AMD Gaming

8 Posts authored by: rhallock

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.
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  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.

Today is a momentous day for the team behind AMD Radeon™ graphics, as we are proud to announce the official public availability of the AMD Catalyst™ 14.1 Beta driver, which features Mantle libraries to support the release of the Mantle-enabled patch for Battlefield 4™, along with the recent debut of the Mantle-based “Star Swarm” technical demo by Oxide Games. In addition, AMD Catalyst™ 14.1 delivers the promised "phase 2" frame pacing fixes for AMD CrossFire™ technology users!

 

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 DICE and Oxide Games 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 API designed directly by 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.

 

Before entering into performance analysis, however, we wanted to provide some new insight on the design goals of the Mantle API.

 

DESIGN PRINCIPLES OF MANTLE

First and foremost, Mantle is primarily designed to improve performance in scenarios where the CPU is the limiting factor (so-called “CPU-bound” cases); CPU-bound scenarios are legion in gaming, as existing APIs typically have heavy validation overhead, along with difficulty scaling out to multiple CPU cores. In addressing this common problem, Mantle can enable a pronounced improvement for the majority of global PC gamers that have entry-level and mid-range processors. Some of the techniques to achieve this include:

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

 

In turn, Mantle makes less of an impact in cases where high resolutions and “maximum detail” settings are used, as these settings are likely to be maximally taxing GPU resources in a manner 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

 

It’s also prudent to note that Mantle is still in the beta phase and may not reflect the full performance we might be able to achieve through the optimization time we’ll be investing in the months ahead. And, as developers are still familiarizing themselves with Mantle and its relationship to Graphics Core Next, they may not have capitalized on all available opportunities for optimizations—but that will come with time.

 

One such optimization is the approach to multi-GPU performance scaling, which now rests in the hands of the game developer in the Mantle ecosystem. Developer control of multi-GPU performance empowers them to design an optimal multi-GPU codebase that perfectly matches the approach their rendering engine takes to graphics. Battlefield 4 is currently enabled with multi-GPU capabilities on Mantle, but the Oxide Games StarSwarm demo will be enabled with these capabilities in a later build.

 

MANTLE ON BATTLEFIELD 4

A game that needs no introduction, Battlefield 4 has captivated gamers with its intense multiplayer environments and, of course, the tremendous graphics courtesy of the game’s Frostbite 3™ engine. Augmented this week with Mantle, configuring Battlefield 4 to activate our API requires that you meet a few prerequisites:

Once these requirements have been met, you’re ready and Mantle is enabled! As for the performance uplift you might expect, the following diagrams are illustrative of the performance uplift you can expect from Mantle across a variety of processors. The data is demonstrative of what we’ve been promising since Mantle’s unveiling: a performance uplift across every scenario.

 

BF4_8350.png

BF4_7700K.png

BF4_4960X.png

BF4_4670K.png

 

MANTLE ON STAR SWARM

Star Swarm, meanwhile, is a technical demo developed by the incredible minds over at the new Oxide Games. Composed of industry veterans from Firaxis and Microsoft studios, the experienced artists and developers at Oxide have crafted the “Nitrous” engine to power a new generation of RTS titles, like the StarSwarm demo, with massive battlefields and a huge quantity of on-screen units—a perfect use case for Mantle!

 

Star Swarm is important because it shows the impact Mantle can make in scenarios with a high number of “draw calls,” which are instances where the GPU and the CPU must communicate to display any object you see on screen. Traditional game engines based on DirectX® typically hit a limit somewhere around 5000 draw calls (or lower, depending on the user’s CPU), demonstrating severe performance degradation beyond that point.

 

This performance degradation is due largely to the inability to efficiently utilize multiple CPU cores, which artificially limits the speed at which the CPU and GPU can communicate to do meaningful work. In contrast, the Star Swarm demo from the team at Oxide uses Mantle’s efficient multi-core scaling to raise that draw call limit into the neighborhood of up to 100,000 objects! With that in mind, tests performed on a range of CPUs demonstrate impressive performance improvements, even with significantly higher visual fidelity.


