Aquanox Dev: We’d Do Async Compute Only With An Implementation That Doesn’t Limit NVIDIA Users


The debate around Async Compute and its viability on NVIDIA hardware is still raging within the PC enthusiast community.

AMD's Technical Marketing Lead Robert Hallock went as far as saying that Maxwell cards were utterly incapable of performing Async Compute without heavy reliance on slow context switching.

Our own Usman wrote a detailed editorial on the specifics of AMD & NVIDIA hardware in relation to Async Compute, stating that it is indeed supported by Maxwell 2.0 architecture though it is unclear whether it will yield performance benefits. Shortly after that, Oxide Games announced that they are working with NVIDIA to fully implement Async Compute in Ashes of the Singularity, probably with a combined hardware/software solution. It seems unlikely that this will yield similar performance gains to AMD's fully hardware based implementation, anyway.

However, we have to consider the problem from the perspective of game creators. In this context, while interviewing Digital Arrow about Aquanox Deep Descent, we have asked them if they intended to use Async Compute in their game. Here's their reply:

We aim to develop a game that is enjoyable to everyone who wishes to join the world of Aqua. Implementing and/or focusing on technologies that would limit certain people from accessing the game is entirely against our philosophy of being a community focused developer. If at any point, there will be an implementation possible that will not limit NVIDIA card users, then we will certainly explore this option as well.

This isn't really surprising. According to the latest Jon Peddie Research report, NVIDIA has reached 81% of the discrete GPU market share; it wouldn't be prudent at all for developers to focus on a technology that may not translate very well for the majority of their potential user base.

This is why it is unlikely that many games in the near future will make Async Compute central to their development. Besides, there are other DirectX 12 features to exploit, some of which (such as Conservative Rasterization and Raster Order Views) are only available on NVIDIA hardware right now; Digital Arrow is currently evaluating DirectX 12 options for Aquanox Deep Descent.

DirectX 12 is certainly something we are having in mind. Testing will reveal how much of it we can use.

There is more to DirectX 12 than Async Compute related benefits, and it will be interesting for developers to explore these opportunities as well.