Raptr brings your games together in one place and through a crowd-sourcing approach adds one-click optimizations, game progress and system performance tracking, social sharing tools, easy driver updates and a steady stream of Rewards points just for playing. Join over 5 million other gamers and install it now.
  • Our Never Settle Forever game bundle lets you choose the games you want most from a large selection of AMD Gaming Evolved titles.. Get more details, including where to buy, right here.
  • AMD Eyefinity Technology5 makes it easy to achieve gaming areas way beyond HD by combining multiple monitors. You haven’t experienced real game immersion until you’ve gone beyond the boundaries of a single display.
  • Graphics Core Next architecture, which includes technologies like AMD PowerTune Technology and AMD ZeroCore Technology6, gives you the processing horsepower you need when you need it while conserving power and reducing temperatures and noise the rest of the time. All AMD Radeon™ R9 Series GPUs include these features.


And here’s a look at what press are saying:

 

  • “Overall, a great bundle update. I particularly like the addition of indie titles – kudos to AMD for that move.” – Rob Williams, Techgage
  • “Never Settle Forever continues to be a compelling choice offering incentives to potential AMD GPU buyers, and it’s nice to see AMD showing the indies — and their newer graphics cards — some love.” –Jason Evangelho, Forbes
  • “The pool of choices is bigger than ever and includes a couple of notable additions, including the upcoming Murdered: Soul Suspect and Thief. Also new are four prominent indie games...” –Scott Wasson, The Tech Report
  • “AMD's new Radeon R9 290 delivers quite impressive performance numbers. Right now, the R9 290 has the best price / performance ratio in the segment.” –"W1zzard," Techpowerup
  • “The Dual-X R9 280 OC plowed through our in game testing with great results making it a great choice for someone who is still on a limited budget and is gaming at 1080p.” –Wes Compton, LanOC Reviews
  • “In the end, this is the go-to card for ultra settings at 1080p, no question … If the performance delta isn’t enough to sway you, there’s word that the Never Settle Forever game bundle will be coming to the 200-series cards soon, too, making this card almost irresistible.” – Josh Norem, Maximum PC

 

There couldn’t be a better time to upgrade to the R9 Series of AMD Radeon™ graphics. It’s for gamers who demand the best.


Jay Lebo is a Product Marketing Manager at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.

 


FOOTNOTES:

  1. Prices for AMD Radeon™ R9 Series cards on Newegg.com as of May 12, 2014
  2. Application support for Mantle is required.
  3. In playing Battlefield 4™ as of Feb 6, 2014, the AMD Radeon™ R9 290X GPU paired with an AMD FX-8350 APU saw an increase in frame rates from 52.90 to 65.5 frames per second with Mantle at 1080p, ultra detail settings, anisotropic filtering and anti-aliasing on. 2TB HDD, 4GB memory, AMD Catalyst 13.11 Beta 6 Performance Driver. MAN-3
  4. AMD TrueAudio technology is offered on select AMD Radeon™ R9 and R7 200 Series GPUs and is designed to improve acoustic realism. Requires an enabled game or application. Not all audio equipment supports all audio effects; additional audio equipment may be required for some audio effects. Not all products feature all technologies—check with your component or system manufacturer for specific capabilities.
  5. AMD Eyefinity technology supports up to six DisplayPort monitors on an enabled graphics card. Supported display quantity, type and resolution vary by model and board design; confirm specifications with manufacturer before purchase. To enable more than two displays, or multiple displays from a single output, additional hardware such as DisplayPort-ready monitors or DisplayPort 1.2 MST-enabled hubs may be required. A maximum of two active adapters is recommended for consumer systems. See www.amd.com/eyefinityfaq for full details.
  6. AMD PowerTune and AMD ZeroCore Power are technologies offered by certain AMD Radeon™ products, which are designed to intelligently manage GPU power consumption in response to certain GPU load conditions. Not all products feature all technologies – check with your component or system manufacturer for specific model capabilities.

On the stage in Hawaii last year, amidst the unveiling of the AMD Radeon™ R9 and R7 Series, we mentioned that our GPUs would be ready to support a new generation of UltraHD displays with so-called SST scalers. SST, or single stream transport, promised to make the configuration of 4K monitors easier by eliminating the need for stitching two halves of a display together in software – a staple of first-generation 4K displays. As of late, SST monitors have begun to appear in the market, and we wanted to take some time to talk about their benefits and performance on AMD Radeon™ graphics cards.

 

SINGLE-STREAM TRANSPORT (SST) vs. MULTI-STREAM TRANSPORT (MST)

When physical LCD panels capable of displaying 3840x2160 content hit the market, the underlying circuitry used to put content on the LCD wasn’t quite as advanced. Part of that circuitry is a critical component known as the “scaler,” which permits the monitor to render pictures at the LCD panel’s native resolution, or at a resolution chosen by the user. Not all monitors have scalers, but many do, especially 4K displays.

