AMD GPUOpen: Open Source Tools for Game Development
Modern game development is a complicated task, requiring developers to put a lot of effort to make a good game. Thus, any tool that can provide better results with less work is very welcome. Nvidia GameWorks is one of such toolkits, offering some amazing visual and physics effects that are easy to implement for the developers. However, there is a catch – those tools work well on Nivdia’s GPUs, but struggle or do not work at all on AMD GPUs. While that might not seem like a problem if you have a GeForce card now, such hardware restrictions are not good for the gamers in the long run.
Considering the current situation, it is nice to see AMD pushing for the approaches that are more inclusive. Part of AMD’s GPUOpen initiative is to provide developers with the similar effects suite as Nvidia GameWorks. However, unlike the black box of GameWorks, that developers have no control over, GPUOpen will provide open source tools under the MIT license. Thus, game developers will be able to integrate these effects into their games in any way they think is the best. Game developers and other hardware manufactures will be also able to contribute to the main code, improving these tools for everybody.
GPUOpen is not limited to the game effects. AMD also plans to open-source most of their Radeon drivers. Currently, there is closed-source Catalyst driver and a separate open source Radeon driver. The current situation on Linux does not give AMD many favours, as the performance of Catalyst on Linux lags behind Windows and open source Linux driver is even further behind. Having mostly open source driver may help AMD hardware improve Linux support faster than before. Support of legacy OpenGL will remain closed-source, while Vulkan support will be completely open-source.
It will be interesting to see how well GPUOpen ends up. It is definitely nice to see AMD taking a high road once again, rather than attempting to lock features in PC games to AMD GPUs. Even In the best-case scenario, the changes will not happen overnight. We are still very likely to see GameWorks in games an year from now, no matter how things turn out. However, the improvements in Linux drivers and Vulkan support will come faster and benefit Linux community, therefore making SteamOS even more viable for gaming.