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Next-gen GPUs attack real-time graphics challenges

22 Sep 2014

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Realistic lighting is one of the challenges faced in real-time graphics. For many game developers, current GPUs on the market cannot keep up with the task of simulating direct and indirect lighting, forcing them to use lighting tricks that compromise scene realism.


To end this struggle, Nvidia recently launched the latest line of GPUs based on its Maxwell chip architecture – the new GeForce GTX 980 and 970.

Maxwell, the company's 10th-generation GPU architecture, has voxel global illumination (VXGI) technology that enables gaming GPUs to deliver, for the first time, real-time dynamic global illumination. According to Nvidia, this technique helps developers to accurately depict diffuse lighting, specular lighting and reflections.

VXGI is being added to NVIDIA GameWork, the world's most advanced game graphics library, so developers can build future games with dynamic environments filled with rich lighting and realism.

It is being integrated into popular games engines like Unreal Engine 4, and will be available to developers later this year.

"We've been on a journey for more dynamic and realistic lighting in the game industry, and VXGI is the next big step in that journey," said Halldor Fannar, chief technology officer of CCP Games. "By offering real-time, dynamic indirect lighting, VXGI is a generational leap forward."

In addition, the GTX 980 and 970 GPUs also have a range of new technologies, including multi-frame sampled anti-aliasing (MFAA), which varies the anti-aliasing sample patterns across pixels both within an individual frame and between multiple frames. It then uses a newly developed synthesis filter to produce the best image quality and does so faster than conventional anti-aliasing.

For gamers, MFAA yields image quality approaching that of 4xMSAA at the cost of 2Xmsaa—enabling titles to run faster while maintaining high levels of image quality.

Nvidia's GPUs can also deliver a higher fidelity gaming experience even for those playing on standard 1080p displays. Maxwell's Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR) technology enables games to rendered at 4K or other high-end resolutions and then scaled down to the native resolution on the user's display using a 13-tap Gaussian filter. The resulting image is much higher quality than simply rendering directly to 1080p.

Meanwhile, the VR Direct technology incorporates a number of new features to increase performance, lower latency and increase compatibility for VR headsets. These features include:

  • VR SLI—provides heightened performance on virtual reality devices where multiple GPUs can be assigned a specific eye to render the stereo images faster.
  • Asynchronous Warp—cuts latency in half and quickly adjusts images as gamers move their heads, without the need to re-render new frames.
  • Auto Stereo—improves game compatibility for VR devices, such as Oculus Rift, and allows users to play games on select headsets that weren't originally designed for VR.

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 GPUs are now available from various add-in card suppliers, including ASUS, Colourful, EVGA, Gainward, Galaxy, Gigabyte, Innovision 3D, MSI, Palit, PNY and Zotac. Partner participation will vary by region. Pricing is expected to start at $549 for the GTX 980 and $329 for the GTX 970.

The GeForce GTX 980 and 970 GPUs will also be sold in fully configured systems from leading U.S.-based system builders, including AVADirect, Cyberpower, Digital Storm, Falcon Northwest, Geekbox, IBUYPOWER, Maingear, Origin PC, Puget Systems, V3 Gaming and Velocity Micro, as well as system integrators outside North America.

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