 

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The scalers in first-generation 4K panels had a peak resolution of 1920x2160, which is exactly half the resolution of a 4K LCD. At a typical gaming refresh rate of 60 Hz, these scalers simply did not offer enough bandwidth to display a 3840x2160 image 60 times per second.

 

To address a 4K panel’s full resolution at 60 Hz, two scalers were used simultaneously. Each scaler powered half (1920x2160) of the LCD at 60 Hz, and the signals from these scalers were interleaved within a single DisplayPort™ cable, where an AMD Radeon graphics card would interpret the signal as two separate “tiles” that could be automatically stitched together into a single large surface (figure 2).

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FIGURE 2: The “Tiled Display Topology Data Block” standard was one mechanism AMD used to detect the presence of a tiled UltraHD display, then automatically stitch the tiles together for the user.

 

The technology to carry a signal for two or more monitors on a single cable is called MST, or “multi-stream transport,” a component of the DisplayPort 1.2 specification long supported by AMD Radeon graphics cards. MST is the same feature that has also allowed AMD Radeon GPUs to support multiple monitors from a single DisplayPort output via hubs or daisychaining for many years.1

 

While MST was a smart and effective solution to bring 4K panels to market at 60 Hz, the graphics industry was already hard at work to realize an ecosystem of support for UltraHD via SST, or “single-stream transport.” These new-generation scalers would have the bandwidth to drive a full 3840x2160 at 60 Hz as a single tile over DisplayPort, which would simplify configuration for the user and help reduce production costs and complexity for the manufacturer.

 

SUPPORTING 4K60 SST DISPLAYS

Monitors like the Samsung U28D590D (now available) and the upcoming Asus PB287Q are the first of many relatively affordable UltraHD monitors to feature scalers that support 3840x2160 at 60 Hz via SST. Supporting these displays in software, such as with the AMD Catalyst™ graphics driver, is not a trivial matter.

 

To date, gaming monitors have rarely (if ever) presented such a large rendering surface to the graphics driver. In fact, 2560x1600 monitors presented the largest contiguous block of pixels that would commonly be encountered by a gaming GPU. Every other display configuration, such as a tiled UltraHD display, or an AMD Eyefinity technology configuration, was a larger surface stitched together from many smaller surfaces. Programmatically speaking, all of these are distinct scenarios that must be accounted for with unique code.

 

Developing that unique code for these new 4K60 SST panels requires a close relationship with the scaler vendors driving these panels. In the case of the in-market Samsung U28D590D, the scaler vendor and AMD worked very closely with prototypical monitors to ensure that AMD Radeon™ graphics cards would be ready to support Samsung’s display when it debuted. More broadly, we are working with all top scaler vendors to ensure our Hawaiian promise that AMD Radeon™ graphics cards will always be the gold standard for UltraHD readiness.

 

BENCHMARKING SST 4K60

While individual graphics cards like the AMD Radeon™ R9 290X have architectural optimizations to support 4K resolutions, many gamers understandably turn to multi-GPU configurations (e.g. AMD CrossFire™ technology) to squeeze the most performance out of their shiny new UltraHD setup.

 

In the below performance comparison (figure 3) between the AMD Radeon™ R9 295X2 and SLI GeForce GTX 780 Ti, the benefit of AMD’s robust relationships within the display industry is clear: AMD Catalyst™ is ready to support high-performance gaming experiences on 4K60 SST displays, but our competition clearly has more work to do.


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FIGURE 3:
Multi-GPU gaming on a 4K60 SST display is significantly faster on AMD Radeon™ products thanks to our close relationships in the display industry.


THE GOLD STANDARD FOR ULTRAHD

With a rich history of pioneering new and exciting ways to game on large or multiple displays, we have spent months leveraging that expertise with a number of innovations that have established us as the undisputed leader in UltraHD gaming:

 

And now we are first to market with fully-functional, day-one support for the latest and greatest UltraHD panels with 60 Hz SST scalers. If nothing else, this represents our commitment to serve you – our  loyal and enthusiastic customers – with healthy engineering efforts to comprehensively support state-of-the-art gaming experiences.

 

(We’re gamers too. My cubicle neighbor would revolt if it didn’t work right. Frag on!)

 


Robert Hallock does Technical Communications for Desktop Graphics at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.


1. AMD Eyefinity technology supports up to six DisplayPort™ monitors on an enabled graphics card.  Supported display quantity, type and resolution vary by model and board design; confirm specifications with manufacturer before purchase.  To enable more than two displays, or multiple displays from a single output, additional hardware such as DisplayPort-ready monitors or DisplayPort 1.2 MST-enabled hubs may be required.  Maximum two active adapters supported. See www.amd.com/eyefinityfaq for full details.