To test the Star Swarm demo from yourself, you’ll need to meet the following prerequisites:

 

Oxide_RTS_7700K.png

Oxide_RTS_4670K.png

Oxide_RTS_4960X.png

 

 

UPDATED FRAME PACING

Frame pacing is a technology that allows a multi-GPU configuration to deliver each frame of your game at consistent intervals. Even duration between each frame in your overall frame rate imparts a certain buttery smoothness that’s hard to describe in words, but luxurious to experience in-action in your favorite game.

 

Last year, we developed and released our own implementation of this technology for customers of AMD Radeon™ products in the AMD Catalyst™ 13.8 Beta driver. In that update, we enabled frame pacing for Graphics Core Next-based GPUs on resolutions up to 2560x1600 in DirectX® 10 and 11 applications. With that release, we also promised a “phase 2” driver that would address additional configurations, and we’re pleased to say that today is the day: AMD Catalyst™ 14.1 Beta is the promised “phase 2” driver!

 

AMD Catalyst™ 14.1 Beta brings new frame pacing support to the following AMD CrossFire™ or AMD Dual Graphics configurations when running DirectX® 10 and DirectX® 11 applications at resolutions higher than 2560x1600:

  • AMD Radeon™ R9 280X Graphics
  • AMD Radeon™ R9 270X Graphics
  • AMD Radeon™ R9 270 Graphics
  • AMD Radeon™ HD 7000 Series
  • AMD Radeon™ HD 7000M Series
  • AMD Radeon™ HD 8000 Series
  • AMD Radeon™ HD 8000M Series
  • These AMD Dual Graphics configurations
  • AMD Dual Graphics configurations using the new “Kaveri” APU with the AMD Radeon™ R7 240 or R7 250 GPUs

 

As a visual example of the benefits provided by frame pacing, we can plot out a real-world gaming scenario. The following diagram represents the time, in milliseconds, it took to render and display each frame to the user. To interpret the graph, look at the peaks and valleys: the line presenting fewer periods of frequent peaks and valleys, particularly fewer dramatic spikes, is representative of a smoother gaming experience.

 

The below image illustrates an AMD Dual Graphics configuration: pairing the new “Kaveri” APU and the AMD Radeon™ R7 250 to run Tomb Raider™. As you can see, the time to present a frame is noticeably improved with the AMD Catalyst™ 14.1 graphics driver (red line), which is consistently and significantly less erratic than its predecessor (blue).

 

tr_dgfx_frametimes.png

 

 

THE ROAD AHEAD

Throughout the months that have followed our October 2013 unveiling of Mantle, you have been patient and kind to us as the Mantle consortium labored to make the first release the best it could possibly be. Concurrently, your enthusiastic support on Facebook, Twitter and at trade shows has been real and personal encouragement for every person working on the API. While we can never truly repay your kindness with a piece of software, we hope that it goes into the world with no uncertain amount of gratitude for us. We thank you so very deeply for your support, and vow that we will bring support to the full breadth of Graphics Core Next GPUs in the months ahead.

 

More broadly, AMD Catalyst™ 14.1 can be a significant improvement for gamers with systems based on AMD CrossFire™ or Dual Graphics technologies, with the potential for vast enhancements to the overall fluidity of their DirectX® 10 and 11 gaming experiences.

 

As this is a beta driver, we’d like to sign off by noting that your feedback is vital to the future of the AMD Catalyst™ driver. Please report any bugs or issues to our official reporting form!

 

SUPPORTING RESOURCES

 

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.


SYSTEM CONFIGURATIONS FOR BATTLEFIELD 4™ and STARSWARM:

  • Intel Core i7-4960X System: Intel X79 Chipset, 16GB DDR3-1600 RAM, Windows 7 x64, AMD Catalyst™ 14.1 graphics driver
  • Intel Core i5-4670K System: Intel z87 Chipset, 16GB DDR3-1600 RAM, Windows 7 x64, AMD Catalyst™ 14.1 graphics driver
  • AMD FX 8350 System: AMD 990FX chipset, 16GB DDR3-1600 RAM, Windows 7 x64, AMD Catalyst™ 14.1 graphics driver
  • AMD A10-7700K System: AMD A88X chipset, 16GB DDR3-1600 RAM, Windows 7 x64, AMD Catalyst™ 14.1 graphics driver


SYSTEM CONFIGURATION FOR TOMB RAIDER™ FRAME PACING:

  • AMD A10-7850K, AMD Radeon™ R7 250, 16GB DDR3-1600 RAM, Windows 7 x64, AMD Catalyst™ 14.1 graphics driver, Resolution: 1920x1080, Preset: High Quality

A lesser-known feature of the AMD Radeon™ R9 290 and R9 290X is a new technology called AMD CrossFire™ Direct Memory Access, or “XDMA” for short. XDMA is a modernization of multi-GPU configurations that totally overhauls how these many GPUs communicate with one another and stay synchronized during intense gaming. Today we will explore how the feature functions, what problems it solves, and what scenarios it’s designed to accommodate.

