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Microsoft's GDC 2006 Presentations are available

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Just a quick heads-up for those of you who don't regularly check the DirectX Developer Center you might want to point your browser at the presentations page.. For those who weren't lucky enough to attend GDC there should be plenty of useful information to pick up from these slides - XNA, XBox 360, Direct3D 10, Windows Vista and so on.
EDIT: I just came across a whole load more GDC slides [smile] I've not had a chance to read through all of them, but the following few grabbed my attention. Probably best to browse the above list yourself though [wink] Ritual: Next-Gen Visual Effects on Direct3D 10 Shadow Mapping Tricks and Techniques When Shaders and Textures Collide (1 of 2) When Shaders and Textures Collide (2 of 2) Extremely Practical Shadows Advanced Light and Shadow Culling Methods
EDIT2: Whilst not strictly DirectX related, Microsoft revealed a fair few details about their "XBox Live Arcade" (XBLA) platform - something every Indie developer should be interested in. Read superpig's write-up here.
Cheers, Jack [Edited by - jollyjeffers on April 5, 2006 9:47:03 AM]

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Good thing you pointed out this - I'm beginning the serious win32 programming only now (I was doing cross-OS things before) so this is really useful for me.
Thank you!

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Original post by Krohm
I'm beginning the serious win32 programming only now (I was doing cross-OS things before) so this is really useful for me.
If you're particularly interested in the "best practices" and general "games for windows" type stuff then the SDK Technical Articles are also an essential read.

hth
Jack

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Original post by jollyjeffers
If you're particularly interested in the "best practices" and general "games for windows" type stuff then the SDK Technical Articles are also an essential read.

hth
Jack


Well (believe it or not), I'm re-reading all the SDK (platform, DX and more)!
Anyway, I wanted to drop all other operative systems because I knew something about win32. Windows installer 3.x is great value as far as I've read!

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Very nice, I'll have to check these out soon. I already glanced through the 360 & Multi-core ones, and they look pretty good.

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Original post by circlesoft
I already glanced through the 360 & Multi-core ones, and they look pretty good.
Well at least you've got a "multi-socket multi-core" machine to try those things on [cry]

I so have to get me some new kit to try out this MP goodness.

Cheers,
Jack

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Original post by jollyjeffers
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Original post by circlesoft
I already glanced through the 360 & Multi-core ones, and they look pretty good.
I so have to get me some new kit to try out this MP goodness.

You should see what it would cost for you to put one together. Mine was lower than I thought it would be ($2000 US), but you could cut back on some components if you needed to.

Also note that the Intel Xeons are now cheaper than their AMD Opteron counterparts. It kinda surprised me at first, because I don't keep up with these things.

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Original post by circlesoft
You should see what it would cost for you to put one together. Mine was lower than I thought it would be ($2000 US), but you could cut back on some components if you needed to.
Yeah, I've been giving it some thought... but at the same time I've also been wondering whether the prices (+availability of new parts) around Vista's eventual release will shake things up. That is, investing a load of cash now and finding that something bigger and better could be had if I'd waited a few more months [smile]

I have been tempted to put together a very simple system with a strong motherboard and limited extra parts (e.g. less RAM and cheap GPU) and then upgrade them once Vista (+D3D10 parts) are out.

I dunno really, always a gamble I suppose!

Cheers,
Jack

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Original post by jollyjeffers
Quote:
Original post by circlesoft
You should see what it would cost for you to put one together. Mine was lower than I thought it would be ($2000 US), but you could cut back on some components if you needed to.
Yeah, I've been giving it some thought... but at the same time I've also been wondering whether the prices (+availability of new parts) around Vista's eventual release will shake things up. That is, investing a load of cash now and finding that something bigger and better could be had if I'd waited a few more months [smile]

I have been tempted to put together a very simple system with a strong motherboard and limited extra parts (e.g. less RAM and cheap GPU) and then upgrade them once Vista (+D3D10 parts) are out.

I'd say, if you don't have an immediate and pressing need for a brand-new machine right now, wait:

(1) New GPUs will be rolling out later this year. ($$$)

(2) Quad-core motherboards will be produced soon (that have PCI-E slots). This should lower the price of dual-core motherboards, which are significantly pricey.