As a member of AMD’s graphics division, I’m surrounded by cool technologies each and every day: pre-release Mantle games, AMD TrueAudio tools and demos, UltraHD displays, liquid cooled rigs, wicked fast GPUs and more. I love each and every one of these technologies as an employee and a PC gaming enthusiast, but it’s not every day that these technologies come together at the same time or in the same place. The simultaneous intersection of these things would be a great occasion for me, often a tradeshow like E3 or GDC. But it just so happens that today is one of those “great occasions,” as I’ve received the honor of unveiling in this blog the coolest, quietest, fastest and most advanced graphics card we’ve ever built: the AMD Radeon™ R9 295X2.

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ENGINEERING GREATNESS

Over the years, you’ve told us that you want a no-compromise dual-GPU graphics card with two of the cores found on our fastest single-GPU graphics card. We heard you. The AMD Radeon™ R9 295X2 features two  AMD Radeon™ R9 290X ASICs (formerly codenamed “Hawaii XT”) in their full configuration: 2816 shaders running at up to 1018MHz. In fact, 1018MHz is faster than the qualified clockspeed of the AMD Radeon™ R9 290X.

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The chips we selected for this product are the best of the best. And to ensure you get every last megahertz of that quality, we put these premium ASICs under an Asetek-built liquid cooling solution. Asetek is a name that needs little introduction, as many enthusiasts know they’ve spent 14 years perfecting the art of closed-loop liquid cooling solutions.

 

In the design we selected for the Radeon R9 290X2 , an integrated pump and waterblock assembly sits atop a high-turbulence plate. There’s one assembly for each chip on the board. To cool the loop, we selected a 120x120mm single thick radiator in a push configuration.

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Moving to the exterior, we again went all-out to provide a genuinely premium experience. We started with a powder-coated machined aluminum shroud punched with industrial rivets. The shroud has form and function, as the aluminum improves thermal emissivity over that of a plastic shroud.

 

You also asked us to bring GPU backplates back into service, and we have. The AMD Radeon™ R9 295X2 has a full-length, solid metal backplate to stabilize the board, help prevent impact damage and aid heat discharge from the PCB of the product.

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Finally, this wholly uncompromising  king of the mountain will demand an unapologetic 500W from a power supply. Users should be ready with a PSU that provides at least 28 amps on two separate 12 volt rails. We are confident that enthusiasts considering the AMD Radeon™ R9 295X2 will already be prepared, and will be rewarded accordingly with outrageous performance.

 

GAMING WITH GREATNESS

Putting such an extreme GPU to work requires extreme resolutions. The hardware resources of the AMD Radeon™ R9 295X2 will not be fully utilized with any resolution lower than 3840x2160. And at this resolution, I’m confident in saying the numbers speak for themselves: the AMD Radeon™ R9 295X2 is not only perfectly playable, it’s the unquestioned leader.

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Beyond pure performance, there are a host of state-of-the-art technologies that come with the Radeon R9 290X2. First and foremost, this is the fastest Mantle-enabled graphics card on the market. Mantle is currently the world’s only proven and available low-overhead API for PC gaming, and you can try it at breakneck speeds. You’ll be on the forefront of an API revolution that is overtaking the graphics industry! Want to know more? Take a peek at Mantle’s benefits and design goals in our blog on that.

 

If audio is your thing, the AMD Radeon™ R9 295X2 can do audio. It comes equipped with full hardware support for AMD TrueAudio technology to enable positional 3D audio, realistic audio environments and rich soundfields in compatible games. You can learn more about this awesome technology by reading our most recent blog on the game Thief™.

 

If GPU architectures are your obsession, there’s a lot to love in our award-winning Graphics Core Next architecture. The AMD Radeon™ R9 295X2 features the latest and greatest iteration of that architecture to support new technologies like XDMA or the aforementioned AMD TrueAudio technology.

 

And display technologies? We have those in spades! Thanks to AMD Eyefinity technology, the AMD Radeon™ R9 295X2 natively supports up to five simultaneous displays without adapters.1 And if you throw in some DisplayPort™ 1.2 daisychaining or a DisplayPort™ hub, then you could have up to six displays at the same time! With the provided ports, you could even try your hand at some 12K gaming.

 

SPEAKING OF XDMA

AMD CrossFire™ Direct Memory Access (XDMA) is a new technology we unveiled with the AMD Radeon™ R9 290X GPUs to improve the communication between multiple GPUs. As the AMD Radeon™ R9 295X2 is a dual-GPU product, we can’t think of any better use for this technology! The below chart demonstrates the multi-GPU scaling factors we are achieving with this technology by comparing the performance of an AMD Radeon™ R9 295X2 against the performance delta between one and two graphics cards.

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HAIL TO THE KING

The AMD Radeon™ R9 295X2 is the confluence of virtually every major desktop GPU technology AMD has developed for modern graphics cards. We packed all of that into a well-appointed graphics card that screams through games and benchmarks at UltraHD resolutions. What more can a gamer ask for? Nothin’. And that’s why you should bring one home for yourself when they’re available on-shelf at the end of April.

