Nvidia discusses next-generation graphics, new development software SDKs, and games at its Montreal event
We had the chance to check out Nvidia's The Way It's Meant to be Played 2013 event in Montreal, Canada. The two-day editor's event officially kicked off today and centered around the company's new promising game development tools which the green team asserts will usher in truly next-generation graphics. New graphical features like "Flame Works" and "FLEX" were announced along with improvements to existing tools like PhysX and more.
This month the doctor tackles XP vs. Windows 7, Upgrading from LGA1366 and PhysX on AMD
Question: My laptop is an Asus G74SX-TH71. It has a GeForce GTX 560M with 4GB of RAM, a 2GHz Core i7 CPU, and 12GB of RAM. It has two 500GB hard drives in it, one for OS and games and the other for videos. I was wondering if I should upgrade my laptop to a desktop. I have about 500 dollars and I’m looking for a good budget gaming computer with a monitor. Can you suggest a computer or a way to upgrade my laptop, maybe an SSD?
Note: This article first appeared in the Holiday 2012 issue of the magazine.
If this year's crop of rocky video game launches has taught us anything, it's that coding video games is hard. Sit through the 30 minute scroll that passes itself off as a credits screen these days and you'll see just how many moving parts go into making today's games. With gigabytes of art assets to create, pages of story to write, hours of dialogue and sound to record, a tangled web of complex behaviors to script, and, oh yeah, actual levels and gameplay to design, one thing is clear: making games isn't all fun and games.
Yet despite the ever-increasing complexity, the creation process is more streamlined than ever. Why? Licensable game engines, tools, and middleware. From specular maps to dynamic shadows, high dynamic range rendering to cloth simulation, from pathfinding to AI reaction behavior, game engines take care of all the nitty-gritty graphical and scripting groundwork and provide a solid (hopefully) codebase for our beloved games. And just like you wouldn't throw a HEMI into a Smart Car, or a power-saving hybrid into a monster truck, knowing which engines excel at which tasks is crucial. So here's a quick look at a cool dozen—a V12, if you will—of the biggest engines and middleware tools in use today.
Ghosts and goblins aren't the only things you'll see this Halloween. According to news and rumor site Fudzilla, EVGA and Nvidia have joined forces to launch a hybrid graphics card on October 31st.
It's mostly speculation at this point, but the card is rumored to combine GT200b and G92b GPUs onto a single PCB. Why the mix? The GT200b will be responsible for rendering all those pretty graphics while you're saving the universe, and the GT92b will flex its PhysX muscle.
Fudzilla says the hybrid card will most likely sport a GTX 275 and GTS 250, which would give the card 240 stream processors and 896MB of memory for rendering, and 128 stream processors and 512MB of memory for PhysX duties. Not a bad idea to combine the two on a single piece of hardware, albeit it could be somewhat risky this close to the launch of Fermi.
One surefire way to egg on the hacking community is to place ever increasing restrictions on your product, essentially daring black hat coders to find a back door. Nvidia is finding this out the hard way, after the GPU maker modified its latest PhysX drivers to prevent any non-Nvidia GPU from working, says news and rumor site The Inquirer.
And if that weren't enough, the latest version of PhysX also prevents physics processing unit (PPU) cards from working if it detects a non-Nvidia card in the system. That may have been the proverbial straw that broke the hacking community's back, and a hacker who goes by the handle GenL has put together some experimental code that stops Nvidia's drivers from shutting everything down when it detects a Radeon card.
We haven't tried it ourselves, but if you're feeling adventurous, rebellious, or both, you can grab the code here.
Several upcoming titles have announced support for Nvidia's hardware PhysX, which could be good news for the GPU maker. However, up until this point, games supporting PhysX have been a mixed bag, perhaps leading to a sense of apathy among gamers. Or at least that's what AnadTech's newest poll seems to suggest.
When asked how important hardware PhysiX acceleration is in buying software, 52 percent of the nearly 9,000 respondents said it was only "Marginal; PhysX is a bonus if a game I like supports it." Thirty-one percent took it a step further calling PhysX 'Not useful,' and 3 percent said it was "Detrimental." Only 13 percent found PhysX 'Useful,' 'Important,' or 'Very Important.'
Things weren't much better (for Nvidia) when the same question was asked about making a hardware buying decision. A slightly less 79 percent of respondents found PhysX to be anywhere from a marginal to detrimental marketing bullet. And the responses weren't overly swayed by ATI videocard owners, either. According to current poll results, 52 percent of respondents own an Nvidia card with support for PhysX.
