Few job titles are likely to draw as much envy as Gaming Scientist, a role recently filled at AMD by Richard Huddy.
He's served stints at 3D Labs, Nvidia and ATI, but outsiders may not know this is actually Huddy's second round at the company. He first joined after AMD bought ATI in 2006 but left to "dabble" in online poker in 2011. It was a short-lived sojourn, thanks in no small part to the US' refusal to legalize it.
AMD wasn't able to open the doors to Huddy then, so it was on to Intel for a few years. However, as of June 1, 2014, Huddy is back in AMD's arms.
Huddy brings decades of experience and a palpable passion for graphics to AMD's increasingly gaming-centered table, but his most intriguing asset - a willingness to shoot from the hip about things that, frankly, seem to piss him off - could be his most valuable contribution.
He's rejoining AMD at a time when the company is embroiled with rival Nvidia over the latter's GameWorks platform. GameWorks is a set of Nvidia-developed tools aimed at helping game makers enhance their titles' graphics. AMD claims the tools deliberately handicap its products, making Nvidia's look superior by comparison. Nvidia has staunchly denied AMD's accusations.
TechRadar asked Nvidia for comment on the situation, but haven't heard back. We'll update this story if and when we do, but until then read on for more on Huddy's role and what he has to say about GameWorks.
TechRadar: Let's get this one out of the way. What does being AMD's Gaming Scientist entail?
Richard Huddy: I sit in the office of the CTO, reporting to Raja Koduri. It's my job to go out to ISVs, to the games developers, because my focus is on 3D. My first focus is on discrete graphics, the high-end graphics solutions. I talk to those game developers in that area; Crytek, DICE, Epic, all the people who produce quality graphics engines on PC, and bring in information on what it is they want and how they're trying to change their rendering engines.
I bring in an understanding of what's needed to solve the set of problems they're confronted with at that point, and then in the office of the CTO, I get a seat at the table when we are designing our GPUs, when we're making prioritization decisions, how much we spend on certain features and whether they're in or out. Because of the formalization of the process, it means that AMD guarantees that in our GPU designs, gaming is front and center.
That's emphatically the message from the company as a whole. Gaming is absolutely fundamental, and it's not going to go away from us. The visual experience, the stuff that we have that's almost magical in its ability to represent 3D worlds so quickly and at such a high quality, that's a big deal for AMD.
You're going to see me out there a lot as well. Although my primary role is going to be this communication with ISVs and discussion inside the office of the CTO, there is no doubt that I quite like getting out there and talking to people like yourself. AMD needs to get the message out there.
TR: What do you think AMD can stand to improve? Is there a product or area you want to address in your new role?
RH: There are a couple of things going on in the business that give us opportunities there. I'm not sure if you've written about Mantle [editor's note: I have]. There are some really surprising numbers in there. We at AMD are the authors of Mantle. It doesn't belong to anyone else. There isn't anybody else's IP involved though we will make it an open standard. And yet we have 47 registered developers, seven of whom are public and 40 are through a private, email beta. Forty-seven is a very big number in the PC market place.
Bear in mind that's the preponderance of people who care about graphics deeply. There are some for whom graphics is a side issue; it's just a way of showing the game. And there are others for whom graphics are the differentiating feature. The vast bulk of those are involved with working with Mantle.
We couldn't get 47 people to sign-up for it if it wasn't a solution to a problem that they care about. We could maybe pay 5-10 people to join in, but that's a very different kind of situation than the one we've got.
And then there's a really surprising number; with DX 11, from it's arrival which I think was in October or November 2009, if you take it to its first birthday, there were nine games which used DX 11 in that year, and that includes folks who patched their previous games and so on. They get nine titles in that year. We've already got nine declared titles that will come in 2014 and I suspect that it will be more like 12.
I think it's inherently surprising that AMD can put together a collection of developers that's actually as big, or in this case marginally bigger than what Microsoft achieved in their first year. I think it's a testament to the fact that we really are solving a problem that games developers want.