(3) Right now, software isn't very stable with my multi-core setup. I get a lot of hard lockups where I have to restart. For example, the VS2005 compiler crashes a lot. So does Counter-Strike.

However, I needed a multi-core machine for work, since that is one of our big new features.

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Original post by circlesoft
I'd say, if you don't have an immediate and pressing need for a brand-new machine right now, wait
Agreed - at the moment it is more of a "want" than a "need" [smile]

I'll have a (well paid) job later in the year which should allow me to get something a bit nicer.

Quote:
Original post by circlesoft
(1) New GPUs will be rolling out later this year. ($$$)
You mean G80/R600 D3D10 parts? I've seen a few commentators reckon that D3D10 parts won't hit retail until early '07 now [oh]

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Original post by circlesoft
(3) Right now, software isn't very stable with my multi-core setup. I get a lot of hard lockups where I have to restart. For example, the VS2005 compiler crashes a lot. So does Counter-Strike.
Seriously? You reckon that's because of the multithreading, or just one of these CPU-driver issues I keep reading about? Whilst mines not proper multi-core, my HT-P4 registers as 2 CPU's and some applications notice that - but I've never had any issues because of it...

Cheers,
Jack

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Sorry for the off-topic post, but you got me wondering... Is multicore much different from a single dualcore processor, especially from a programming point of view? I get hard lockups with my dual core processor too occasionally, so they're strikingly similar [smile] (btw, for me those were mostly issues with accessing the D3D device from multiple threads... and by accident at that :p)

So, should one treat multiple processors significantly different from dualcore ones when coding?


@Jack:

I'm no expert, but I've never had these issues with my older P4-HT test machine either. I think it just might have something to do with the two seperate cores (as opposed to HT's single core) trying to access the video card simultaneously. My Brainball game for example used to run fine about 75% of the time and hard lock the other 25%, until I created the device with multithreading (or rather, with the ForceNoMultiThread flag set to false). I've never had any issues with the VS2005 compiler though, but then again, I only use the C# one [wink]

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Original post by remigius
So, should one treat multiple processors significantly different from dualcore ones when coding?

In Windows 2000 and XP, there is actually no effective way to even tell a dual-core system from a dual-CPU system. You can get the total number of logical processors, but not the physical number of processors. If you want to do that, you have to parse the CPU identifier yourself and determine it from that.
Anyhow, you normally code the same for both types. We use OpenMP, and it is completely transparent. As far as I know, we have had no issues with dual-core vs. dual-CPU.

Quote:
Seriously? You reckon that's because of the multithreading, or just one of these CPU-driver issues I keep reading about? Whilst mines not proper multi-core, my HT-P4 registers as 2 CPU's and some applications notice that - but I've never had any issues because of it...

Yea. With VS2005, the build system is multithreaded, so I can build 4 projects at once. However, it will sometimes crash the whole IDE (sometimes multiple times per day). Also, with HL2-based games, it will just lock-up randomly, even though I can see it using just 1 processor.

These could be motherboard issues, too, as it is a server motherboard - ie not really meant for games, ect.

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I run a dual CPU setups since the Pentium Pro and never had such problems you describe. Maybe you should try to update your BIOS and the driver for the motherboard.

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Quick heads up if you don't spot it... I added some new GDC stuff to my original post at the top:

Quote:
EDIT:
I just came across a whole load more GDC slides [smile]

I've not had a chance to read through all of them, but the following few grabbed my attention. Probably best to browse the above list yourself though [wink]
Ritual: Next-Gen Visual Effects on Direct3D 10
Shadow Mapping Tricks and Techniques
When Shaders and Textures Collide (1 of 2)
When Shaders and Textures Collide (2 of 2)
Extremely Practical Shadows
Advanced Light and Shadow Culling Methods


On the topic of unstable multi-core stuff... there was a comment by Chuck Walbourn on DXDEV a few weeks back (I think) saying a lot of the timing and stability issues he'd come across were due to bad CPU drivers, BIOS updates and the likes... seems that there have been a lot of issues fixed lately that people don't know about. Then again, I think that was in reference to the AMD X2's, but can't hurt to check it out for the Pentium-D's...

hth
Jack

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On the topic of unstable multi-core stuff... there was a comment by Chuck Walbourn on DXDEV a few weeks back (I think) saying a lot of the timing and stability issues he'd come across were due to bad CPU drivers, BIOS updates and the likes... seems that there have been a lot of issues fixed lately that people don't know about. Then again, I think that was in reference to the AMD X2's, but can't hurt to check it out for the Pentium-D's...


