NVIDIA, AMD, Intel Explain How OpenGL Can Unlock 15x Performance Gains

by Ashu Rege

If you want to get a developer’s attention, all you need to do is start dropping whole numbers.

Offer something that’s not 1.2 times better — but two or three times better — you know you’ve got them.

That’s the good news we teamed up with AMD and Intel to deliver at this week’s Game Developer Conference (GDC) in San Francisco.

AMD’s Graham Sellers, Intel’s Tim Foley, and our own Cass Everitt and John McDonald appeared on the same panel to explain the high-level concepts available in today’s OpenGL implementations that reduce driver overhead by up to 10x or more.

With OpenGL, an open, vendor-neutral standard, developers can get significantly better performance – up to 1.3 times. But with a little tuning, they can get 7 to 15 times more performance.

That’s a figure that will make any developer sit up and listen.

Better still: the techniques presented apply to all major vendors and are suitable for use across multiple platforms. And they brought demos, showing what these improvements mean on real world systems.

That’s because OpenGL can cut through the driver overhead that has been a frustrating reality for game developers since the beginning of the PC game industry.

On desktop systems, driver overhead can decrease frame rate. On mobile devices, however, driver overhead is even more insidious, robbing both battery life and frame rate.

Update: Here’s a video from a talk that Cass Everitt and John McDonald gave on this topic recently.

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  • Tyler Durden

    So I can run Battlefield 4 at 120FPS on my old GTX 460 and Intel G860 CPU at max settings? YES!!

  • Qwahchees

    Looks very good, I’m glad all the companies have come together to make a better future for graphical processing. Looking forward to OPENGL being more prominent.

  • Professor_Xavier

    Good news to hear. I can’t wait for PC to be freed from DirectX. The PC market should not be tied to Microsoft which is apathetic of us while they focus on their console division. Plus it will be easier for devs to do PC port of PS4 games and vice versa.

  • Vicar In Ubuntu

    Agreed. Let DirectX rot in the Boneyard (or behind some pointless Windows upgrade) while the rest of the industry grows up.

  • http://scndgenesis.sourceforge.net Ifunga Ndana


  • Ghetto Dedicated

    WTF; I used open GL drivers on my Voodoo 3 card some 15-20 years ago, and now you tell me this is the technology we should have pursued all along?

    Who is making these decisions? Is this all controlled by MS ?

    Have developers no say in which architecture they develop in?

    I am confused.

  • chaostheory66821

    This is great news for the OpenGL standard, but it has me wondering how it compares to Mantle? It should also be mentioned that Microsoft has announced a major update to DirectX that will greatly improve efficiency. My guess is that this is because of increased pressure from other standards. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in all of the major markets: PC, mobile, and on consoles.
    In my opinion, the more open the better!

  • Stephen

    OpenGL is multiplatform, and has been the ONLY option for Linux/Unix/MacOSX. OpenGL never went away for that reason. However, Microsoft came up with DirectX, which is not just a graphics standard, but also standardizes how games use sound, and pretty much is the whole package. (Remember, back in the VooDoo days, you had to configure your soundcard when you installed?). OpenGL ONLY deals with graphics. OpenGL was not inferior to DirectX, but DX was the easier one for a game studio to use, since it was a whole platform. Then, when Windows became dominant, OpenGL just kinda withered for a long while. MS said Vista would no longer be able to run games in OpenGL (which wasn’t true), so the remaining devs kinda jumped to D3D, and it looked pretty bad for a bit, but with OSX’s popularity, and Linux gaining lately, in the past decade it’s made vast improvements. Now Valve is coming out with the Linux based SteamOS, and are putting their considerable weight on devs to develop for it. Only option is OpenGL, and, fortunately OpenGL appears more than ready!

  • Stigma

    Shut up if you dont understand how DirectX is superior to OpenGL in many many ways. Speed is secondary.

  • softilol

    I have pretty strong hunch the one who wrote that sentence just now, doesnt know anything about it, and should indeed, shut their own mouth.

  • Mark Newfangled

    Idiotic. Why? Because why should a game house need two teams?!?! One for OpenGL on every platform but MS, and DirectX for MS only.

    Wouldn’t it be better to have the whole team on one game that two teams on a game and a port?

    Of course it would. OpenGL is approaching 0% driver overhead.

  • Terry A Davis

    I think we want transparency in TempleOS. I welcome better code, though. I have imposed a limit of 100,000 lines of code. We are at 82,000.

