E3 2013 Wrap-up
2013 was ABT’s first year at E3. Electronic Entertainment Expo 2013 just completed its 19th year and it was big in every way this year. Although E3 lasts for 3 days, we drove to the Los Angeles Convention Center on Tuesday for the opening day and had a very quick whirlwind tour for just a few hours. It is similar to CES superficially as it is huge trade show, but it is made up of attendees that are mostly core gamers who are affiliated with the gaming industry.
The main attraction of E3 are the games, and just like at Disneyland, gamers stand in long lines for a very brief hands on with the unreleased games. This year’s E3 was particularly exciting as the new next generation consoles, the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, and their new games were featured. The LA Convention Center is huge and there are two main exhibit halls that stretch over a long city block. Surrounding hotels also host some of the press events and ABT also attended Nvidia’s 2-1/2 hour invitation-only event on E3’s opening day evening. It was mostly about PC gaming which has recently enjoyed a renaissance as the current generation of consoles is quite old.
Although the press focus is mostly on the PS4 and the Xbox One, and will be covered by Mario along with general E3 news in this article, this editor is focusing on PC gaming. We will look briefly at AMD and turn the spotlight on Nvidia and its new console, the Shield. With the Shield, PC gaming now has a first – its own dedicated handheld. Surprisingly, it has potential to be disruptive to the entire gaming industry.
The Shield will allow a gamer full access to Android games and it can also wirelessly stream games from the user’s own GeForce-powered PC to any large screen HDTV in the house. The Shield as a Tegra 4 device is getting dangerously close to the power of an Xbox 360 and it is easy to see that further refreshes of it may get visuals comparable to the next generation consoles.
The new games for the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 are quite impressive visually, yet they are not able to deliver anything new that has not been seen on the PC since DX11. From Nvidia’s slide which only looks at GFLOPS as a measure of performance, the new consoles have only narrowed the graphics gap, not surpassed PC gaming.
This E3 turned out to be more smoke and mirrors than usual as it was observed that some of the Xbox One games demos at E3 were evidently running on Windows 7 and GeForce, not on the Xbox One at all, nor even on “equivalent HW”.
AMD – “Your CORE of Gaming”
AMD was also present at E3 as their new APUs power both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, and their motto is, “AMD the CORE of Gaming” as their booth stressed using AMD hardware to be ready for “combat” and war.
AMD is currently focusing on their strong points which includes the very flexible Eyefinity which can be extended to using 5×1 displays.AMD is also focusing on cloud gaming.AMD is a partner with many of the same cloud gaming services that Nvidia uses although Nvidia is much further along by offering Nvidia hardware that supports their own GRID ecosystem. Here is a large stack of their pre-built GRID servers.Each one of these server boxes contains four Kepler GPUs and each one of these GPUs provide 4 virtualized GPUs, each of which can handle 4 gamers simultaneously, or 16 gamers per box. This provides great cost effectiveness for these gaming cloud companies as they can deliver games much as Netflix delivers movies on a inexpensive monthly subscription basis.
Both AMD and Nvidia believe that the cloud will play a big part in the future of gaming as they believe they have each solved the latency issues associated with cloud gaming. This means that soon – “maybe this month, maybe next year, or the year after” – a subscriber will be able to play graphically demanding games on their tablet or on just about any device on any platform with lower latency than playing on an Xbox 360, and with graphical fidelity mostly equivalent to the new consoles!
One is immediately struck by Ouya’s tiny size. The graphics are powered by Tegra 3 and it is a very inexpensive console.
Nvidia doesn’t have any hardware inside the next generation consoles. However, they do appear pleased that the new consoles have finally mostly moved from Dx9 to DX11, catching up with PC gaming feature-wise and making it easier to port games with higher quality visuals from the PC to the console platforms and vice versa.
The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have narrowed the gap between PC and console. This means the least common denominator has gone up by nearly a factor of ten. Devs build a game that can scale to a variety of machines to maximize their profits. Now devs can build features and levels of detail so resource-intensive they could formerly (now) only be experienced on PC as the new Xbox and PlayStation will be able to run them in some capacity almost as well.
Nvidia has a definite gaming strategy. Nvidia is looking to simplify PC gaming for users automatically with their GeForce Experience; they have developed their own Shield console, and they emphasize cross-platform gaming. Nvidia employs hundreds of software engineers who make sure that games work well on Nvidia video cards and devices.
One of the big hurdles that many other developers find is fragmentation of the mobile market between a host of incompatible devices running many different versions of operating systems. Nvidia believes that this is not such an issue if games are developed originally with cross-platform in mind.
Nvidia believes that making their extensive library of cross-platform tools available to all developers regardless of branding, will make more fully-featured games run better on all hardware. They emphasized the many game engines that Nvidia works with which goes far beyond working with individual games. This was covered in Nvidia’s 2-hour presentation to the press on opening day at the Mariott Hotel up the street from E3. Here is the meeting agenda.
Tony Tamasi, a Senior Vice President for Nvidia took the first half hour to present Nvidia’s multi-faceted approach. They target PC with their GeForce Experience which looks to simplify PC gaming; mobile with their own console, the Shield; TV with cross-platform development for consoles; and with GRID for future cloud gaming.
The Witcher 3 “FurFX” Demo
One of the highlights was a video of the Witcher 3 which now features PhysX and many other enhancements which Nvidia helped them with. They showed off their Fur Rendering which seems to be a step beyond their competitor’s TressFX. Here is a somewhat shaky video we took during the presentation.
Randy Pitchford, the CEO of Gearbox always gives an outstanding presentation. He is a star in his own right. He demoed the latest “Tiny Tina” DLC available for Borderlands 2 and proudly proclaimed it, “their best” and the largest DLC available – bigger than the others released so far, combined.
Randy Pitchford expressed appreciation to Nvidia for their large libraries of tools that help his development team code faster and with more features reaching more gamers than they could without the help.
There was a parade of developers and the press got to see some highlights of upcoming games including gameplay from the upcoming Splinter Cell: Blacklist, and highlights of Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag.
One of the developers was from Taiwan and he needed a translator. He was was quite practical in his short presentation of Age of Wushu and the upcoming Black Gold. By using Nvidia’s PhysX library, his company was able to sell far more realistic clothes (US$ 323,000) as part of the free 2 play supporting his game that could not be sold otherwise.
Warframe, PlanetSide 2 and Hawken all were represented and all of them gave their thanks to Nvidia for helping them make their games more fully featured. And all of these games were launched on the PC first.
The Unreal 4 engine was highlighted and the press was treated to more of the Infiltrator demo. This is next generation graphics as will it be featured on not only for the PS4 and for the Xbox One but on the PC also. And it runs fine on a GTX 680. It appears that the PC will continue to lead in the visuals.
The Q&A session was relatively short. And so ended day one at E3 2013. Next up is a discussion of the XBox One by Mario Vasquez.