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GDC 2015: Top Tech Announcements in the Gaming World

An Architosh round-up of some of the biggest news from the Game Developers Conference (2015) in San Francisco this past week.

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The Gaming Developers Conference (2015) has come to a close in San Francisco this past week and we wanted to highlight five key big news items from the event.

Five Tech Announcements

No. 1 — Khronos intros new Vulkan graphics API

The open standards consortium, Khronos Group, announced the next generation OpenGL API, named Vulkan at the GDC 2015 this past week. The new open standard will compete with proprietary low-level, explicit GPU API’s aimed at allowing developer to code closer to the metal, removing the hardware abstraction overhead that comes with today’s standard OpenGL drivers.

Vulkan uniquely combines graphics and compute and has close ties with OpenCL via the new SPIR-V intermediate representation language, a target and new standard for high-level computer languages and front-end compilers.

Vulkan will continue to develop alongside OpenGL and OpenGL ES. We have dealt extensively with the new Vulkan announcement here and here. (see, Architosh, “Five Things Apple users might want to know about the new Vulkan Graphics API,” 8 March 2015).

No. 2 — Oculus Rift Gets Competition: Valve and HTC’s new hardware

The Oculus Rift has been one hot topic in the 3D world since its debut. Now it appears game company Valve kept a good secrete, despite rumors, and partnered with HTC to produce its own 3D goggles. The final version is expected to arrive by Christmas season this year, with an expected price range just north of $300.USD.

01 - The new HTC and Valve co-produced VR headset. The new device gives Oculus Rift serious competition.

01 – The new HTC and Valve co-produced VR headset. The new device gives Oculus Rift serious competition.

The development of the Oculus Rift had led to its use in industrial applications, such as in the fields of architecture and engineering. CAD and BIM (building information modeling) developers have teamed up with Oculus Rift.

As the image above shows HTC and Valve will ship Steam VR products later this year. Importantly to industrial or non-gaming use, Valve and HTC have introduced OpenVR, an open set of APIs designed for use with the new hardware that are some form of subset of SteamVR APIs.

No. 3 — Nvidia intro’d its new Titan X GPU card

Using an Unreal presentation, Nvidia announced the new Titan X graphics card for what is calls the world’s most advanced GPU ever. The graphics card packs 12 GB of video memory and 8 billion transistors.

Built on the new Maxwell architecture, Nvidia will be revealing more about the new card at its own event coming up. Regardless, the card is a monster, and the type of kit that makes Mac users lustful of Windows PCs.

No. 4 — Meet the Steam Machine — Running SteamOS

For those who don’t keep up with the gaming community and its tech, and if you aren’t lucky enough to be raising a teenage boy, you likely haven’t heard much about Steam. Steam is a gaming platform that is Internet-based, developed by Valve Corporation. The platform itself acts as an host environment connecting gamers to each other for multi-player fun as well as cloud storage and game state recall so that gamers can pickup play on other computers, even across platforms. Steam was released for Mac OS X in 2010 in May and later released a Linux client, followed by mobile versions of Steam that provide chatting and shopping functionality.

Steam has been tremendously successful both as a gaming enterprise and a community builder. Importantly for the Architosh audience, Valve with Steam has been an important force in making gaming more open across platforms.

02 - Alienware's new Steam Machine coming in November with all other Steam Machines. (image: screen grab, Alienware website. All rights reserved.)

02 – Alienware’s new Steam Machine coming in November with all other Steam Machines. (image: screen grab, Alienware website. All rights reserved.)

So now we have SteamOS and the new Steam Machines. These are console spec kit that run SteamOS—itself a specialized operating system developed over Linux— and are aimed at gamer enthusiasts. These new Steam Machines could be a serious threat to the established console hardware makers—Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. And they are also a threat to Windows PCs themselves and can affect Windows PC market share numbers. A dozen hardware partners showcased their new Steam Machines and Alienware, a Dell company, is one of them.

No. 5 — Game Engine News: Unity, Unreal and CryEngine

Typically game engine news is announced at GDC and this year the news was focused a lot on pricing and availability options.  Unity Technologies announced that its Personal Edition of Unity is completely free, with zero royalties. The professional edition costs $75.USD per month. This compares to the news from Epic that you can now use the Unreal Engine 4 at no charge but will pay a five percent royalty on all gross revenues on all shipped games and applications.

Crytek, the makers of the CryEngine, showcased some of the new stunning graphical features in the latest version of their gaming development environment. Physically based rendering is one of the newest features. You can watch their GDC 2015 tech showcase trailer here below or on YouTube.

That’s all our GDC 2015 coverage this year.

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