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Mantle's future
At least right now, Mantle's immediate future seems clear enough.

AMD has already worked with a number of game developers on Mantle support. The most notable and productive of those collaborations is probably the one with Johan Andersson of EA DICE. Andersson told us a Mantle patch for Battlefield 4 will be released in late December, and the same Mantle-enabled Frostbite 3 engine will go on to power 15 other EA titles. The slide below, which Andersson showed in his presentation, hints that more than a few of those 15 games will belong to major franchises—Dragon Age, Star Wars, Mirror's Edge, Need for Speed, and Mass Effect.

Mantle support is also coming to Eidos Montreal's Thief, Cloud Imperium's Star Citizen, and Rebellion Entertainment's Sniper Elite 3. In the next couple of months, AMD will kick off a closed beta program that will allow even more developers to join. Given the efficiency gains Mantle seems to enable, the conceptual similarities it shares with console APIs, and the enthusiasm of the game developers who spoke at APU13, I wouldn't be surprised to see Mantle support land in many more games over the next year or two. Guennadi Riguer also told me that, as with consoles, developers should be able to squeeze more performance out of Mantle over time. That could make adopting the new API an even more attractive proposition.

What comes after that is a little harder to predict.

During his keynote, Andersson expressed a strong desire to see Mantle support expanded beyond Windows and AMD GPUs. In a roundtable talk later that day, he added that Mantle support coming to third-party GPUs would be "really important for [DICE] in the future," and the studio would like to use the API "everywhere and on everything." However, he admitted that it would be "very difficult to get there"—not for technical reasons, but for political ones.

For its part, AMD isn't opposed to addressing some of those political hurdles. Guennadi Riguer said the company is "fairly open to working with other [independent hardware vendors]," and he reiterated that Mantle has been "purposely structured . . . in such a way that it's as clean as possible, as transferable to other vendors as possible." When asked if AMD would be amenable to making Mantle an open API overseen by the Khronos Group—the same folks who look after OpenGL—he replied, "I don't see why not." At this point, Jurjen Katsman chimed in, saying that AMD shouldn't hand Mantle to Khronos right away, because it's "not done."

Whether Mantle succeeds in its current state, becomes an open industry standard, or joins Glide in the graveyard of vendor-exclusive APIs, we can't know for sure. Whatever happens, Katsman was adamant that Mantle has done a good thing by showing that "there's something wrong with current APIs." He and others seemed excited about the prospect of Mantle shaking up the industry and spurring change, regardless of how that change ultimately takes place.TR

 
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