  • Ray Knapp

    I hate to say this but if you have seen GDC presentation of DX 12 you will understand its going nowhere, for the first time in a long time DX12 is actually a game changer, and this news for open GL is just the extra goodiness I wanted to hear TBH at this point they really need to optimize the overhead to make it easier for developers, or now even us a less that 20$ a month gets you the dev tools at engine level specifically Crytek engine and unreal 4, I would expect at this point that a more indie operation can manage a AAA game in 3-5 years.

  • Spazturtle

    DirectX 11.2 is limited to Windows 8.1

    DirectX 12 will likely be limited to the next version of windows.

    Using a OS locked API is just silly at this point.

  • Brian Caulfield

    Great to see so much interest in this topic. Here’s a link to a YouTube video Cass and John gave earlier about this topic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bCeNzgiJ8I

  • DavidHollinger

    Major problem to DirectX 12 is that:

    1. It doesn’t come out until end of year 2015

    2. It’s only for Current/NextGen Windows (8, 8.1, 9?) and Xbox

    3. Not many Devs want to be platform exclusive anymore, simply because putting on all platforms possible nets more money, even if one of those platforms is significantly smaller than the others.

  • Ray Knapp

    You will Probably be right, but 8 and 8.1 both suck for UI interface for a desktop so there is no loss there, 9 will be a good OS for Microsoft much in the same way Vista wasn’t great but 7 was and before that XPs pred wasn’t great either. BTW tying the OS to a Video API makes it easier for optimizations of that API, whether it is necessity or not is beyond me but it is their choice to do so, that still doesn’t mean I would by the OS if the API and the OS weren’t great.

  • mdriftmeyer

    With OpenGL, an open, vendor-neutral standard, developers can get significantly better performance – up to 1.3 times. ”

    In short, we’ll get around 20% of that 1.3 times. TInkering around to get a mythical up-to 15 times means divergence of the vendor neutral spec using custom extensions.

    More to the point, “If this capacity was present already, what is the business case for not improving the efficiency and performance of OpenGL?” I’m sure Game Developers are all ears on this one.

  • Joe_HTH

    The PS4 isn’t even using OpenGL. Your comment is laughable. Nobody gives a damn that you hate Microsoft, for whatever idiotic reason.

  • Joe_HTH

    I have a hunch none of you idiots knows a thing about OpenGL or DirectX. You simply cheer OpenGL out of your blind hatred for Microsoft.

  • Joe_HTH

    No, DirectX 12 games won’t come out until 2015. Big difference.

  • Mike H

    With NV getting on the new driver standards set by Mantle this leaves DX out in the cold. Now all developers need to do is Mantle/NV and translate the equivalent codepaths. Tossing in older architectures would make the whole process more convoluted but pay off in user adoption. For only a little more work a developer can have a completely optimized game for 99% of it’s possible userbase. Intel optimizations are unneeded. Any game needing these optimizations will be unplayable on Intel graphics.

  • Jonathan Courtney

    monopolies hinder progress.. look at the internet situation in the usa compared to the rest of the world.. especially south korea… here in THE UNITED CORPORATIONS of AMERICA they buy up politicians with money, stock, all kinds of goodies just so politicians will write laws to favor those corporations… when a competitor actually has a chance at getting somewhere like TESLA motors bam here have some government and that ruins everyone’s day.

  • Turbomite

    And so begins the milking generation.

  • yamicider

    The SDK runs with a custom derivative of OpenGL

  • Anon

    I have a hunch that this conversation is pointless.

  • John Mellinger

    don’t feel bad Nvidia talked about low lvl opengl in 2008 at gdc and it never got to take off…

  • async2013

    Go back to bed! If it doesnt use OpenGL, it sure as hell doesn’t use DX so, pray tell what does it use apologist?

  • async2013

    Go on Joe then. I develop games for a small company that prefers OpenGL/OpenGLES over DX ANY DAY OF THE WEEK

  • Coil_Whine

    As much as I violently hate Nvidia (AMD FOR LIFE) they are totally right about OpenGL. As long as I don’t have to run those stupid directX runtime packages before playing my shiny new steam game I’ll be happy.

  • Marryperry

    Good news to hear. I can’t wait for PC to be freed from DirectX. The PC market should not be tied to Microsoft which is apathetic of…

    Apresiate that

  • Gorb

    I don’t think you understand the work in “tossing in older architectures”. And you’re dissing Intel graphics to boot? Heh.

