GDC14: AMD RapidFire and Cloud Gaming
By Olin Coles
At the 2014 Game Developers Conference (GDC14) this morning, AMD revealed full-functional working demonstrations of their AMD RapidFire Graphics API technology harnessing the power of Cloud-based streaming 3D applications. A bare-bones system with no software installed located Crysis 3 on a Cloud gaming server, and within moments the player was earning frags (actually, he was desperately trying). On the surface this concept may not sound terribly interesting, but it stands to disrupt how we obtain and play video games and graphical design software. For desktop and mobile users software no longer is downloaded or installed; games and applications are essentially a click away.
There are obvious up- and down-sides to this proposition. Among the more important features, users no longer need to download or install software and subsequent updates or patches. Additionally, system stability is maintained by the server, and not the tinkering overclocker or out-of-date gamer. Further, games are available on-demand from sources such as the Leap Direct Gaming Platform, and deliver content much like programming you get from Netflix or YouTube. Point, click, play… or at least that’s the idea, made possible with AMDs Radeon Sky series of graphics cards. The downside to all of this, or at least the perceived downside, is bandwidth. Previously, any Cloud-based interaction meant depending on high-speed Internet connection with plenty of bandwidth to move date up and downstream. With AMD RapidFire that bandwidth requirement is now as small as it’s ever been, enabling gameplay on connections as slow as mobile 3G.
The concept, while not bleeding edge, is still very new. Benchmark Reviews sees a future where downloads and DVDs give way to direct-play purchases. This isn’t just for gamers, either, since there’s room for licensing professional applications on a per-use basis as well. This will come as a welcome relief for AutoCAD subscribers, or Adobe users. With full support for AMD Mantle, DirectX 11 (and soon DirectX 12), there’s no reason why developers won’t leap at the opportunity to reduce software piracy. Now the AMD RapidFire has enabled on-the-fly data processing for streaming transport, the wait for fiber-optic infrastructure may be moot. Time will tell how effective this technology will prove itself to be, along with adoption of Cloud-based service. -BmR