Mantle no more? GDC sessions point to the next DirectX


— 10:08 AM on February 26, 2014

AMD introduced its Mantle API in order to create a more efficient means of programming today's GPUs, with a model that better fits how modern GPUs actually operate. Part of its promise is a reduction in the CPU overhead currently associated with Direct3D and OpenGL.

Now, not long after the first Mantle-based game has arrived—and after a couple of years of stagnation in PC graphics APIs otherwise—it appears the keepers of both Direct3D and OpenGL may have responses in store. (Thanks to TR reader SH SOTN for the tip.)

The sessions for next month's Game Developer's Conference have been posted online, and there are several very intriguing offerings among them. One entitled "DirectX: Evolving Microsoft's Graphics Platform" will be hosted by Anuj Gosalia, Development Managet for Windows Graphics. The description reads:

For nearly 20 years, DirectX has been the platform used by game developers to create the fastest, most visually impressive games on the planet.

However, you asked us to do more. You asked us to bring you even closer to the metal and to do so on an unparalleled assortment of hardware. You also asked us for better tools so that you can squeeze every last drop of performance out of your PC, tablet, phone and console.

Come learn our plans to deliver.

So... closer to the metal? Better performance? Sounds familiar.

Also, there's another session to be led by Max McMcullen, Development Lead for Windows Graphics, entitled "Direct3D Futures." Here's the session abstract:

Come learn how future changes to Direct3D will enable next generation games to run faster than ever before!

In this session we will discuss future improvements in Direct3D that will allow developers an unprecedented level of hardware control and reduced CPU rendering overhead across a broad ecosystem of hardware.

If you use cutting-edge 3D graphics in your games, middleware, or engines and want to efficiently build rich and immersive visuals, you don't want to miss this talk.

Again, more direct control of the hardware and lower CPU overhead are key points of emphasis. Sounds to me like we'll be hearing about the next version of Direct3D—and that it may follow the path Mantle has blazed.

Of course, the best thing about such a development, if it were to happen, would be broader compatibility with GPUs made by Nvidia, Intel, and others, as well as by AMD.

Meanwhile, there's another session listing of note related to the other major graphics API, OpenGL. In this case, a team of presenters from AMD, Nvidia, and Intel will talking about "Approaching Zero Driver Overhead in OpenGL." The description reads:

Driver overhead has been a frustrating reality for game developers for the entire life of the PC game industry. On desktop systems, driver overhead can decrease frame rate, while on mobile devices driver overhead is more insidious--robbing both battery life and frame rate. In this unprecedented sponsored session, Graham Sellers (AMD), Tim Foley (Intel), Cass Everitt (NVIDIA) and John McDonald (NVIDIA) will present high-level concepts available in today's OpenGL implementations that radically reduce driver overhead--by up to 10x or more. The techniques presented will apply to all major vendors and are suitable for use across multiple platforms. Additionally, they will demonstrate practical demos of the techniques in action in an extensible, open source comparison framework.

I'm not quite sure what to make of the phrase "high-level concepts available in today's OpenGL implementations that radically reduce driver overhead." Since OpenGL is curated collaboratively and can be extended by any vendor, it's possible many of the components of some fairly radical new approach to graphics programming may already be available—or could be made available for download in time for this session.

Will both of the major graphics APIs be taking major steps soon to replicate what Mantle has promised to do? Sure sounds like it, but we may have to wait for GDC in order to find out more.

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