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Thread: Hardware Expectations For Valve's Steam Box

  1. #51
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    It is really hard to decide which hardware should be used for a Linux based console. Basically the Nvidia runs everything rule is already broken by Killing Floor. I tried to report the bug to icculus and via the tripwire contact form but nobody contacted me. I compared fglrx vs. nvidia (and after i packaged mesa 9.1 intel as well). That game checks for nvidia vendor and enables some stupid hack that show rendering errors with OpenGL on Win too - they only work in Direct3D mode. If you use apitrace and record the opengl commands then you can playback a recorded session with fglrx cards flawlessly with nvidia driver - when you try it the other way then you see the rendering errors with fglrx as well.

    Basically nvidia 310+ drivers have been tuned a bit for the new steam games. Mainly tested with source engine games like TF2 and Serious Sam 3. Nvidia 304 drivers are much slower especially when you don't force performance mode (cpufreq). fglrx still has got more issues with that - especially with slower cpus (or just say: amd cpus in ondemand mode). Valve could use a wrapper that changes cpu to performance mode when a game is started, maybe in general or just for more demanding games.

    So when you look at the next option it would be intel only. Haswell might faster than HD 4000 (could not test that) but Intel driver in general is really bad supported by Serious Sam 3. With a hack and gfx to lowest it runs but it looks extremely ugly.

    Killing Floor on Intel is not really fast but you could play it. TF2 was ok, similar to cheaper nvidia gpus.

    So what did i do? I exchanged my gfx cards depending on the game i wanted to play... That can not be the solution for a console. It does not really matter which gfx solution will be used for valve's own source games (fglrx is right now only problematic with AA enabled, but i hope amd can sort this out) but for 3rd party games it looks different.

    If you really combine a i5 cpu with nvidia dedicated chip then you can not call the result a console, thats just a normal gamer pc. A modified PS4 gpu without sony extra commands maybe with fewer cores but higher clockspeed might be an interesting option but it depends on amd at what speed such a chip could run (and what cooling is needed). Currently amd has interesting gfx options, but intel has the better production process. So maybe let intel produce the new amd apus that they could run at higher clockspeeds. You have to see that when sony wants an 8 core system (basically 8 integer and 4 float cores) the clockspeed will be just adjusted so that the power use does not raise over a certain level. But that resulting speed is most likely too slow for current Linux ports. The Win counterparts run much better, some because of more optimizations in the engines like the Unreal 2.5+ based Killing Floor game or Serious Sam 3, the other problematic thing is the default Linux sheduler. It switches so often tasks when another core is unused but downclocked that it can not scale up fast enough. Games like SS3 suffered from that and they tried to bind the main logic to always the same core. The speed is still not optimal for other games.

    It dont see a Steambox winning against PS4 even if would be similar priced (unlikely as PS4 will be sold much more often). It is somehow always a matter of time, but right now the time is not working for Valve because PS4 will hit the stores for xmas. I don't think that ppl will buy a 2nd console thats just a pc in a different (smaller) case to play less optimized games. In case it would really be intel cpu + nvidia gpu combined it would be VERY expensive, intel only would too slow for some games (even with haswell), default amd apus you can completely forget, that ps4 thing maybe. When you need to combine a cpu with ddr3 and a 2nd chip with gddr5 it will be more expensive as well, maybe a tiny bit cheaper than intel but it will use more power.

    What should happen is that important 3rd party game devs get help from amd/nvidia/intel to really optimize the opengl codepath. That this can work you can see with the source engine - nothing is more frustrating than a game that runs too slow on Linux and on Win it runs great on the same hardware. Not every game is so demanding but some really need more speed. I don't see the problem only in the driver quality - when you compare SS3 Direct3D vs OpenGL then OpenGL is just slower - no matter if the OS is Linux or Win or if you use Fglrx or Nvidia or Intel gpu.

  2. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kano View Post
    So maybe let intel produce the new amd apus that they could run at higher clockspeeds.

    The Win counterparts run much better, some because of more optimizations in the engines like the Unreal 2.5+ based Killing Floor game or Serious Sam 3, the other problematic thing is the default Linux sheduler.
    But then they would no longer be AMD APUs, now would they. AMD and Intel are trying to be in as much separate niches as they can get.

    And argh, it's Modified Unreal Engine 2.5 (UE2.5). You don't call GPLv3 "GNU Public 3", now do you? :P

  3. #53
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    Well call it whatever you like, the Killing Floor game engine has nvidia checks which should not be there. Let em know in a way they get the message, i tried but nothing changed.

    Btw. it is not logical that opengl is slower than direct3d when the same hardware features are used. Its really time to profile the games to find the bottlenecks. Maybe some updated design guidelines would help.

  4. #54
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    Finally some news that clears things out: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/20...rts-at-USD1000

  5. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by Licaon View Post
    Finally some news that clears things out: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/20...rts-at-USD1000
    Not everything is cleared out. No any useful info about GPU, we even don't know it's discreted or integrated.

    Only thing that may excite someone: NVIDIA lost ALL the market on the next-gen console.

  6. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by zxy_thf View Post
    Not everything is cleared out. No any useful info about GPU, we even don't know it's discreted or integrated.

    Only thing that may excite someone: NVIDIA lost ALL the market on the next-gen console.
    wtf? did you even bother to read it?
    UPDATE: Valve has distanced itself from the Xi3 Piston, dubbed an unofficial Steam Box. It had been believed that Valve had backed the grapefruit-sized computer ahead of the release of its own Steam Box, but this appears to be false. Valve's Doug Lombardi told Eurogamer that Valve had some dealings with Xi3 Corporation, the company behind the Piston, but not any more. "Valve began some exploratory work with Xi3 last year, but currently has no involvement in any product of theirs," he said. Eurogamer contacted Xi3 yesterday after it was revealed the Piston would cost - at a minimum - $1000, and launch this Christmas. A UK price or delivery details are still to be announced.
    And I think Valve is smart enough to know that no one in the right mind would get a $1000 console, and maybe that nVidia is the way to go ATM.