 

Before we explore the drastic improvements presented with XDMA, however, we should first start by exploring the old way of performing multi-GPU communication.

 

THE OLD WAY OF DOING MULTI-GPU

 

Intenal Components.pngPrior to the advent of XDMA, a “bridge” or “connector” of some fashion was required. This bridge was installed on the exterior of a graphics card, fitting onto small golden fingers protruding from the circuit board of the graphics card. You can see the connector to the right, where it has been installed on two AMD Radeon™ HD 7970 GHz Edition GPUs .

 

An external bridge was considered a modern solution that gave two (or more) GPUs the ability to communicate on a very important task: copying data between the GPUs to show you a rendered frame of your favorite game.

 

While the external bridge has been an effective multi-GPU solution for many years in the graphics industry, we are coming on an era when that is no longer the case. To wit, the bandwidths provided by today’s bridge solution are insufficient to fully accommodate the new generation of high-resolution 4K displays. As the AMD Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X are designed with this resolution in mind, it was time to bring in a fresh approach to multi-GPU systems.

 

MODERN MULTI-GPU WITH XDMA

 

Picture7.pngAt a principle level, XDMA dispenses with the external bridge by opening a direct channel of communication between the multiple GPUs in a system. This channel operates over the very same PCI Express® bus in which your AMD Radeon graphics cards are currently installed. The exclusive function of that bus is to shuttle graphics data between GPUs and your processor, so it’s already well suited to the new task of collecting and showing the data each GPU is working on when playing games.

 

It just so happens that the PCI Express bus also provides a tremendous amount of bandwidth—far more than can be allocated to today’s external bridges! As noted by Anandtech in their comprehensive analysis of XDMA, the bandwidth of an external bridge is just 900MB/s, whereas PCI Express® can provide up to 32GB/s with a PCIe 3.0 x16 slot (about 35x more bandwidth).

 

In dynamically taking a portion of that superhighway to negotiate rendering with multiple GPUs, AMD CrossFire can efficiently negotiate UltraHD scenarios. This is one of the many reasons why we say that the AMD Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X are uniquely suited, at a hardware level, for gaming at 3840x2160.

 

Diving more deeply into the technology, XDMA specifically and directly connects the “display controllers” on the respective GPUs in an AMD CrossFire configuration. These display controllers are responsible for taking a rendered scene in a game from the GPU pipeline and formatting it to send over the display cable to a monitor. XDMA provides an easier and more extensible method of transferring the frame from the GPU it was rendered on, to the GPU driving the display cable, using the high bandwidth of PCIe, while avoiding extra connectors and cables.

 

FACTS ABOUT XDMA

 

Rather than dig through more technical jargon, we wanted to jump to some essential facts that we wanted you to know about this great technology:

  • XDMA is a unique solution in the graphics industry; no similar technologies presently exist for consumer GPUs.
  • In case you didn’t catch it, XDMA eliminates the need to install any bridge. Install matching GPUs and you’re set!
  • XDMA is designed for optimal performance with systems running PCI Express 2.0 x16 (16GB/s), PCI Express 3.0 x8 (16GB/s), or PCI Express 3.0 x16 (32GB/s).
  • Bandwidth of the data channel opened by XDMA is fully dynamic, intelligently scaling with the demands of the game being played, as well as adapting to advanced user settings such as vertical synchronization (vsync).
  • Designed for UltraHD via DisplayPort™, which permits for 2160p60 gaming on the AMD Radeon R9 290 Series.
  • XDMA fully supports the “frame pacing” algorithms implemented into the AMD Catalyst™ driver suite.
  • Products without XDMA are scheduled to receive a new AMD Catalyst driver in January that will resolve uneven frame pacing as a symptom of the more limited bandwidth provided by an external bridge.


