AMD: NVIDIA Gameworks a ‘Clear and Present Threat to Gamers’

Ubisoft’s long-awaited open-world title, Watch Dogs, released today, but the discussion around its tech isn’t directed at troubleshooting.

Forbes released an article that has sent the PC gaming community into a revolt. They imply that Ubisofts use NVIDIA’s GameWorks, outright blocked AMDs ability to view the DirectX 11 code they required to optimize their GPU drivers so users get the best experience possible on their hardware. Thus giving NVIDIA a monumental advantage over AMD when playing this particular title.

GameWorks is NVIDIA’s toolkit that’s used by game developers to add new rendering techniques that NVIDIA hardware is specifically capable of utilizing. Other titles that use GameWorks include Batman: Arkham Origins and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. As an NVIDIA user myself, the use of GameWorks has certainly given a bit of freedom for the games’ graphics abilities and available options. But, is this argument any different from the one we had back in the day when OpenGL reigned king and Microsoft pushed DirectX out for Windows users?

AMD’s Robert Hallock told Forbes,

“Gameworks represents a clear and present threat to gamers by deliberately crippling performance on AMD products (40% of the market) to widen the margin in favor of NVIDIA products,” to which Hallock elaborated further by saying “Participation in the Gameworks program often precludes the developer from accepting AMD suggestions that would improve performance directly in the game code—the most desirable form of optimization.”

So, according to AMD, a game developer, Ubisoft for Watch Dogs in this case, is allowed to suggest options or enhancements to the libraries used by GameWorks for their title, but AMD isn’t allowed to see or suggest the same. For example, say Watch Dogs had critical issues running under AMD GPUs that needed to be fixed, they couldn’t contact NVIDIA and suggest the fixes or changes but, Ubisoft would have no issue modifying the code as needed.

“The code obfuscation makes it difficult to perform our own after-the-fact driver optimizations, as the characteristics of the game are hidden behind many layers of circuitous and non-obvious routines,” Hallock continues. “This change coincides with NVIDIA’s decision to remove all public Direct3D code samples from their site in favor of a ‘contact us for licensing’ page. AMD does not engage in, support, or condone such activities.”

To me this doesn’t seem like bias on NVIDIA’s part. They’re licensing the use of their toolkit to Ubisoft. Of course NVIDIA is going to make their toolkit capable of using this code to its fullest potential on the GPUs that they sell. Now, does that mean NVIDIA should keep it closed source to prevent AMD from viewing the DirectX 11 code? Right now, that’s up to you to decide. AMD is saying that NVIDIA should have the same level of transparency with technology as they do.

“Our work with game developers is founded concretely in open, sharable code, all of which we make available on our developer portal,” he went on. “We believe that enabling a developer with obvious and editable code that can be massaged to benefit everyone not only helps AMD hardware, but makes it possible for all gamers to benefit from our partnerships with a developer. As TressFX Hair runs equally well on AMD and NVIDIA hardware, for example, you can see this is true.”

Now, since this story broke on Forbes, John McDonald – who used to work at NVIDIA – spoke his mind on Twitter about the allegations against his former company,

McDonald certainly isn’t refraining from voicing his concern at AMD’s accusations and given he once worked in a position that is being called biased, his responses carry weight in this disputation.

AMD has released new drivers for its fans that are better optimized for Watch Dogs. So it seems there was, at least, some access given or AMD found some way to better optimize their drivers for this AAA title.

The “war” between AMD and NVIDIA is nothing new. It’s been going on for years now and will most likely continue. But, I don’t see that as a downside. It means there’s fierce competition between the two to have the best toys on the market. That’s only a boon for gamers in the end.

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4 Comments on AMD: NVIDIA Gameworks a ‘Clear and Present Threat to Gamers’


On May 27, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Seriously gamefront are you that pathetic? Getting sources from Forbes now is your next source of information Motley fool?

And it is a common known fact that AMD drivers are and has been for a while very poorly implemented and there are too many examples but i will list just one battlefield 3 beta.

Grow up gamefront please stop being this bad


On May 28, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Nvidia forcing developers to choose between optimizing for Nvidia *OR* for AMD isn’t how the market should work, ever – its the worst kind of anti-consumer BS. “Right now, that’s up to you to decide” is the lamest cop-out I’ve heard in a while. I’m starting to think Gamefront shouldn’t even offer its embarrassing “opinions” any more.

Ron Whitaker

On May 29, 2014 at 5:10 am

Let’s not forget that graphics card manufacturers working with developers is nothing new, and it’s not the end of the world, as that Forbes article claims. There have always been games and / or engines that ran better on one sort of card or another. The Source engine was optimized for ATI, while Unreal Engine ran better on NVIDIA. While I’m no programmer, I have to think that it’s probably somewhere close to impossible to optimize a game for game for both at the same time, so a choice has to be made.

Now, if the allegations laid out in the Forbes article were to be proven true, and NVIDIA was actively trying to lock AMD out from being able to receive code or make changes, then that’s a whole different ball of wax. Just because a game is optimized for one card or another shouldn’t preclude companies from being able to see what’s going on in the code so they can tweak their drivers for the best performance. I just don’t think you can take the word of one man as gospel, especially in a case like this, where AMD is struggling to catch up in the graphics market.

That said, let’s also not pretend that ATI/AMD isn’t terrible at drivers. Their horrific driver support was what drove me away from their cards, and from my experience with my friends’ rigs, they’ve gotten no better.

Victor Reynauld

On June 7, 2014 at 12:07 am

Makes me sad to see people bashing Forbes or GameFront for discussing this. There is a MAJOR difference between GameWorks and simple driver optimization. This issue goes far deeper than just “The Way It’s Meant To Be Played” marketing and collaboration and starts to affect how game engines run with specific GPUs. Look folks, GameWorks is DIRECTLY INTEGRATED into Unreal Engine 4. If you think that isn’t going to negatively affect AMD/ATi owners, you’re deluding yourselves.