 


Robert Hallock is PR Manager for Gaming & Desktop Graphics at AMD.  His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only.  Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.


1. AMD Eyefinity technology supports up to six DisplayPort™ monitors on an enabled graphics card.  Supported display quantity, type and resolution vary by model and board design; confirm specifications with manufacturer before purchase.  To enable more than two displays, or multiple displays from a single output, additional hardware such as DisplayPort-ready monitors or DisplayPort 1.2 MST-enabled hubs may be required.  Maximum two active adapters supported. See www.amd.com/eyefinityfaq for full details.

Last October, we took the stage in Hawaii to unveil the AMD Radeon™ R9 and R7 Series GPUs, announcing that select models supported an exciting new hardware feature: AMD TrueAudio technology. AMD TrueAudio is an AMD-exclusive technology that empowers game developers to create truly expansive and realistic audio environments. We are very excited to announce that many of you will be able to experience this incredible audio technology for yourself in today’s patch for Thief™! In addition, AMD Catalyst™ 14.3 Beta also adds driver support for the newly-added Mantle rendering engine in Thief.

 

Let’s take a look at both technologies to see how the AMD Catalyst 14.3 Beta driver makes the Thief experience even better for you!

 

A BRIEF PRIMER ON AMD TRUEAUDIO TECHNOLOGY

AMD TrueAudio technology is a hardware-level feature found on the AMD Radeon™ R9 290X, R9 290, R7 260X and R7 260 graphics cards. A small block of audio processing hardware is integrated directly into the graphics chips in these products. That audio processing hardware is called a “Digital Signal Processor,” or DSP.

A DSP is specialized silicon dedicated to the task of processing—you guessed it—digital signals. Example applications for a DSP include: audio compression, audio filtering, speech processing and recognition, simulating audio environments, creating 3D sound fields and more.

 

DSPs are fully programmable, which allows developers to creatively harness that hardware in ways limited only by their imagination and skill. We are striving with AMD TrueAudio to give game developers a blank canvas for new and never-before-heard audio environments and techniques. Fully programmable hardware was inspired by another pivotal moment in our history, when we helped transition the industry to programmable graphics chips in the mid-2000s—game art has been breathtakingly diverse ever since!

 

To enable this rich climate of imagination, we turned to Cadence IP and their portfolio of Tensilica Xtensa series DSPs. We licensed their technology to equip each AMD TrueAudio-capable graphics card with a trio of Xtensa HiFi EP (PDF) cores. Together, these three DSPs allow game developers to fully offload their game audio environment from the processor to our GPU.

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Full offloading of a game’s audio engine is a key benefit of AMD TrueAudio technology. The hardware horsepower we provide to audio processing with the integrated DSPs is tremendous compared to the horsepower typically given to processor-based audio engines. In other words, audio engineers have historically received a very small portion of a processor’s overall performance to run their audio engines—one can only imagine how much this has stifled game audio innovation over the years! While it’s difficult to predict all the creative ways developers will take advantage of this new and powerful hardware, a wise man once said: “if you build it, they will come.”

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On a final note, we wanted to impress that AMD TrueAudio technology is compatible with any audio hardware you already own. AMD TrueAudio enters the audio chain at the application level, long before sound ever reaches your audio chip or audio endpoint (e.g. headphones). Whether you have integrated audio on the motherboard, a discrete sound card, or a standalone USB headset, AMD TrueAudio is already part and parcel of the audio stream that’s being fed to these devices by the game’s audio engine. And because it operates at the application level, AMD TrueAudio is fully aware of the game’s positional and environmental data. AMD TrueAudio technology is intrinsically able to provide audio data that fully reflects the game’s goings on.

 

For even more technical information on AMD TrueAudio technology, we encourage you to visit this MaximumPC interview with Carl Wakeland, the brains behind AMD TrueAudio technology at AMD.

 

AMD TRUEAUDIO IN THIEF

With respect to Thief, AMD TrueAudio is utilized to calculate an effect called “convolution reverb.” Convolution reverb is a technique that mathematically simulates the echoes (i.e. reverberation) of a real-life location. This effect is accomplished by recording an “impulse response,” which is a snapshot of the echo characteristics of a real-world location. That impulse response is fed back into software that can recreate that behavior in a PC game.

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Thief uses this technique to make buildings, cathedrals, alleyways and other in-game venues sound quite like they would in real life! In an environment where there are adjacent areas with different echo characteristics and impulse response (example: a cathedral adjacent to a cave and an open space), multiple convolution reverbs must be processed in parallel to create the most realistic sound environment. AMD worked closely with Eidos to process up to four convolution reverbs simultaneously with AMD TrueAudio technology, and you should try mission seven to get the best experience!

