"Last year, when AMD launched Ryzen, it quickly became clear that the company had a problem in certain games at lower resolutions. While the number of titles impacted was reasonably small, the advent of the new Ryzen architecture was also a bit of a liability where gaming is concerned — because games hadn’t previously been optimized for it, they didn’t necessarily run all that well on the new CPU . AMD has apparently stepped up its efforts to support game developers, with a fresh wave of Ryzen and Radeon hardware going out to developers in recent days.
As Overclock3D, reports, AMD announced in April 2017 that they’d seeded 300 systems to developers to aid Ryzen development efforts, with the goal of delivering over a thousand systems by the end of that year. More recently, the company has been shipping Vega, RX 500, and even Threadripper development kits to developers like Techland (Dying Light, Call of Juarez), Croteam (Serious Sam, The Talos Principle) and Flying Hog Games (Hard Reset, Shadow Warrior).
This kind of partnership has real impacts on game development. Back when GameWorks was new, ExtremeTech had extensive discussions with various companies, as well as with AMD and Nvidia. One point that came up multiple times is that Nvidia has historically invested more in these kinds of partnerships than AMD has. This was, of course, several years ago — conditions on the ground have likely changed at least somewhat, with AMD’s increased involvement with console development efforts and the advent of the GPU Open program — but given the financial constraints AMD has operated under for years, we can safely assume the company has had a fraction of the direct resources to offer to developers compared with Intel or Nvidia.
But these optimizations can really matter, on both the CPU and GPU side. We’ve covered the impact of these shifts on both CPUs and GPUs before — in gaming, optimizing DDR4 timings and using faster memory can improve Ryzen gaming performance, as shown below:
Game performance also has risen in specific titles following patches. And the gains haven’t been limited to gaming. We’ve also seen some significant performance improvement in various applications following our re-test of the Ryzen 7 1800X as part of the Ryzen 7 2700X launch.
Why these gains occur can come down to almost anything, from the specific instructions used to move data in and out of a chip to optimizations that reflect differences in cache architectures and core counts. In some cases, games ran poorly on Zen because they’d been optimized for Piledriver and made assumptions about Zen that were incorrect, like assuming that every reported logical core was a physical core. That’s a problem related to AMD’s adoption of SMT for the first time — previously, AMD chips didn’t have SMT, so there wasn’t a need to detect for it and schedule work accordingly.
In the long term, these efforts should result in games that are better optimized for AMD architectures at both the CPU and GPU level, helping the company compete more evenly against both Intel and Nvidia. While the 1080p issues for AMD wound up not being the problem they initially appeared to be, resolving any lingering issues and ensuring none occur going forward is still important.