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Advanced Micro Devices is close to launching its Mantle software to enable PC games to make much better use of 3D graphics hardware in a computer. You may not care about the technology, but your eyes will appreciate what it can do for 3D games and other cool visual apps.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based chip maker was preparing to launch Mantle, which it believes can dramatically improve graphics in games and other applications, on Wednesday evening. But a bug has held up the release, which will be issued as a new driver, or the underlying software for a computer. Electronic Arts is still working on a Mantle-based version of its popular Battlefield 4 first-person shooter, but it’s not quite ready.

One of the best examples of games that take advantage of Mantle is Oxide Games’ demo, dubbed Star Swarm (pictured at top and in video at bottom). In that demo, the company created a next-generation 64-bit game engine, Nitrous, which took advantage of the AMD Mantle graphics applications programming interface to create a giant 3D space battle. The demo shows as many as 3,000 to 5,000 detailed 3D spaceships fighting around a moon in a single scene that is akin to the space battle in the film Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

Mantle is designed by and built for game developers so that they can bypass the software layers within a PC and run code directly on the system hardware. That way, they can get rid of bottlenecks and make games run much faster.

The Mantle software is a layer that gamers shouldn’t notice except for the effect that it has on overall game performance.

Tim Kipp, the co-founder of Oxide Games, told GamesBeat in an interview that his team can use Mantle to create real-time 3D strategy games with as many as 6,000 moving objects on the screen at the same time. That’s far more than is possible on the same hardware without the Mantle software. Kipp calls it a fresh approach to modern game programming.

Over time, developers will be able to issue Mantle patches for their games that will significantly boost performance. Even entry-level and mid-range PCs should see big performance boosts. Mantle will continue to evolve and improve over time.

AMD said that running a Mantle-enabled application will require a copy of AMD Catalyst 14.1 driver software, which is available now. If the bugs are stamped out, Oxide’s Star Swarm demo will be available for download on Steam at noon Pacific time on Thursday. Testing of the software shows big performance gains from the Mantle patch, AMD said. The Star Swarm demo can run two to three times faster than the non-Mantle version.


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