 

AMD TRUEAUDIO ELSEWHERE

In addition to Thief, today we will also release an AMD TrueAudio-enabled demo prepared by GenAudio and FMOD for the Occulus Rift. If you have one in your home, now would be a great time to break it out. If not, you can still experience the demo for yourself, but the graphics will be displayed as a stereo pair.

 

In this demo, called Tuscanny, AMD TrueAudio is utilized to calculate the spatialization of an audio environment. Spatialization is a technique that permits the audio engine to create a fully 3D soundfield on a stereo headset. This effect is powered by AstoundSound 3D RTI plugin by GenAudio, and it includes support for elevation, distance and positioning. Please watch this page for the download to become available.

 

A BRIEF PRIMER ON MANTLE

Mantle has been many years in the making by AMD, but we were not alone in this effort! Mantle was also directly shaped by the input we received from the greater game development community that has long sought a low-level graphics API for PCs.  We worked shoulder-to-shoulder with developers like Eidos Montreal to create Mantle in the image of their needs: a streamlined, robust, efficient API for modern graphics work. In fact, Mantle is the very first lower level API designed with input from game developers for their modern craft!

 

At the simplest level, Mantle is an Application Programming Interface (API), or a language that game developers can use to write code that creates the beautiful graphics on your screen. In its current iteration, the Mantle API uniquely leverages the hardware in the Graphics Core Next architecture (GCN) of modern AMD Radeon™ GPUs for peak performance.

 

More broadly, Mantle is functionally similar to DirectX® and OpenGL, but Mantle is different in that it was purpose-built as a lower level API. By “lower level,” it’s meant that the language of Mantle more closely matches the way modern graphics architectures (like AMD’s own GCN) are designed to execute code. The primary benefit of a lower level API is a reduction in software bottlenecks, such as the time a GPU and CPU must spend translating/understanding/reorganizing code on-the-fly before it can be executed and presented to the user as graphics. Mantle comes in contrast to the “high level API,” which offers broader compatibility with multiple GPU architectures, but does so at the expense of lower performance and efficiency.

 

For more information on the design goals of Mantle, we encourage you to visit the “Four Core Principles of Mantle” blog.

 

MANTLE GRAPHICS API IN THIEF

In Thief, Mantle is utilized to improve the graphics performance of many common PC configurations at a resolution of 1080p. Let’s look at the performance impact Mantle is making for systems like these.

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First up, an entry-level gaming system based on the CPU in the new AMD A10-7700K APU (the on die GPU is disabled) and an AMD Radeon™ R7 260X graphics card. This is a sensible CPU/GPU combination that sees up to 23% more performance when Mantle is enabled in Thief. Even more importantly for these gamers, the “High Quality” graphics preset offers playable framerates with Mantle enabled! The data is clear: users with this class of system would have to opt for lower image quality if it weren’t for Mantle’s performance improvements.

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Next we’ll look at a mid/high-end gaming system based on the AMD FX-8350 and an AMD Radeon™ R9 280X graphics card. These users are already playing on the game’s highest graphics settings, but with Mantle they can do that with up to 19% higher framerates.

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We even make the experience better for customers with an AMD Radeon-based Intel system. Below is another high-end gaming system based on the Intel Core i5-4670K and the AMD Radeon™ R9 290X Graphics. Gamers with a configuration like this could see up to 17% additional performance at 1080p!

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As you can see, Mantle is making a substantial difference for a huge cross-section of the buying public that plays their games at 1080p with very affordable CPU/GPU combinations. In some cases, Mantle is even granting gamers access to previously-unplayable graphics quality! We’re very pleased that our new, young graphics API is already having such a big effect for so many people.

 

RESOURCES FOR YOU

 

Robert Hallock is PR Manager for Gaming & Desktop Graphics at AMD.  His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only.  Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.


Correction Notice: The original edition of this blog reported that AMD TrueAudio technology utilized a HiFi 2 core in conjunction with three HiFi EP cores. The correct total is three HiFi EP cores and no HiFi 2 cores.

Once upon a time, there was an unassuming little invention called “Bitcoin.” Bitcoin was invented by Satoshi Nakamoto, a gentleman for which we have no records—no proof that he ever existed. Or perhaps it was a group of developers working under the Nakamoto name, but this cannot be proven either. Though the origins of the 2009 invention remain (forever?) shrouded in mystery, one thing remains absolutely certain: the cryptocurrency was born and is growing into an undeniable force in the modern computing landscape.

 

JUST WHAT IS A CRYPTOCURRENCY, ANYWAYS?

A cryptocurrency is a digital system of currency that relies on cryptography to verify transactions and generate new currency for the cryptocurrency economic system.

 

That’s still a bit stiff, so let’s look at it another way: someone (or a group) created a currency that records every financial transaction to a public record. Let’s call this record the “blockchain.” Every trade, every donation, every purchase, every financial transaction is a matter of public knowledge.

