In addition to the GTX 980 Ti that Nvidia just announced, the company also debuted GameWorks VR, an effort to streamline the development process for virtual reality games by offering developer tools to assist in the rendering process. One of the biggest features of GameWorks VR is multi-res shading, a new technique that can offer dramatically better performance without a noticeable loss in image quality.
By the sound of it — keep in mind that I’m an uneducated layman here — the way multi-res shading works is that it intelligently scales down the resolution on the fringes of the screen; this means you get a lower-quality image in areas where you aren’t really looking anyway because your graphics card is pushing fewer pixels. It’s a pretty brilliant rendering technique in theory, and it’s the kind of thing that could pair really well with eye tracking.
But there’s more to GameWorks VR than that, and it seems like the primary goal is reduce latency and reduce the strain on a graphics card to render two extremely high-resolution images at the same time — specifically for virtual reality games. Here’s the full rundown:
- NVIDIA Multi-Res Shading (MRS) — An innovative new rendering technique for VR. With NVIDIA MRS, each part of an image is rendered at a resolution that better matches the pixel density of the final displayed VR image. This technology uses the multi-projection architecture of the GeForce GTX 980 Ti GPU to render multiple viewports in a single pass. The result: substantial performance improvements for VR games.
- VR SLI — Provides increased performance for VR apps. Multiple GPUs can be assigned a specific eye to dramatically accelerate stereo rendering. With the GPU affinity application programming interface, VR SLI allows scaling for PCs with two or more GPUs.
- Context Priority — Enables control over GPU scheduling to support advanced VR features such as asynchronous time warp. This cuts latency and quickly adjusts images as gamers move their heads, without the need to re-render a new frame.
- Direct Mode — Delivers plug-and-play compatibility for VR headsets. With Direct Mode, the NVIDIA graphics driver recognizes the headset as a VR display rather than a standard desktop monitor, providing a more seamless user experience.
- Front Buffer Rendering — Lets the GPU to render directly to the front buffer to reduce latency.
It’s a fantastic effort by Nvidia, but it’s not hard to imagine that GameWorks VR could become a monopoly that offers reduced performance on cards by, say, AMD. Maybe AMD will put out its own library of tools for developers, but let’s hope things will end up being as easy as possible for developers to implement and work across the board. Overall, this is a good move.