Nvidia has been quite the busy body in the console market as of late. Earlier this week the graphics chip maker announced it had signed a tools and middleware license agreement with Sony to offer its PhysX technology software development kit (SDK) for use on the PlayStation 3 console, and then two days later, made a similar announcement regarding Nintendo's Wii console.
"Nintendo has reshaped the home entertainment and video game market with the success of the Wii console. Adding a PhysX SDK for Wii is key to our cross-platform strategy and integral to the business model for our licensed game developers and publishers,” said Tony Tamasi, senior vice president of content and technology at NVIDIA. “With NVIDIA PhysX technology, developers can easily author more realistic game environments for the evolving demands of a broad class of Wii gamers."
Three months ago, AMD had painted a gloom-and-doom future for Nvidia's PhysX technology, saying "There is no plan for closed and proprietary standards like PhysX. As we have emphasized, with our support for OpenCL and DX11, close and proprietary standards will die."
AMD wasn't just being a wet blanket, as they weren't the only ones to question to closed standards when it comes to in-game physics. This makes Nvidia's latest partnership with two major console makers a particularly interesting one, which could very well end up seeing more widespread PhysX support trickling over to the PC as a result.
Nvidia stands at a crossroads, with two closed, proprietary APIs that have mainstream potential: the general-purpose computing CUDA API, and the PhysX physics-acceleration API, which sits on top of CUDA. These are both promising technologies, but only owners of Nvidia hardware can harness their power. Meanwhile, there are two emerging open standards that mirror what Nvidia is doing with its proprietary development. One is OpenCL 1.0, and the other is a general-purpose GPU computing API, which Microsoft will include in DirectX 11. There are a relatively small number of consumer applications that use CUDA, PhysX, or OpenCL right now, but the possible applications for the tech are endless—grossly simplified, these APIs let graphics chips perform CPU-like functions.
The question Nvidia needs to be asking is simple: Will developers write their general-purpose GPU computing apps using a proprietary API that works on only a subset of PCs—those stuffed with Nvidia hardware—or will they use an open API that will work on every PC on the market?
The promise of in-game physics has yet to be fully realized, but the technology doesn't appear to be going anywhere. Leading the charge is Nvidia, who has a vested interest with its acquired PhysX technology. But in an interview with Bit-Tech, Godfrey Cheng, Director of Technical Marketing in AMD's Graphics Product Group, downplayed the proprietary standard.
"There is no plan for closed and proprietary standards like PhysX," said Cheng. "As we have emphasized with our support for OpenCL and DX11, closed and proprietary standards will die."
The comment came in response to questions about EA's and 2K's decision to license Nvidia's PhysX technology across all of their worldwide studios. And while Cheng said he can't comment on competitor's business models, he did say that AMD views "Havok technologies and products to be the leaders in physics simulation," pointing out that game developers share that same view. If true, it would be reasonable to assume EA and 2K have gone against their development studios' wishes by adopting PhysX.
"People need to scrutinize various announcements on what is beling 'licensed,'" Cheng pointed out. "Is it to replace the whole physics simulation / tool stack within a game or within the whole studio? Is it for a specific physics simulation product or just a couple of titles? Remember PhysX also has game physics libraries in addition to its new GPU based products."
Cheng went on to say that Havok physics on Radeon videocards is still forthcoming, possibly by early 2009, but noted that this is just the beginning of in-game physics.
Mirror's Edge may not be wall-running onto PCs until January, but at least it's sticking the landing. Today, DICE announced that -- if your machine has the cojones to run it -- Mirror's Edge will support PhysX's Newtonian prowess, giving Faith's PC adventure console-eclipXing effects.
"With the NVIDIA PhysX physics engine, the world of Mirror's Edge comes to life with real affects of wind, weapons impact, and in-game movements. Every-day objects within the game become part of the overall experience. Cloth, flags, and banners can now impact weapons and players; ground fog interacts with the player's footsteps; explosions fill the air with smoke and debris; and weapon impacts are enhanced with interactive particles," read the press release.
But how's it look? Well, GameTrailers has a new trailer if you'd like a tantalizing taste of the eye-candy.
So then, MPC readers, now that DICE is sliding a few pieces of realistically billowing cloth under the table, are you cool with the seemingly arbitrary delay? Or is your rage simply too fiery -- fueled by your 143rd run through Mirror's Edge 2D and the completion of our your stark white Mirror's Edge skyscraper case mod, complete with custom Faith action figure?