 

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This blockchain is an enormously complicated bundle of data. Thousands or potentially millions of people are contributing to it every day, so maintaining the integrity of that data is vitally important. Cryptocurrencies maintain integrity of that data by asking users to donate the horsepower of their computer to help solve puzzles. The first user to successfully complete the puzzle (i.e. verifying a transaction) generates new currency in the system and receives Bitcoins as a reward. Contributing compute power to solving these puzzles is called “mining,” and the reward goes into a secure file on your system called the “wallet.”

 

AN INTERLUDE ON HASHING

The puzzles solved by a user’s PC are “cryptographic” in nature, which is to say that they are based on the same encryption algorithms you might use to secure sensitive information. A basic principle in an encryption system is the concept of the “hash,” or a fabulously complicated string of numbers and letters that anonymously represents your data, but is reversible by the person that originally encrypted that information. Cryptosystems are used by these currencies as the method of proving a transaction was legitimately completed. This is called “proof of work.”

 

There are many sorts of encryption systems out there: AES, SHA-256, Scrypt, Blowfish, and many more. Each cryptosystem uses different mathematics to achieve the creation of a hash. For our primer today, we can stop a little short by stating that Bitcoin exclusively uses two rounds of the “SHA-256” system for creating the hashes that encrypts its transactions, whereas alternatives like Litecoin (and many others) use 12 rounds of SHA-256 followed by a 13th round with Scrypt. The act of creating hashes is intuitively known as “hashing,” and this work is best done by a GPU in many of today’s cryptocurrencies.

 

Finally, before we can show the process of a transaction, you must know that a single piece of information, like the information associated with a transaction between two parties, can generate thousands of different hashes when you begin to encrypt that data with a given cryptosystem. No two hashes are ever alike. Cryptocurrencies rely on that randomness by forcing systems to repeatedly compute new hash values for the information contained in a transaction until one is created that matches a specific pattern expected by the currency. The first user to create a hash that matches the expected pattern wins the prize: coins! And coins are the general name for a unit of money in a cryptocurrency.

 

EXAMPLE: A USER’S FIRST CRYPTOCURRENCY TRANSACTION

  1. Bob installs software related to the mining of a specific cryptocurrency (let’s call it  the “ExampleCoin”) and creates his first wallet file. The file is stored on his PC, and contains a record of his ExampleCoin addresses.
  2. ExampleCoin addresses are strings of letters and numbers that refer to a quantity of ExampleCoins owned by Bob. Bob can create a new address for each transaction to help improve security, and Bob can always check the value of his ExampleCoin addresses by inspecting his wallet file with the ExampleCoin software.
    1. NOTE: Each new address generated by Bob creates two lines of text: a “private key” that must never be shared with anyone, and a “public key” that Bob may freely share to engage in transactions. These addresses are called “key pairs” in cryptocurrency parlance.
  3. Bob’s friend Sally is also an ExampleCoin user, and wants to send him one ExampleCoin as a welcoming gesture.
  4. Bob generates a new ExampleCoin key pair for this transaction. The ExampleCoin software automatically and securely stores the private key, while Bob gives the public key to Sally.
  5. Sally enters Bob’s public key into her own ExampleCoin software and tells her software to transmit one coin to Bob.
  6. Once the transaction is committed, all of the data associated with that transaction is publicly broadcast to every user in the ExampleCoin network. This information includes: Sally’s public key, Bob’s public key, the transaction amount, and a digital signature based on Sally’s private key.
  7. Before the funds become associated with and available to Bob, the ExampleCoin network must prove their transaction was legitimate. The funds are essentially placed in escrow, secured with a “puzzle” that other users must solve to release the funds.
  8. That puzzle is the creation of a hash for the Sally/Bob transaction that matches a certain pattern. The matching pattern verifies the digital signature from step 6, and proves without a shadow of a doubt that Sally really owned the coins she sent to Bob. This is “mining” in action!
    1. NOTE: Every user will generate thousands of hashes before luckily happening upon one that matches the desired pattern.\
    2. NOTE: Hashes are created by a separate application, called a “miner,”that is different from the ExampleCoin software. Users must have both a miner and the wallet software installed to effectively participate in mining. The below image is cgminer 3.7.2, one of the most popular applications for mining cryptocurrencies with a graphics card.
      cgminer.png
  9. A matching hash value is eventually found to verify the transaction, which usually takes about 10 minutes. The ExampleCoin network reassigns the funds to the public key Bob provided, and the entire transaction is added to the end of the public blockchain.
  10. The lucky user that generated the matching hash with his mining application receives a significant share of ExampleCoins as a reward for being first to solve the puzzle.
    1. NOTE: Dedicating more hardware to mining helps increase the likelihood that you can be first to verify a transaction and receive your own coins as a reward. This is why a great GPU, like an AMD Radeon™ R9 Series product, is so important.

