AMD joins the PC and consoles with Mantle, the next step in creating games






Today AMD has introduced its new range of graphics cards, the R7 and R9. Although that alone is alot to talk about, the truth is that their role was overshadowed by another announcement that, although it is more technical, can influence a lot more in improved 3D graphics performance. This holy grail called Mantle, and may be the answer PC Gamers were looking for.

Until now PC gamers were the most neglected of all in terms of gaming performance. Although computers are often much more powerful than any console, developers do not exploit the extra power to developed versions, or “ports” that are inferior to the original. This is because developing new code to take advantage of PC graphics chips is too much work and too costly to justify it. Mantle comes to solve this, and promises to be revolutionary, but also very controversial.

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Mantle is an API, ie a set of instructions that developers can use when programming their games. Normally a programmer does not directly access the hardware, but in between there are various systems as an API, to make things easier. The resulting problem is that it is very difficult to take advantage of 100 % of the hardware, since the resulting code has to be standardized enough to operate in the full range of graphics chips market. This problem is not as sharp on consoles, and that after all there are only two or three in the market at the same time.

However, this new generation of consoles will arrive in the coming months, Playstation 4 and Xbox One have one thing in common: they both use AMD graphics processors. So, why not take advantage ?. Hence Mantle. The idea is that a developer can write code that works on both consoles and computers with Radeon graphics without any difference.

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To do this, Mantle does not use DirectX, but the programmer has access to a lower level to make the most of the graphics chip, using features specific to AMD chips and thereby achieving significant performance increase. Once completed, this code can be used on both PC and on PS4 and Xbox. The possibilities are enormous, and at a stroke it can eliminate the bad “ports”. The first game to make use of Mantle will be Battlefield 4, the graphics engine used will be Frostbite 3 as it has a specific version for this API, so more games are expected shortly.

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By now you may have seen the biggest problem of Mantle: is exclusive to AMD. Nvidia has not preserved their chips in any of the next-generation consoles, preferring to focus on mobile and desktop development. If Mantle becomes popular, it would result in a monopoly situation by AMD, and Nvidia card users would be abandoned. It is unlikely to happen  overnight, and the compatibility of all the upcoming games with Nvidia cards is guaranteed, but it is something to consider. The PC market has always been characterized by the variety of hardware, which has many negative issues, but also some positive without which it would not be the same platform.