New Developer Tools from Intel® Announced at GDC 2013

Lots of great developments for game developers at the Game Developers Conference, including a wide range of brand new developer tools unveiled from Intel. This week at GDC, Intel showcased two new DirectX extensions that will give developers access to the fourth generation core code-named Haswell’s inner workings, work with HandBrake, a new version of the Perceptual Computing SDK, and a couple of new contests for developers. 

Two new extensions

PixelSync is aimed at helping developers create more realistic smoke, windows, hair, foliage, and anything else that might include complicated coding. Basically, it does this by putting together pixels that are partially transparent, which doesn’t overburden the processor with sorting:

“(PixelSync) provides access to underlying hardware that allows programmers to properly composite partially transparent pixels without the need for an expensive sorting operation. Game developers have long awaited this capability in order to more realistically render smoke, hair, windows, foliage, fences and other complex geometry and natural phenomena”. – Intel Press

Creative Assembly has been working with Intel on this new extension and integrated it in their upcoming game, Total War: Rome II:

“We’ve shifted our focus toward ensuring that the game looks great whether you’re running it on a slim and sexy Ultrabook or a monster desktop,” says Mike Simpson, creative director at Creative Assembly. “The new rendering extensions [Intel] provides have been an enormous help in making that dream a reality.”

The second extension is called Instant Access. This allows the CPU or GPU to write and read directly to and from system memory, which enables the GPU to act more like a separate video card.

Here’s a great description from Ubergizmo of the problem(s) that Intel is solving with these plugins:

“When dealing with hardware-accelerated computer graphics, transparency has always been problematic because you basically need to draw things in a certain order to make sure that the transparency computations are performed properly. The most common way to solve this is to sort polygons, so that you draw them starting with those that are the farthest away from the viewer, this is called “back-to-front” rendering. As transparent pixel overlap others, we can use their transparency level to blend colors that are directly “behind”.

While the principle doesn’t sound so bad, the reality is that there are a lot of corner cases when polygon intersect or overlap. This also requires a lot of additional work for the application (or for game artists!), as it may force developers to break down objects in smaller pieces, which adds overhead in the API (DirectX or OpenGL) and the hardware.”

More information about both these extensions can be found at the Intel Developer Zone: Visual Computing Source.


Intel also announced they are working with open source video transcribing program HandBrake in order to make hardware work more optimally with Haswell. Handbrake team member Tim Walker says that using Quick Sync Video technology, which debuted with the third-generation Core family, has yielded initial results that “show promise in terms of performance and significantly reduced CPU usage during the decode/encode process, especially for mobile and low-power CPU parts.”

Perceptual Computing SDK

Perceptual computing is all about natural human interactions with machines in addition to those tried and true control mechanisms: facial recognition, voice commands, gesture swiping, etc.  Responsive computing that is individually tailored to an individual’s unique needs is really what perceptual computing is all about. There’s a lot going on in this space right now, including this week’s release of the Intel Perceptual Computing Software Development Kit (SDK) 2013. Previously, developers could not use this SDK when developing commercial applications; however, with this new release, that option is now available. When used along with the Creative* Interactive Gesture Camera, this SDK enables developers to fully integrate innovative facial and voice recognition, gesture controls, and alternative reality features into next generation Ultrabooks and PCs.  It is absolutely free and can be found at


Who doesn’t love a good contest? To support further innovation in the fields of gaming and perceptual computing, Intel announced the 2013 version of the Intel Level Up Contest, specifically for game developers, and launched the second phase of the million-dollar Intel Perceptual Computing Challenge, with an added announcement of the Grand Prize Winners for Phase 1. You can learn more about the Perceptual Computing Challenge here, and check out the winners from Phase One at the Intel Perceptual Computing Showcase.

Great week for developers!

To find out more about any of the new developments that Intel announced this week, check out the Intel Newsroom.


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