Intel used the backdrop of the Game Developer’s Conference to announce some new developer tools, graphics drivers, and features available in the graphics engine of upcoming, Haswell-based 4th Gen Core processors, which are due to launch later sometime this year.
Over and above the DirectX 11.1 support present in the Intel HD Graphics engines integrated into 4th Gen Core processors, Intel has incorporated two additional rendering features, dubbed InstantAccess and PixelSync.
InstantAccess allows the CPU and GPU to access the same shared memory, which reportedly will reduce stutter and API interaction times and ultimately improve performance in low framerate situations. PixelSync allows programmers to control the order of operating across pixel pipes, which allows things like adaptive volumetric shadow maps and order independent transparency to run without the huge performance hit associated with those features when they are enabled on current graphics solutions.
Intel had a few ISVs on hand to show these features implemented in upcoming games, like GRID 2, which has much more realistic smoke when using PixelSync. A couple of live demos were on hand as well, showing GRID 2 running smoothly at 1080p on laptops with Haswell-based 4th Gen Core processors, but no details were given on the processors themselves and which version of the Intel HD Graphics engines were being used (like Sandy and Ivy Bridge-based processors, Haswell will feature different graphics engines that very in performance).
Intel also announced a new set of graphics drivers due to launch next week that improve performance, but also lower power consumption by offloading more operation from the CPU to GPU. And a beta version of HandBrake was also shown that will take advantage of Intel’s QuickSync technology, to speed up video transcoding. Apparently the original licensing terms for using QuickSync weren’t conducive to Open Source developer adoption, but Intel has since changed the terms so QuickSync support could be more widely adopted moving forward.
More details and quotes from Inte’s ISV partners are available in the full press release, available below...
Rendering Extensions for Intel HD Graphics Offer Unique Features for Game Developers
- New rendering extensions for Intel HD Graphics debuted at GDC 2013.
- HandBreak*, one of the most popular open source video transcoders, is being accelerated using Intel Quick Sync Video.
- The Intel Graphics Performance Analyzers toolset has been updated to further help developers optimize performance on games, media and other graphic-intensive applications.
- Updates to the popular Intel Level Up Contest and million-dollar Perceptual Computing Contest were announced.
GAME DEVELOPERS CONFERENCE (GDC), San Francisco, March 27, 2013 – Intel Corporation today announced several tools and initiatives targeted at software developers, creating some of the most performance-hungry gaming and media titles on the market. Intel Core processor performance, power efficiency and strong momentum for Intel HD Graphics are freeing developers to take applications in new directions.
Debuting at GDC 2013 were new graphics capabilities for forthcoming Intel HD Graphics platforms that are accessible through DirectX* extensions. The first of these extensions, called PixelSync, provides access to underlying hardware that allows programmers to properly composite partially transparent pixels without the need for an expensive sorting operation. Game developers have long awaited this capability in order to more realistically render smoke, hair, windows, foliage, fences and other complex geometry and natural phenomena.
"The artists working on 'Grid2' have been requesting this type of effect for years, and prior to this, it wasn't possible to achieve it at a reasonable cost," said Clive Moody, senior executive producer at Codemasters Racing*. "The fact that this capability will be available to millions of consumers on forthcoming 4th generation Intel Core processors is very exciting to us."
InstantAccess, the second new extension, works by allowing physical memory to be written and read from either the CPU or from the built-in Intel HD Graphics.
"We have been working directly with Intel engineers to fully exploit the Intel-specific rendering extensions that most effectively enhance rendering performance and visual quality of 'Total War: ROME II,'” said Mike Simpson, the creative director of Creative Assembly1. "With our upcoming game, 'Total War: ROME II,' we've shifted our focus toward ensuring that the game looks great whether you're running it on a slim and sexy Ultrabook or a monster desktop. Intel's 4th generation Intel Core platforms and the new rendering extensions they provide have been an enormous help in making that dream a reality."
These real-time rendering extensions are being released in advance of the launch of Intel's newest generation of Core processors in order to give developers extra time to begin incorporating them into their products. Initially, these extensions are available through Intel's implementation of DirectX and on Intel 4th gen Core platforms only. Documents describing these extensions are available now from Intel's Visual Computing Source web site.
In the area of media software, consumers access and share more video than ever, so tools to help them move content to multiple devices and formats are increasingly more important. HandBreak*, one of the most popular open source video transcoders, is being accelerated using Intel Quick Sync Video – dedicated hardware built into the latest Intel Core processors. Intel and the HandBreak team are showcasing the new HandBreak optimized for Intel Quick Sync Video at GDC.
"The HandBrake team has been working closely with Intel to leverage the advantages of Intel Quick Sync Video," said Tim Walker of the HandBreak team. "While testing is in the early stages, initial results show promise in terms of performance and significantly reduced CPU usage during the decode/encode process, especially for mobile and low-power CPU parts. Early test builds will be available shortly."
Performance comparable to that of other Intel Quick Sync Video-optimized transcoding applications is expected.
Intel's suite of graphic and game development tools, Intel Graphics Performance Analyzers (Intel GPA), has also been updated to further help developers analyze and optimize performance on games, media and other graphic-intensive applications on Intel Core processor-based platforms with HD Graphics or on Intel Atom processor-based Android* phones. Intel GPA 2013 R1 includes a Geometry Viewer with support for shader stages that aid developers in debugging performance bottlenecks. Other enhancements include additional Android support and platform updates for developers working with the latest Intel processors.
Development Kits, Contests to Speed Perceptual Computing, Gaming Innovation
In support of the company's efforts to make experiences with computing devices natural, intuitive and immersive, the production release of the Intel Perceptual Computing Software Development Kit (SDK) 2013 is now available. With this release, developers can now make their applications available commercially. When used with the Creative* Interactive Gesture Camera, the Intel Perceptual Computing SDK 2013 enables developers to add human-like interaction to computers in the form of close-range finger or hand-tracking, speech recognition, facial analysis and augmented reality that has applications for gaming and beyond.
Intel also announced the 2013 version of its popular Intel Level Up Contest through which it continues to encourage game developer innovation. Entries will be judged by a panel of game industry luminaries, and once again the winning entries will have a chance to win a publishing contract from contest co-sponsor Valve Corporation.
In addition, to spark innovation around perceptual computing, Intel is launching the second phase of the million-dollar Intel Perceptual Computing Challenge, and announcing the winners of phase one. Now through September 2013, developers in 16 countries will compete in phase two for more than $800,000 in prizes in categories including Perceptual Gaming, Productivity, Creative User Interface and Open Innovation. Learn more about phase two and see the winners from phase one.