Why will the integrated GPU become important in games?

One of the upcoming advancements that will significantly enhance gaming performance is the concept of preframing, particularly by harnessing the power of integrated graphics in gaming computers. This concept is poised to revolutionize how we build gaming rigs and will gradually render processor-only configurations obsolete.

In today’s landscape, the majority of processors are heterogeneous chips that not only feature multiple CPU cores but also include an integrated graphics chip, known as an iGPU. Traditionally, we have regarded this component as something limited to handling basic tasks like rendering the Windows desktop, with the primary graphics card taking over for more demanding game graphics processing. However, this approach represents a significant underutilization of available resources.

integrated graphics card

Preframing technology aims to optimize performance by maximizing the potential of integrated graphics. Instead of relegating the iGPU to a secondary role, it actively contributes to game rendering, working in tandem with the main graphics card. By distributing the workload more efficiently, preframing minimizes wastage of valuable resources and enhances overall gaming performance.

As this technology continues to evolve, we can expect to witness a shift in computer configurations, with a diminishing reliance on processor-only setups. The integrated graphics component will become increasingly pivotal, enabling gamers to extract more power and efficiency from their systems.

Why will the integrated GPU become important in games?

The primary purpose of a graphics card is to generate images, but in recent times, they have found applications beyond the PC gaming market. However, we don’t rely on our Radeon or GeForce cards to assist in protein synthesis or military simulations. Instead, the surplus GPU power resulting from idle periods is often utilized to address specific challenges in gaming, such as collision detection or game physics calculations.

Intel AMD iGPU

While some games effectively leverage the graphics card for these tasks, many others underutilize its capabilities, relying predominantly on the additional CPU cores to handle the workload. This leads to a missed opportunity to harness the versatility of modern GPUs. The disparity arises from the fact that NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards have distinct programming architectures, whereas Intel and AMD processors can utilize the same code.

As a consequence, the flexible and powerful features of contemporary GPUs remain untapped in certain gaming scenarios, limiting their potential to contribute significantly to performance optimization. Exploring ways to optimize GPU utilization across various game titles and improving integration between graphics cards and CPUs could unlock enhanced gaming experiences and unleash the full potential of these powerful components.

The concept of the preframe

One of the crucial calculations in games is determining visibility, which involves identifying the objects that are visible in each frame. Traditionally, this task is performed by the main GPU during frame generation. However, a concept called pre-rendering has emerged, aiming to optimize this process by generating the image with minimal complexity based on knowledge of the visible objects in the next frame.

Cover Rate Frames

Implementing pre-rendering is relatively straightforward because the driver only needs to execute the next frame in a simplified manner to gather the necessary information. Subsequently, the graphics card renders the final frame accordingly. Think of it as a draftsman creating a rough sketch with few details before producing the final drawing.

By employing pre-rendering techniques, developers can optimize game performance by reducing the computational burden on the GPU and streamlining the rendering process. This approach enhances efficiency and enables smoother gameplay, as the graphics card can focus its resources on rendering the visible objects while disregarding the non-visible ones.

What is its utility?

Here are several benefits of pre-rendering:

1. Discarding Superfluous Geometry: Pre-rendering enables the elimination of unnecessary geometry from the display list. This includes objects that are out of the camera’s view, located behind larger objects, or positioned too far away where details would not be discernible. By discarding such geometry, resources can be allocated more efficiently.

2. Creation of a Data Structure: Pre-rendering facilitates the creation of a tree data structure that provides information about the location of each object. This data structure is particularly crucial for Ray Tracing, a rendering technique that simulates the path of light rays to achieve realistic lighting effects.

3. Geometry Ordering: Pre-rendering allows for the ordering of geometry based on its position on the screen. This spatial organization simplifies rendering by tiles, enabling efficient memory management. By rendering objects in a specific order, the impact on video memory can be minimized.

By leveraging these pre-rendering techniques, developers can optimize performance and resource utilization in games. The process of discarding unnecessary geometry, utilizing data structures, and ordering geometry contributes to more efficient rendering and improved overall gameplay experience.

How is the preframe built?

The concept of pre-rendering involves creating the next frame with minimal information that will not be visible on the screen. To speed up the construction of the preframe, certain parts of the 3D pipeline are omitted.

During pre-rendering:
– No graphic shaders are applied at any stage.
– Textures and color information are not applied.
– No post-processing effects are added.

The objective is to generate the preframe within a few milliseconds, providing the necessary information to the GPU for generating the final frame. The key purpose is to determine the visibility and positioning of geometry in the scene, which is crucial for frame generation. This mechanism involves a clever workaround.

By removing the stages after the rasterization stage, where the most data processing occurs and requires significant power, the execution of the preframe can be offloaded to simpler graphics hardware. This includes integrated graphics found in processors, which need to be active to be utilized effectively.

The complications involved in its implementation

While the concept of preframe has its merits, its implementation is limited to situations where the architecture of both the integrated GPU and the dedicated graphics card are the same or compatible. This presents a challenge for NVIDIA, as it is the only one among the three brands that lacks an x86 CPU architecture. Consequently, AMD appears to be in a favorable position to leverage this situation to promote the use of its Ryzen processors alongside Radeon graphics cards in the future.

Furthermore, the idea of preframe is particularly beneficial for GPUs with a large number of cores. However, with the rising costs associated with chip manufacturing, any external assistance is welcomed, even if it means utilizing integrated graphics in processors. It is essential to find ways to mitigate expenses, as continuous price increases are not sustainable, and there will eventually be a point where the market will demand a limit to rising costs.