Nvidia's E3 media event started at the end of a very, very long day for most of its attendees. Relaxing was the first order of business, but it may come as a surprise to hear that not only were the attendees relaxing, but so were many of the presenters. Representatives ranging from Digital Extremes to Epic Games took the stage and had fun showing off the tech they've built in partnership with Nvidia. It was the perfect atmosphere for showing off Nividia's impressive tech and why PC's will continue pushing gaming forward dragging consoles behind.
Don't take me wrong, Tony Tamasi and none of the presenters rarely mentioned consoles, and when they did it was always with much praise. Next-gen consoles were on everyone's minds, even Tony admitted E3 was a console-focused event, but all next-gen is to Nvidia is an opportunity to push gaming tech that much farther. Considering what was shown during the event, I'd say with consoles still months away developers for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have their work cut out for them.
After Tony started off the event he went straight into Nividia's current property on gaming's landscape. Specifically, PC, console gaming and ventures like cloud gaming and their new Shield handheld:
- With regards to PC gaming, Tony brought up Nvidia's new GeForce Experience software that lets gamers update their drivers automatically. It's also built to help find and set optimized settings for certain games, even with the hurdle of the wide range of PC hardware out there. They've got a super computer working to ensure better-than-console experiences for all PC gamers running Experience. They've also got ShadowPlay, which makes the PC like a gaming DVR, recording gameplay with almost nil performance disadvantages. Considering Experience had over 2.5 million downloads in its beta phase, I'd say it's catching on fairly well
- On the mobile side of things Nvidia has its experimental handheld Shield. Nvidia believes touch can only go so far, which I agree with especially considering the recent announcement of Deus Ex: The Fall. I'd love to play that game without fingers on the screen. Android games will be playable, many optimized for the Shield, providing a large catalog of titles day one. Then there's the ability to stream games from the PC to Shield, which is a handy function similar to what the Nintendo Wii does with it's GamePad. Expect Shield to ship in the next few weeks.
- As far as "The Cloud" Nvidia says it's impossible to ignore and is likely to be the next way people enjoy games. That's why they're working on GRID, which is a service that renders games in the cloud and then ships the display out to a device of your choosing.
- Consoles, as always, are wonderful devices which Nvidia trickles down tech to. Tony gave the example of FXAA for console anti-aliasing.
Tony wanted to make clear that Nvidia is dedicated to PC gaming though, citing it as the best way to experience games right now -- and hopefully onward. They've got over 200+ engineers working to deliver the best performance, graphics and game engine integration available. Part of that is developing core technology and algorithms, but also cross-platform SDKs, libraries and tools.
That includes the company's three global testing facilities, with the primary facility located in Moscow. Testing engineers are constantly working to improve gaming performance on Nvidia devices, running performance tests and building an assortment of tools. It's no way to play a game, constantly focusing on improving performance in minute ways, but their sacrifice is for the greater good.
Then Tony went ahead and listed all of Nvidia's innovative tech that they've built over the past 14 years, from texture-space bump mapping to global illumination. Basically, Nividia's a huge driving force behind new graphics tech and they're not stopping any time soon.
This introduction was just a buildup so Nvidia could remind us why they're the leading GPU manufacturer out there. According to non-Nvidia sources Nvidia is currently running a 66% market share as of Q1 2013 and that's because of the huge technology adoption across a majority of games -- even higher adoption rate in highly rated games. Nvidia wants great games to run well and they go out of their way to make it happen.
For instance, DX11 and assorted tech can be found in Black Ops 2, Metro: Last Light, Borderlands 2 and Assassin's Creed 3, along with dozens of other recent games. They're not stopping here though, as they can confirm their tech, like DX11, Tessellation and TXAA will be in upcoming titles too. Titles like Assasin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Watch Dogs, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, The Witcher 3 and Batman: Arkham Origins.
