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My Prediction: DirectX 11.2 for the System, AMD Mantle for The Cloud

I wanted to write a few thoughts about further readings I’ve done regarding the “console wars”. I also stand by my earlier predictions that Xbox One is set up to be the superior console as time goes on.

In 2010 Microsoft was awarded a patent that covered all GPU-accelerated video encoding. Why would Microsoft apply for a patent to shorten encoding time?. Well, GPU acceleration provides faster video encoding than what is possible on a CPU alone. It is possible that Microsoft found a way to use GPU acceleration that would increase performance on a whole new level.

Build Developers Conference – 2013

The Build Developers Conference started in 2011. Hosted by Microsoft, the annual conference is held primarily for software and web developers. Last year in 2013 over 6,000 developers came to the show, each paying $2,000 for their ticket. Apple and Google have their own tech conferences which are similarly priced and attended. Ray Shaw writes in IT Wire (2013):

Google has its IO conference. Apple just had its WWDC (also in San Francisco) and the two -hour keynote was interesting but not startling. Apple’s $1,600 tickets sold out in 71 seconds – Microsoft’s $2,000 tickets took not much longer.”

During Microsoft’s Build Conference the latest version of DirectX was unveiled. The words “tiled resources”, an enhancer of in-game textures, was brought up for the first time. By simultaneously accessing the GPU and traditional RAM memory, it would create a single, large buffer where a greater amount of textures could be stored. They showed a model of Mars which displayed 3GB of texture, but it was only using 16MB of GPU. The DirectX 11.2 (what the new version of DirectX was called) would be exclusive to Microsoft, and hence Xbox One.

When I first started reading about the “console wars” I primarily sought articles that would demystify the hidden power of the Xbox’s eSRAM infrastructure. I was not searching for articles related to AMD’s new technology, Mantle. 

Mantle – The New – Application Program Interface (API)

By many in the gaming world – who understand API’s – Mantle is one of the most anticipated graphic products of the year. Battlefield 4, for the PC, would be the first to experiment with it. (For those who are very tech savvy, Joel Hruska writes a good article titled AMD’s Mantle benchmarked: The biggest innovation in gaming since DirectX 9, describing the pro’s and con’s of using Mantle.) Reading about Mantle got me excited, even though I learned that Microsoft would not actually have Mante inside Xbox One hardware. On October 14, 2013, Microsoft confirmed this through their blog:

The Xbox One graphics API is “Direct3D 11.x” and the Xbox One hardware provides a superset of Direct3D 11.2 functionality. Other graphics APIs such as OpenGL and AMD’s Mantle are not available on Xbox One.”

Also, Tom Morgan in his article, AMD Mantle – How the new API gets more from your graphics card -writes.

Low-level graphics APIs are nothing new, but are more commonly used in games consoles where the internal hardware is a constant. With PCs, there are hundreds of possible combinations of processors, graphics cards and other hardware, as well as variations with operating systems and other software drivers, meaning low-level APIs have been restricted to specific applications or games explicitly coded for certain devices.

Mantle has a shot at success where other projects have stalled, however, because AMD is in the excellent position of having its graphics hardware in both major next-generation games consoles. The PS4 and Xbox One both use Graphics Core Next architecture, for which AMD has already created low-level APIs for developers to use. To be able to port code directly to the PC would make releasing cross-platform titles far more straightforward, and according to AMD this is something developers have been asking for.”

My Exuberant Prediction

I believe that the AMD Mantle will be used with Xbox One, not on the actual hardware, but within the Azure servers. Thus, the DirectX API will be running on the Xbox one hardware, but the AMD Mantle will be running on the cloud servers. Developers, being able to take advantage of this, will create better and vastly more complex games. We probably won’t start to see this until the later part of this year. TitanFall has been using the cloud, but I do not believe they’ve even harnessed the full power of what the Xbox One offers. One game I’ve been very much anticipating, (and hoping it utilizes Microsoft’s servers) is Ubisoft’s The Divison. In any case, Xbox One is definitely going to be the right platform for the future.

 Xbox incubation and prototyping group manager Jeff Henshaw said it in 2013:

“We’re provisioning for developers for every physical Xbox One we build, we’re provisioning the CPU and storage equivalent of three Xbox Ones on the cloud. We’re doing that flat out so that any game developer can assume that there’s roughly three times the resources immediately available to their game, so they can build bigger, persistent levels that are more inclusive for players. They can do that out of the gate.”

My prediction of Xbox One having better graphics and better games in the future, still stands.

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