Nvidia GameWorks meets Warface in clash of weirdo names


— 10:35 AM on March 19, 2014

Imma write this up, but I have to say, the names involved are making my job seem even more ridiculous than usual. Nvidia has announced some news about its GameWorks software tools, and some of it involves Crytek's free-to-play game Warface. Nvidia also has a technology called Face Works, which may or may not be part of GameWorks—and thus now in Warface.

We could be looking at GameWorks Face Works in Warface based on CryTek CryENGINE here, people, and that is rich branding my simple mind cannot process.

The gist of this news involving exquisite naming boils down to two things.

First, Nvidia has released a number of updates to its GameWorks software suite in conjunction with the Game Developers Conference this week. GameWorks is a series of libraries that game developers can call from within their code in order to invoke special visual effects. Examples include the WaveWorks water simulation, which has gone to version 1.5, and HairWorks 1.0, which enters the ring for a grudge match against AMD's TressFX.

Ok, seriously, I may have to stop and call the writer's union here.

Nvidia first announced GameWorks at its press event in Montreal last fall. A number of well-known entities like PhysX now reside under that banner.

One thought-provoking fact about GameWorks is that, when first announced, it was positioned as a sorta-kinda counter to AMD's Mantle API. As PhysX has done for years, most of the effects in the GameWorks library will work in a basic way on any GPU, but they "run best on PCs with GeForce GTX GPUs." That generally means some of the fancier visual effects aren't available to folks with Radeon or Iris graphics, and those effects that do work may not perform as well on third-party silicon. AMD and Intel do similar things with TressFX and the optimized bits in Dirt 3, so this isn't really new territory.

What's interesting is this: Nvidia doesn't throw out Direct3D like AMD does with Mantle, but it does augment D3D with a series of custom libraries that may kinda-sorta circumvent some of D3D's limitations. If you're calling GameWorks libraries to implement your lighting and particle effects, then Nvidia's software gets to act as the intermediary between your game engine and the GPU.

Hmm.

This reality has raised some hackles at competing hardware companies, who have expressed concerns to us about how much control game developers (and other GPU makers) have over optimizing the portions of their games that call GameWorks libraries. That complaint seems a bit rich when Nvidia's biggest rival is pushing its own proprietary graphics API, but the concerns highlight how Nvidia has subtly taken its own path to more direct control of the software GPU interface.

So that makes GameWorks more interesting than maybe it seemed before.

The second bit of news today is that Crytek's Warface is adopting certain GameWorks libaries, including PhysX and VisualFX. Since this is GDC, we get to hear fun terms like "Navier-Stokes simulations" to describe the fluid flow algorithms. Sounds brainy, and surely that makes it better branding than everything that preceded it above.

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