Advanced Micro Devices is riding high on the pending introduction of its most competitive processors and graphics chips in years. This week, AMD is launching its Ryzen desktop processors for gamers, and it is unveiling its Vega-based graphics chips in the first half of this year.
To make sure those technologies have the proper impact, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD made a number of other announcements in its Capsaicin webcast during the 2017 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.
“All of these technologies are only wonderful if they find practical applications,” said Roy Taylor, the corporate vice president of alliances at AMD, in an interview with GamesBeat. “We found great games to use our technologies, and they will showcase what we can do.”
AMD also partnered with Bethesda Softworks to propel PC gaming forward. Taylor said the companies are launching a multi-title partnership to bring their top engineering talent together to speed up game technology development and leverage the latest central processing unit (CPU) and graphics processing unit (GPU) technology from AMD.
Bethesda Softworks makes games such as The Elder Scrolls series, Fallout 4, Doom, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Quake, and Dishonored. Those titles have sold more than 80 million copies. And AMD’s CPUs and GPUs have been used by more than 400 million gamers.
“This is a disruptive moment in the industry as games demand increasingly more power from today’s graphics architectures to deliver detailed worlds and characters at ever higher resolutions, frame rates, and quality settings,” said Raja Koduri, the senior vice president and chief architect at AMD’s Radeon Technologies Group, in a statement.
“Working independently, game developers and graphics companies will eventually address the challenges of this new era of gaming, but working in close collaboration, the pace of that progress can advance exponentially. Bethesda is an undisputed leader in the game industry and an ideal strategic partner to jointly tackle this transformative period in gaming.”
Among the things the companies will do is rally around the AMD-built Vulkan graphics standard.
Of the partnership, Bethesda president Vlatko Andonov said, “AMD Radeon graphics architectures represent a true commitment to developers, inviting them to use the hardware as a blank canvas through low-level access to the silicon, and empowering them with architectural advancements that enable them to bring their gaming visions to life without compromise. AMD Ryzen represents one of the most important disruptions to the CPU market in a long time.”
AMD and game developers also embraced a technology called forward rendering in the Unreal Engine 4 game engine to improve virtual reality. Many of today’s big game engines use a technique called deferred rendering. Deferred rendering does all of the geometry work (the mesh lines that form the foundation of a 3D image) first and then shades pixels (the special effects and details on the image) last to save work.
Deferred rendering worked well on the last generation of consoles, but it’s not a great fit for VR. With the forward rendering path in Unreal Engine 4, developers have more choice in how they render for VR, helping to achieve a stunning-looking game while delivering the high frame rates necessary for a good experience.
AMD product marketing manager Scott Wasson said that the forward rendering path provides a strong alternative to the popular deferred rendering method, enabling developers to hit the demanding frame rates necessary for smooth VR experiences with improved image quality. Forward rendering has been showcased in games such as Epic Games’ own Robo Recall and upcoming VR titles from developers like Survios, First Contact Entertainment, and Limitless Studios.
“AMD has been on a continuous mission to make VR accessible to as many people as possible, and the forward rendering path in Unreal Engine 4 is a big step in that journey,” said Koduri. “Anyone who has experienced Epic’s Robo Recall will immediately attest to the benefit of forward rendering in VR. We are working with VR developers to explore the benefits of forward rendering, which can result in beautiful, high-performing games on Radeon graphics.”
AMD showed high-end VR games such as Survios’ Sprint Vector VR racing game. It also showed
First Contact Entertainment is releasing Overrun, a new content expansion to its game ROM: Extraction that makes use of forward rendering for unprecedented performance.
AMD also showed Limitless Studios’ virtual reality game development environment, which lets developers animate scenes in VR.
Wasson said that its Vega-based graphics chips have been selected to power LiquidSky, a new service that offers high-end games over a cloud service on devices such as Android tablets and smartphones. LiquidSky offers the games through a subscription model.
“LiquidSky’s game-streaming service delivers the very best visuals, detail, and pure performance, regardless of the device you’re using,” said Ian McLoughlin, LiquidSky’s cofounder and CEO. “AMD’s Vega-based GPUs will have the perfect blend of bleeding-edge hardware virtualization features and tremendous rendering horsepower. This means consistent frame rates and quality of service that’s simply not possible with existing technologies.”
Among the other technologies AMD showed off was the high-bandwidth cache controller, which is a new memory technology that will accelerate gaming performance. Vega-based graphics chips will take advantage of the technology and speed the performance of demanding games such as Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.