  • Gorb

    The hate is strong with this one, yesssss.

  • Ken Spaziani

    or you know all of id softwares work being OpenGL…

  • Mike H

    Where did I say supporting older architectures was easy. I didn’t. Putting in scaled graphics for legacy pipelines pays off in user adoption.

    And Intel is not exactly known for running AAA games at 1080P at good frame rates.
    Are they? I wasn’t dissing Intel. Just stating a fact.

  • Gorb

    Intel optimisations being “not needed” is not a fact. Nor is it sound advice.

    You also said “only a little more work”. It’s more than a “little more work”. You’re throwing out buzzwords with an apparently lack of understanding of the complexities behind. Now, I’m not a graphics programmer personally, but I have some of the idea.

    There’s a reason modern games are dropping legacy support. There’s a reason XP is no longer a supported OS. It’s not a “little bit of work”, and the gains aren’t always worth it.

    EDIT: An Intel Core3 i5 can run AAA games at acceptable frame rates. I ran Borderlands 2 prior to getting a new graphics card. You’re seriously working off some bias there.

  • Cinnamon267

    It’s graphics API is GNM and the higher level wrapper is GNMX. That’s about all we know.

  • Mike H

    You are taking a foot and running with it. Support for older architecture does not have to mean supporting obsolete ones. Supporting a 1950xtx is a far cry from supporting a Radeon 4870. I know a line has to be drawn somewhere, But it dosen’t have to be drawn at the current gen cards.

  • Gorb

    You do understand the meaning of “legacy” with regards to computing systems, right?

    I never said about drawing any line at current-gen cards. I’d prefer it if you didn’t put words into my mouth.

  • Mike H

    I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any offense. that’s one of my pet peeves too.
    Yes I do understand legacy codepaths and supporting older instruction sets.

    I made the reference to Intel with regard to excessive support for low GFX scaling, and the (IMO)need to push the boundaries in gaming to further the acceptance of high res textures that need less AA due to being 1080P native allowing better visuals without enhancements.

    Intel IGP struggles at 1080P, Same with AMD low end also. With native 1080P textures framerates and visuals would be improved vs upscaling and AA. I only used Intel as an example of performance in the low end.

  • Gorb

    Well that’s a far more reasonable argument, however I’d cite that Intel have been making massive gains with their X000 series integrated graphics chipsets. My Ivy Bridge i5 can run more than a few games at my native res (which is “only” 1400 x 900, but I consider that decent) and that only has HD4000, I think.

    HD5000 is meant to be a significant step up, and comes on even more powerful processors to boot (usually the -E range and/or some of the higher i7 products).

    And sorry for the reaction, I’ve been on the Internet far too long. It’s too easy to get snippy.

  • Edimartin Martins

    Direct X is a development suite for Windows (only).
    I never code in directX but I think you can get most of directX features just using openGL with SFML in Windows, MacOS and Linux.

  • http://www.johnathanm.com Johnathan M

    FINALLY, people acknowledge OpenGL.
    This is like Apple finally switching to Intel CPU’s.
    Heck, I always thought they should have gone the way of DEC Alpha RISC processors in the beginning, but hey, what do I know?

  • Michael Norris

    It uses OpenGL 4.4 like Cinnamon said,Sony like MS is always optimizing.

  • Selene White

    ps3/4 uses opengl api as a base then sony modified it to suit their needs theses optimizations are already being done on ps3/4 from some of the game companies

  • fatandfluffy

    kind of like how consoles did away with backwards compatibility. its not a little more work…. its a ton more work that limits the potential of new tech. which is why they are doing away with legacy support. i definitely agree with you here

  • Ato Mix

    Its graphics api is based of OpenGL that much we do know as it was stated by the devs long ago.

  • Ato Mix

    If you actually saw the papers of proposal features for OpenGLDirect3D they go hand to hand. The whole meeting was to see what features are worth for both, not just one of them. The paper even stated feature propsal for OpenGL/Direct3D.
    About overhead, it was first made as proof of concept(by Nvidia) for OpenGL once they needed to compete with Mantle. So Direct3D has nothing on OpenGL, and yes, since Crytek and Epic put an OpenGL to their engines and Valve is trying to push Linux as game platform i can see start of competition in game worth api(any other sector was already under OpenGL control).