Well, I'm working on a recent, standard Dell machine so I'd assume the drivers *should* be up to date and working together correctly (as a side note, updating my ATI drivers actually decreased my performance [oh]). I think I'll have to run a reinstall soon anyway though, so I can test if the drivers have anything to do with it then.

For the moment I'm sticking to my theory that the problem is caused by two seperate cores simultaneously accessing a device that has only been created for access through one thread. The fact that this problem only happens *sometimes* is a sure indication of a threading issue. As the multithread flag seemed to solve this prob (no hard lockups since, for well over 50 test runs) and the performance hit was marginal (~375 to ~350 fps) it works good enough for me.

However, since this problem has been reported before (even with plain HT), it still would be very nice if *some* MVP could get the final word on this from MS [wink]

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Original post by jollyjeffers
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EDIT:
Ritual: Next-Gen Visual Effects on Direct3D 10

Does this slidedeck just cut-off for anybody else? It just abruptly ends after the 'Stream Out' slide. It doesn't actually contain any info that hasn't been publically available for months, so I'm not sure what happened there.

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Original post by circlesoft
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Original post by jollyjeffers
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EDIT:
Ritual: Next-Gen Visual Effects on Direct3D 10

Does this slidedeck just cut-off for anybody else? It just abruptly ends after the 'Stream Out' slide. It doesn't actually contain any info that hasn't been publically available for months, so I'm not sure what happened there.
Yeah, I get the same - and the 25 slides that do work seem mostly identical to Sam Glassenberg's Direct3D 10 talk... [oh]

Wonder if that's intentional.. re-downloading doesn't make any difference to me.

Cheers,
Jack

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Hate to go off topic again, but back on the DualCore route - I've found that setting an application's affinity to only use one "CPU" in the task manager really helps with various issues.
The problem is you need to have it running to be able to set the affinity :p.

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hehe, nice trick... but its also interesting that in the notes/slides for the multiprogramming presentation it states that on Windows you should allow the OS to schedule the affinity - and not mess with it yourself [lol]

Jack

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I do it mostly because I know the X2 has a problem with the Performance Counter, since it has two cores, and the values are not syncronized, it returns "problematic" values.
Again, it's only an option for applications that have problems, I don't usually play around with that :).

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If you're getting around a known issue then I can understand that, it's just the amusing part that you should need to do it when the official MS line is that you should leave it to the OS as it'll do a better job [lol]

btw, the discussion on DirectXDev was specifically about AMD X2's iirc, and it was mentioned that an updated CPU driver was available to fix the timing errors.. and I'm also sure someone posted back after installing that fix that it had improved things. Might be an idea to dig around in the archives for the details on that...

Cheers,
Jack

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Original post by sirob
Hate to go off topic again, but back on the DualCore route - I've found that setting an application's affinity to only use one "CPU" in the task manager really helps with various issues.
The problem is you need to have it running to be able to set the affinity :p.


Even that won't help you when it comes to processors with variable clock speeds, like laptops with SpeedStep or whatever they're calling it these days.

The Ritual deck may cut off because IIRC towards the end of things he just demoed stuff (prerendered, though - we did get to see their DX10 engine running in realtime on the REF, at about 0.1 frames per second [grin]). As a whole the talk was (a) overview of D3D10 (given by Sam G, which is why the slides may look familiar) and (b) description of how Ritual are using them to do omnidirectional shadow maps (render target array and geometry shading to do all six faces at once) and GPU skinning. To be honest, not as inspiring as I'd hoped.

From a "MS @ GDC" point of view, you may want to add a link to my Live Arcade coverage...

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