GDC 2015 Day 1 report

Published on Thursday, March 5, 2015 By Brad Wardell In PC Gaming

Day 1


I'm old.

It's official.

It's 9pm and I've skipped out on the various parties and am just laying around the hotel room.  

This year's GDC is unique in that we are seeing the arrival of several sets of new technology simultaneously. Notably, DirectX 12 and Vulkan, the new OpenGL API.  

DirectX 12

There's a lot of technical jargon that will be thrown around but what it boils down to is this: For the first time, PC game developers will be able to communicate to the video card through multiple CPU cores simultaneously.  You know that fancy 4 core CPU you've had? It did dick for gaming until now.  

In our Star Swarm DirectX 12 stress test last month, we showed that on the same hardware, you could get up to 5X (500%) framerate boosts over DirectX 11.  Well, we didn't show it, Anandtech showed it. 

Ashes of the Singularity: Sins of a Solar Empire on the surface? 

Today, we announced a new PC game called Ashes of the Singularity. It's an RTS and on DirectX 12, we got a 70% boost on the same scene over DirectX 11. That number is lower because this is an actual game that has been designed with making sure we support DirectX 11 (we can't just make a game that only works on DirectX 12).  Still, 70% is pretty amazing.

Ashes is an RTS in which players are conquering an entire world (Single or multiplayer). We'll be talking about gameplay a lot more soon.



Servo: User designed Giant robots battling it out in cities

We also got to unveil BonusXP's much anticipated RTS, Servo.  In Servo, players design their own giant robots (called servos) outside the game and then bring them into battle.  So imagine an RTS where the units are constantly evolving as players get better.  We'll be talking a lot about this game soon but it's a total blast to play right now.

Xbox One and DirectX 12

I get a lot of Xbox One questions.  I'm not a console guy but I am a hardware guy in general. So take this with that in mind:

It is easier to get good perf on the PS4 than the XBO because the PS4 uses DDR5.   On the XBO you absolutely must use the esram to get decent performance. But using the eSRAM effectively takes some effort and some trial and error.  This is, imo, the ultimate cause of "resolution gate".

This is where DirectX 12 comes in.  First, they're redoing the APIs to deal with eSRAM based on developer feedback. Second, they have a wonderful tool called "Pix" that now has a feature (or will very soon) that lets developers try out different strategies in using eSRAM and see how it performs without having to rebuild the project (i.e. they can simulate it in the tool).  This too is huge.

Lastly DirectX 12 eliminates the serialization that was in DirectX 11.  Now, don't get too excited about this yet because this will likely become a bigger deal long term.  Right now the ONLY 3D engine I'm aware of that has a fully asynchronous scheduler is Nitrous (and hence, why Oxide/Stardock have been getting so much attention in recent months in the graphics scene).  This means we fill the GPU from all CPU cores simultaneously.  Now, Unreal, Crytek and Frostbite (in terms of "high perf" engines -- I love Unity btw) are working on amazing stuff and their engineers are awesome. But in terms of being able to show the benefits of mass parallelism right now, Nitrous and the Ashe of the Singularity demo are the best way to see it and Nitrous isn't available on the Xbox one..presently.

Vulkan and the PS4

The PS4 doesn't look like it'll be using Vulkan. That's not an official word it's just the info I've gotten from talking to Sony engineers. Their view, presently, is to use GNM which s already very low level. Being "on the metal" sounds all great to a gamer. But as a developer, unless i'm making a platform exclusive game, I really like having an API stack that is readily portable. So I hope they pick up Vulkan support if only as an option.

Links: check these out please!