  7. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by Licaon View Post
    wtf? did you even bother to read it?

    And I think Valve is smart enough to know that no one in the right mind would get a $1000 console, and maybe that nVidia is the way to go ATM.
    Oh, I missed the ORIGINAL STORY in that text and thought it was the latest news

  8. #58
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    Getting clear, clearer, cleared, by the day: http://kotaku.com/5990254/piston-mak...ally-for-valve

  9. #59
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    From a Linux driver perspective, there really is no other compelling choice for a Linux gamer.
    Pardon? Correct me if wrong but is not one of the Steam Boxes using AMD Radeon? And is not the PS4 using linux?

    A high-performance discrete GPU isn't needed for video playback and very lax games, but Intel HD 4000 "Ivy Bridge" graphics or Haswell would be more than enough for those lighter-weight workloads. Intel graphics support on Linux is good, but their integrated graphics can't compete with high-end NVIDIA/AMD GPUs.
    HD 4000 can't compete with low discrete GPUs neither with AMD integrated graphics (APUs).

    NVIDIA may also be trying hard to get its chips in the Steam Box given Sony going with Radeon graphics and Microsoft's Xbox "Durango" also having been rumored to rely upon Radeon graphics.
    Why? After losing the contract with PS4, Nvidia said us that they were not interested in consoles. We know that they could not provide the hardware to Sony, because Nvidia lacks the technology, but even if we accept Nvidia excuse, with what face would they be proud of powering a console now after saying they are not interested in consoles?

    I would expect the CPU to be at least a quad-core with the possibility of Hyper Threading.
    Please don't give us virtual cores, give us real cores.

    Memory: The PlayStation 4 has 8GB of system memory and the next-generation Xbox also looks that way too, in which case I would expect Valve to match that or at least provide 4GB. I haven't hit any memory pressure issues with the Valve's games on Linux.
    4 Gb is too little and 8 GB is as well. The PS4/Xbox have 8 GB of unified memory. E.g. the PS4 is based in an advanced APU HSA hUMA design by AMD. This implies, among other things, you don't need a copy of VRAM data on RAM. As consequence, the 8 GB of the PS4 don't translate to 8 GB on PCs locked to the traditional architecture CPU + dGPU. Epic is selecting an Intel i7 with 16 GB RAM plus 2 GB VRAM (Nvidia GPU) in their comparisons PC-PS4. I don't know exactly why they selected 16 GB of RAM, but their unreal engine uses 8:1 and 4:1 texture compressions which implies

    2 GB VRAM x 4 = 8 GB RAM
    2 GB VRAM x 8 = 16 GB RAM

    If they are storing textures uncompressed in RAM, about 12 GB could be textures, plus the game engine, plus Windows, account for the 16 GB. In any case looking to the Epic specs for PC, 16 GB RAM looks more reasonable for Valve if they finally go towards a more inefficient Intel CPU + Nvidia GPU conf. and still pretend to outperform consoles.

    Note that the PS4 has unified GDDR5 memory, which means developers can use 4-5 GB as VRAM. What Nvidia card could provide such memory capacities. Most of the their cards would be out. Only a pair high-end models would pass the cut. Do you really believe that all the Steam Box will be incorporating a $1000 noisy and power hungry GTX Titan?

    Disk: I wait a real disk here. A SSD is not really needed for gaming and would increase the cost of the console.

  10. #60
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kano View Post
    So when you look at the next option it would be intel only. Haswell might faster than HD 4000 (could not test that) but Intel driver in general is really bad supported by Serious Sam 3.
    Haswell igpu performance gains are minimal for the desktop chips and still far behind AMD trinity. Only big gains are promised for the mobile Haswell chips, but they are targeting mobile graphics cards, which would match to low end desktop cards.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kano View Post
    If you really combine a i5 cpu with nvidia dedicated chip then you can not call the result a console, thats just a normal gamer pc.
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kano View Post
    Currently amd has interesting gfx options, but intel has the better production process. So maybe let intel produce the new amd apus that they could run at higher clockspeeds.
    Intel lies about the nanometer. Their 22nm process are what everyone else calls 28nm. Their production process has quality issues as well. E.g. the IHS issue with the Ivy Bridge chips. AMD has solid production process. That is why it is AMD who owns the worldwide record of overclocking. Intel chips cannot achieve record clockspeeds.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kano View Post
    the other problematic thing is the default Linux sheduler. It switches so often tasks when another core is unused but downclocked that it can not scale up fast enough. Games like SS3 suffered from that and they tried to bind the main logic to always the same core. The speed is still not optimal for other games.
    Interesting reading. I only knew scheduler issues on W7.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kano View Post
    It dont see a Steambox winning against PS4 even if would be similar priced (unlikely as PS4 will be sold much more often). It is somehow always a matter of time, but right now the time is not working for Valve because PS4 will hit the stores for xmas. I don't think that ppl will buy a 2nd console thats just a pc in a different (smaller) case to play less optimized games. In case it would really be intel cpu + nvidia gpu combined it would be VERY expensive, intel only would too slow for some games (even with haswell), default amd apus you can completely forget, that ps4 thing maybe. When you need to combine a cpu with ddr3 and a 2nd chip with gddr5 it will be more expensive as well, maybe a tiny bit cheaper than intel but it will use more power.
    Neither I see.

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