In short, XDMA is the world’s newest and most modern approach to negotiating the communication of multiple GPUs for peak gaming performance with the ultra-high-resolution displays of tomorrow.


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.

This month we sat down with digital artist Ryan Bliss to talk shop, and learn how his recent switch to AMD Radeon™ graphics has helped improve the efficiency and reliability of his workflow at the Digital Blasphemy studio. He also recently introduced his “techno abstract” series of artwork, inspired by AMD Radeon™ and AMD Eyefinity multi-display technology, now available for AMD Radeon™ fans everywhere!

 

AMD: Has the switch to AMD helped or improved your artistic process in any way?

Ryan Bliss: Nothing hampers the creative process like a dodgy video card. My scenes are designed to be used as computer backgrounds and as such must stand up to very close inspection. I tend to use lots of [polygons] to pack as many small details as possible into the image and before this would lead to a lot of crashes and hiccups.  Sometimes these crashes would bring down the whole system and I would lose my work!

 

My new Radeon 7990, however, hasn't crashed once since I installed it.  It chews through whatever I throw at it and asks for more.  I am usually pretty good at finding the limitations of 3D hardware, but the Radeon keeps on surprising me.

 

Sometimes I will start a project on one of my mobile workstations while my main machine is rendering something else.  It is always a wonderful experience to move these projects over to my main machine when it is available.  It's a bit like running with a 100lb weight on your back and then being allowed to drop it. It feels like I could take flight...

 

If I had to pick my one favorite aspect of the Radeon, though, it would be stability. Basically, the 7990 keeps me working and in the flow.  As a 3D artist this cannot be understated.

 

hivemindnucleus21080p-amd.jpg

AMD: I see you’re producing art for multi-display. Has AMD Eyefinity helped with that?

RB: I actually use a single-screen to create my work but some of my biggest supporters are multiscreen users.  I am constantly being asked to create pieces for new and extravagant monitor setups.  Multiscreen users are some of my biggest supporters actually, since images designed to fit their systems are not that easy to find online.

These users also enjoy posting photos of their rigs online and this leads a nice bit of free advertising for me ;-)  The wallpaper is really the "face" of a system and Eyefinity makes for some very impressive looks.

 

AMD: What applications and tools do you use to do your work?

RB: I use Lightwave 3D for the bulk of my modeling and for rendering most of my abstract, space and macro images.  My landscapes are built and rendered using Vue d'Esprit Infinite.  I use a number of procedural modeling tools such as Xfrog, Structure Synth, and Groboto as well as fractal programs such as Mandelbulb and Apophysis.

 

AMD: What inspired you to create the pieces you want to share with the Radeon community?

RB: Ever since I saw the movie "Tron" as a youngster I have been fascinated by the idea of a world inside the computer. I've tried to put my own creative spin on visualizing the technological processes that go unseen every day inside our humming black boxes.  I thought it would be cool if your wallpaper was like a window into your computer itself.

I also wanted to create something that could stretch out well over many-many monitors and I've found that abstracts are the most adaptable in this regard.

 

AMD: Are there any specific features of a Radeon product that has caught you by surprise? That you enjoy having?

RB: The best feature for me is the rock-solid stability. Someday, if enough people subscribe to my gallery, I will save up enough to get my own Eyefinity rig and take full advantage of the Radeon's capabilities.  Until then I will live vicariously through the images that people post online of their "Battlestations".

 

Other than that I am always happy to use up however much graphics memory I am allowed to play with. ;-)


AMD: How do you use the AMD Radeon™ GPU in other parts of your life? Are you a gamer? What games do you play?

RB: I am not much of a computer gamer unfortunately.  If my machines aren't being used to build wallpapers then they are being used to render them.  Since I am working at my computer so much I try and get away from my desk in order to recharge my batteries.

I still do a bit of Playstation and iPhone gaming from time to time though. I'm currently playing through Plants vs. Zombies 2 and having a blast. Maybe someday if I ever get my own Eyefinity rig I will try a bit of downtime fragging...

 

You can find more on Ryan Bliss at the Digital Blasphemy website, or on Facebook and Twitter.

 

TECHNO ABSTRACT WALLPAPERS


Ryan Bliss is an independent digital artist for Digital Blasphemy. 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.

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