 

Just in case you missed it, here's how mining plays its role as the central mechanism in cryptocurrencies: mining is the lone authority in validating legitimate transactions, and it also creates new coins that enter into circulation. Mining is the process that makes any cryptocurrency system trustworthy and grow, and it's a never-ending process as users are constantly committing new transactions.

 

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that cryptocurrencies do not always deal in whole coins, as we have demonstrated here in our example transaction. Because cryptocurrencies are purely digital, users can own fractions of a coin out to eight decimal places: 0.00000001 ExampleCoin. This is no different than the US dollar, which tracks fractions out to two decimal places in everyday transactions (e.g. 0.05 dollars, or five cents).

 

WHAT TO DO WITH CRYPTOCURRENCIES

Once you have some cryptocurrency on-hand, you can, under certain limited circumstances, spend it! For example, internet retailer Overstock.com just began to accept Bitcoins as an acceptable form of payment alongside the US and Canadian dollars. Or you can visit a cyrpto currency exchange and cash your cryptocurrency out for “real” money, just as you would convert one currency to another on your way out of the airport in a foreign country. Others are useing cryptocurrencies to “tip” users as a “thank you” for services rendered or information provided.

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More recently, users mined and donated $30,000 US dollars’ worth of Dogecoins to the Jamaican bobsled team, which couldn’t afford the trip to Sochi after qualifying for the Olympics for the first time in 12 years. The donation of $30,000 put the Olympic hopefuls within spitting distance of their $40,000 goal, and inspired the Jamaican national Olympic committee to sponsor the team’s travel in full. Additional funds, including the Dogecoins, were used for equipment costs and other upkeep at the 2014 games in Sochi!

 

Based on the rousing success of the donation drive with Team Jamaica, Dogecoin users also rallied in January to support members of the Indian Olympic team, donating $6,500 USD in just three hours.

 

AN UNCERTAIN AND UNDENIABLE FUTURE

2013 was a momentous year for cryptocurrencies, as evidenced by the shift from “obscure hobby” to “subject of debate in US congress.” Media coverage, currency speculation, and gold rush mentality all helped contribute to the exponential growth of Bitcoin, which surged from just $30 US at the start of 2013 to more than $1100 US at its peak. As of the date of this article, one Bitcoin trades for a not insubstantial $548 US.

 

Correspondingly, Bitcoin’s explosive popularity erected barriers to entry that triggered the boom for the Scrypt-based currencies like Litecoin or Dogecoin, which have now become famous and popular in their own right. Users not content with the form and functionality of these coins have gone on to make their own derivative cryptocurrencies—a seemingly never-ending process that has ultimately spawned hundreds of varieties.

 

The ultimate goal, form or function of cryptocurrencies in our digital society and economy is equal parts unknown and inescapable. In fact, it’s unclear if cryptocurrencies will survive at all, and anyone investing in this form of exchange does so at their own risk.  But it’s a future shaped by all of us, and the free spirit of self-made progress has always struck a chord through the narrative of humanity. And this once-strange pet project sent anonymously in the world may have a significant role to play in the years ahead.

 

Please stay tuned for part two where we’ll explore in detail how AMD Radeon™ hardware helps provide a technological advantage for users participating in cryptocurrency mining!

 


 

Robert Hallock handles Technical Communications for Desktop Graphics & Gaming at AMD.His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.Additionally, AMD does not endorse, recommend or promote the use of any peer-to-peer Internet currency or the “mining” thereof. Internet currencies are highly speculative and participation in the use or collection of such currency is undertaken at the users own risk. Please ensure that your hardware (and in particular your cooling solution) is sufficient for the processor-intensive nature of Internet currency mining.

 

MAGE PERMISSIONS:

Licensed under CC-BY-2.0 for commercial sharing and adapting. Original photo property of Flickr user btckeychain.

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AMD Gaming Evolved members (download the app here) can now use the app to claim over $5m-worth of amazing stuff from AMD Rewards in the just-launched Rewards Store!

 

Here’s how it works: You earn Rewards Points for activities like playing games, participating in the community, and using the Gaming Evolved app to optimize games. If you’ve been running the app for the last few weeks you probably already have a bunch -- possibly thousands -- of points saved up.

 

Then you can browse the Rewards Store in the AMD Gaming Evolved app and spend points on an ever changing inventory -- free games, hardware, discounts, sweepstakes entries, and much more!

 

HOW TO EARN POINTS

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You can earn points in tons of different ways. Signing up and verifying your email, points. Each time you optimize a new game, that’s points. And perhaps best of all, you earn points simply for playing games -- 5 RP the first time you fire up a game within a given 24 hours, and then 2 RP every 20 minutes for up to a max of 20 RP per day, which is roughly eight League of Legends ARAMs if, like me, that’s your preferred time measurement scale.

 

And to celebrate the launch of the Rewards Store, we’re tripling the rate of points you can earn from tracking your gameplay for a limited time!