At this point we got to see a demo of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt showing off some of the new fur and hair tech Nvidia is working with CD Projekt Red to implement. It was an exclusive demo, too, as I got to see The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt today and those wolves did not have the sort of fur Nvidia was showing us. Imagine the softest, most gorgeous coat of fur and then imagine it on a wolf that could tear your throat out. It was beautiful in motion and I doubt any game could pull it off like The Witcher 3 could. How will Cyberpunk 2077 add fur to the game though? Hmm...
Nvidia then confirms that they're working on game integration with all of the usual suspects: CryEngine 3, Unity, Unreal Engine 4, Frostbite, Source and id Tech 5. Considering next-gen consoles are finally joining the 1000+ GFLOPS GPU club that Nvidia's been part of since 2009, the engines will have to do some work catching everyone up. Oh, and Nvidia is stretching for 5000+ before too long.
We also got to look at eight different games from eight different developers, each showing off tech that Nvidia had helped them implement in their game.
- Randy Pitchford, President of Gearbox came out and showed us an exclusive look at the upcoming DLC for Borderlands 2, Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep. The demoer played as new character Krieg, who solos particularly well, as he made his way up a mountain towards the castle. Along the way he showed off PhysX in a myriad of ways on top of confirming that Dragon Keep was the largest DLC they've made yet and that it's all in-house this time.
- Ubisoft's Lead Content Manager Carsten Myhill showed us the Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag demo from the Ubisoft press conference, which was a rather sordid intermission. I think I would have preferred the demo played during the Sony conference, which looked astounding. Those big jungle leaves bouncing around and then all the fire particles as the ships went head to head.
- Ubisoft producer Andy Wilson took us through a single-player demo of Splinter Cell: Blacklist -- 100% stealthy of course. There was plenty of electric shock, replete with arcing electricity, and a robot that could fly around and taze folk too. Ubisoft's a huge partner of Nvidia's and it's obvious in almost all of their games.
- Limin Lu of Snail Games was an interesting presenter who showed us the clothing they've built in both Age of Wushu and their upcoming title Black Gold. Limin Lu talked about how profitable they were because people loved to buy the authentic clothing of the ancient Chinese time period. It's in large part due to the PhysX they implement in the clothing to make it flow smoothly over a character's body as they move.
- Steve Sinclair, Creative Director at Digital Extremes stole the show with Warframe. He's a from a pretty small team and was more than willing to talk about how he copy's and pastes a lot of code from Nvidia to make his game look gorgeous. I
- Tramell Isaac of Sony Online Entertainment showed us Planetside 2, which will be coming to PS4 at launch. He showed us the staggering difference between standard effects and then updated effects with APEX Turbulence. The difference was unbelievable. From rotating circles of light to thousands of glowing particles that get caught on players as they move? Someone should make a game made only of APEX Turbulence effects.
- Hawken Art Director Khang Le came out and showed us a brand new test level from his game that was almost entirely destructible. Two players jumped around struggling to find land that they could fire weapons from for more than 5 seconds before crumbling to the floor below. Finally they just focused on destroying every wall in sight. While the level shown was only a test map, Adhesive is working on something similar to ship to the public.
- Closing out was Alan Willard, Senior Technical Artist at Epic Games, who showed us the Infiltrator tech demo showcasing Unreal Engine 4. The demo ran real-time on the Nvidia hardware in the room. Apparently the machines were running on a beastly GeForce Titan, but Alan says a 680 would be good too. Alan mentions compute shaders and tessellation along with any dozen number of other fancy features and the demo runs smooth beyond recognition.
I want to state just how impressive all of the demos were, though that might not carry much weight from someone running a GeForce 275. Initially I thought I had traveled to the future to see these demos. Everything ran so smoothly, so crisp, and each was beautiful in motion.
The real fact that I walked away from the Nvidia event knowing, however, was just how excited developers were to work with Nvidia. In turn, Nvidia wants nothing more than to work with developers to make their games better. It's a hugely beneficial relationship between game developers and Nvidia, but the real winners are gamers. Luckily, most developers and probably most folk at Nvidia are gamers too. Winners all around.