Advanced Micro Devices wants to bring console-quality gaming to Linux users by porting its Mantle gaming tools to the OS.
Mantle is a set of software development tools to make video games performance smoother and more realistic. It was introduced by AMD last year as the company's answer to Microsoft's DirectX. However, Mantle currently works only with x86 processors, the Windows OS and the company's graphics cards.
Around 50 games have been developed or will be released soon using Mantle tools, with more in the works. Beyond Windows, AMD sees a vast opportunity to "reveal the goodness of gaming" in Linux, said Richard Huddy, gaming scientist at AMD.
The company has received requests from developers to port Mantle to Linux, Huddy said. AMD over time will dedicate resources to the task, Huddy said. AMD hasn't provided a time frame for when Mantle-based games for Linux will become available
Mantle could also come to Steam boxes, which are gaming consoles with PC hardware and Linux-based SteamOS. The highly anticipated Steam boxes were conceptualized by Valve, one of the world's largest game sellers.
"It could provide some advantages on Steam boxes," Huddy said. "We are getting requests to deliver this high-performance layer."
With the help of Mantle, games on Steam consoles could take full advantage of hardware features on graphics cards. Windows currently offers a better gaming experience than Linux, but Steam could change that.
AMD will work to create a Mantle driver and expose the API (application programming interface) for Steam and Linux game developers. Steam consoles will compete with Xbox and PlayStation gaming consoles. The first Steam consoles are expected to ship later this year or early next year.
If AMD brings Mantle support to Linux, the company will be able to sell more of its graphics chips into Linux PCs and Steam boxes.
Mantle is already bringing big performance gains to games like Battlefield 4 and Thief, and the graphics will get even better over time, Huddy said.
The open-source and Linux community have historically not been kind to AMD and rival Nvidia, particularly criticizing slow progress by the companies to bring graphics cards drivers to Linux. Linus Torvalds famously showed the middle finger to Nvidia in 2012, saying it was the "single worst company we've ever dealt with."
Huddy said that Mantle is an open-source API. But the Mantle tools have largely been shared with game makers, and the company has not said when they will be opened up to the wider development community.
Most games today are being written for Windows using DirectX 11, and the games are then ported to OpenGL for Linux and other operating systems. The port from DirectX 11 to OpenGL takes about four-to-six weeks, and it'll take about that long to port games to Mantle, Huddy said.
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