 

Participating in Raptr’s community is another great way to earn points, and you can do it without even leaving the AMD Gaming Evolved app. Posting quality content to the community, connecting with other games, and discovering new community features are just some of the ways you can rack up more points.

 

We’ll continue to add more RP-earning actions with each update -- some of them may be unannounced and secret ways of earning RP, so keep an eye out!

 

WHAT'S IN THE STORE TODAY

Here’s some of the awesome free stuff we have in the Rewards Store at launch:

 

 

So head on over to the Rewards Store to see the full line-up, and get your free stuff now! And check back often, as we’ll have plenty to add to the inventory in the coming weeks.

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As a former pro gamer, I know how amazing PC gaming can be. But I also know the frustration of troubleshooting technical issues and the tedious trial-and-error of tweaking your settings when all you want to do is play. Say what you will about consoles, but their ease-of-use is generally tough to beat.

 

So when we started building the AMD Gaming Evolved app, we knew we had an opportunity to make PC gaming better -- to help you get the best gaming experience every time you play.

 

We’re approaching that in a few different ways. The AMD Gaming Evolved app now detects what video driver you’re using and will automatically let you know when a newer driver comes out, which, by itself, should avoid a lot of headaches. Our game optimization feature (see below for an in-depth walkthrough) helps you get the most out of your hardware without having to figure out the relative merits of triple buffering, anisotropic filtering, and 8x anti-aliasing, because that’s not a very fun way to spend your time.

 

The app also makes your life easier by eliminating the need to ALT-TAB. There’s a buddy list, IM, web browser, screenshot capture, and even livestreaming to Twitch all a click away while you’re playing.

 

UNDER THE HOOD: GAME OPTIMIZATION

 

Here’s how our game optimization works. The AMD Gaming Evolved app detects a player’s CPU, GPU, driver versions, operating system, and RAM. Then while recognized game’s running, it notes in-game graphics settings and tracks frames-per-second over time. That information, multiplied by millions of AMD owners running the app, forms the data set we use to recommend optimal settings for your rig.

 

Based on the performance of similar (and often identical) hardware set ups, the app finds set ups that are running at the highest image quality while maintaining a certain level of performance.  We can also tailor the performance to your preference: Quality to prioritize eye candy over fps, Performance to maximize fps, or Balanced.

 

Our optimization feature is in beta and we’re constantly working to improve it -- we have data for nearly a thousand graphics cards in the system already, with optimizations in place for nearly 70 games and more joining the list each week (up from about 20 when we soft-launched two months ago).

 

So far, 91% of gamers who use the app to optimize a game keep those settings -- and when people revert to their previous settings, we track that and look to see what we can tweak. And as more and more AMD owners run the app, the optimization settings will just get better and better.

 

NEVER LEAVE YOUR GAMES

 

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With the AMD Gaming Evolved app, you can access a range of features and tools in-game. Communicate with friends on AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN, Google Talk, or Facebook chat. Browse the web, or read (and create) posts in the Raptr community for the game you’re playing at the moment. The app also includes a screenshot editor and uploader, so you can easily share screenshots without worrying about hosting them elsewhere.

 

You can also stream your gameplay directly to Twitch with the app. Our streaming feature is still in beta and not as option-packed as dedicated streaming software like OBS, but on the other hand, it’s incredibly easy to use. We’ll be rolling out more improvements to our streaming in the near future.

 

COMING SOON: REWARDS STORE

 

Another huge reason to use AMD Gaming Evolved -- we reward you just for playing the games you love. We recently added Reward Points to the app, and you can earn points in a variety of ways: playing games, optimizing games, even just signing up, and we’re adding many more. You can then exchange those points in our Rewards Store for free games, discounts, and even for hardware. The Rewards Store will launch very soon, but you can begin banking points right now!

 

So that’s where we’re at right now with the AMD Gaming Evolved app -- we hope you give it a try if you haven’t already, and that it improves your PC gaming experience. I’ll be back with more on the Rewards Store and new ways to earn Reward Points in the near future!

 

Raptr terms and conditions can be found here.

 

Guest blogger Dennis Fong is the CEO and Founder of Raptr, the leading community that helps connect more than 18 million gamers share and discover content about the games they love. Fong previously co-founded three companies: Xfire, an instant messenger designed for PC gamers that reaches over 15 million users (acquired by Viacom/MTV for $120 million); Lithium, the leading provider of Social CRM solutions for the enterprise; and Gamers.com, rated the #1 gaming portal by Nielsen in ’99.  Better known as “Thresh” in gaming circles as the world champion of Doom, Quake, and Quake II, Fong was called the “Michael Jordan of video games” by the Wall Street Journal and “King of the Gamers” by the Washington Post.  Fong was also the world’s first celebrity pro gamer and once won John Carmack’s Ferrari in a Quake tournament.


Dennis’ postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.

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