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> Interesting statement from Phil Taylor @ ACES
Mango
Posted: Nov 2 2006, 11:33 PM
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Hi, Let me introduce myself. I am Phil Taylor and I am Senior PM for Graphics and Terrain in Aces Studio. I joined Aces during the end-game of FSX and am now involved in all the studio projects moving forward.

I am seeing a lot of threads and a lot of thrashing on this forum, and I thought I would try to address some of the discussions and draw a line in the sand. One big topic of discussion is performance (FPS) and DX10.

DX10 by itself isn’t a magic bullet for the real performance issues that become evident as you move the sliders to the right. It was a conscious design decision of the studio to load the sliders so that, on day one, no one can run the sim at full slider levels. We did that so the sim will still have life in it three years from now. For better or worse, that is our design center. It is what it is. It will be that way in FS11, and it was that way in FS9 - so this conscious design decision should not come as a surprise.

As to why we didn’t hold the product back and polish more: given that the product had already been delayed by the Vista wave delay, we decided to not delay the product any longer. Given the positive threads I see, and other sites where the rampant negativity isn’t as high, I believe there is a lot of fun to be had with the current bits if you approach them with the right set of expectations. If your set of expectations is, “I want everything and I want it now,” we may not be the right product for you. If that set of expectations is to grow over time with the product and see it blossom, we are definitely the right product for you.

With that said, in retrospect there are a couple things we see that are real issues, and I will say more about that towards the end. Behind the speculation, though, is a real desire for knowledge, which I always respect. The discussion amounts to a “mash-up” of three things:
a) performance with the existing bits and existing hardware,
cool.gif how do new hardware bits help given the state of the FSX RTM bits, and
c) what is the target architecture of the future (where are FSX and the hardware roadmap going?)

If you are still reading, I have some things to say about the current product, the issues, and where I see things headed. As I see it, there are several issues combined here:

1) There are the theoretical benefits of DX10.

2) There are the actual benefits of the DX10 stack as measured by multiple hardware vendors’ products.

3) What can be done with current hardware?

4) What about the future hardware roadmap, the FSX application architecture, and how they will combine to make life better.

5) And then there is the Aces DX10 Update Plan.

1) Theoretical benefits:

These links contain content to help explain what the DX10 feature set is and its benefits:

http://www.gamedev.net/reference/programmi.../d3d10overview/
http://msdn.microsoft.com/directx/presentations/

We are now dependant on IHV implementation skills to see the promise of these API details realized with a hardware implementation.

2) Actual benefits

With respect to DX10, the API and its design show promise of reducing some of the bottlenecks in the runtime and the driver. And new interesting features are available. How these affect FSX is just speculation at this time by any outside the Aces studio.

The software stack for D3D10 is really three parts:
1) the runtime behind the interfaces the game developers use,
2) the DDI ( Device Driver Interface ) the runtime uses to communicate with the driver, and
3) the driver and how it communicates with the actual hardware.

Many of the DX10 design points address performance in areas 1 and 2. A new driver architecture was also created to help performance in area 3. Its all really moot without great hardware underneath the software stack. Historically the D3D hardware partners have delivered great hardware, but with each new generation of hardware some learning is involved before developers can make best use of it. This is similar to game consoles in that the 2nd generation of games for console X are better than the 1st generation.

It is unclear what core and memory clock pre-production boards run at versus final clock rates of production boards; or if if all hw pipes are enabled. From that its hard to guesstimate what the real performance multiplier is from pre-production to production. So it is very hard to categorize what can and cannot be done in production mode today.

Until we get fully clocked production hardware from both vendors, we won’t be able to examine all the features of the API in a production environment and say with authority which are winners and which are a push on first-gen DX10 hardware. That’s key to how our DX10 investigation gets turned into a booked feature plan to make the “magic screenies” come to life.

Note: there are threads out there talking about Vista overhead causing a net reduction in frame rates. The same thing was said about XP vs Win98. Vista offers real benefits as XP did back then. Benefits are not free, they cost something. Over time the “Vista effect” on FPS will be diminished. And the benefits in day-to-day running of the OS will amortize themselves, where they are harder to see on day one. So while there is some truth in these threads in relative terms, in absolute terms I don’t see the issue as critical to this discussion.

3) Current hardware and how to get the most from it

There are several parts to the performance cost equation outside of the GPU.

CPU, FSB speed, FSB ( Northbridge ) chipset, Memory Type, and Memory Perf are all valid parts of the cost equation on the CPU side.

An excellent “comparo” of the AMD and Intel architectures is available in this article:
http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=2748
It includes a good discussion of the new Intel memory controller, which provides the new Intel CPUs with a good bit of their punch.

And memory OC'ing can give good perf wins. This article
http://www.corsairmemory.com/corsair/produ...Performance.pdf

states a 5-8% system performance benefit from just changing BIOS settings for memory latency values, so there is quite a bit one can do to get better CPU side performance by smart choices among motherboards/FSB speed/Northbridge chipset/memory chips. Given that FSX is CPU-bound, and given that FSX touches a lot of memory on the CPU, enhancing memory bandwidth on the CPU is good. And that is with todays hardware, no mention of multicore.

Then there is the GPU, both DX9 and DX10.

DX9 GPUs are not all created equal. >256M cards will show some advantage. As will top of the line cards. Mid-range cards typically have less pipes ( can render fewer pixels in parallel ), have less memory ( cant handle the texture load ), have slower clock speeds ( are not fully powered ) all to hit a price point. Low end cards are even worse. And lets not even talk Integrated/Mobile. I worked at ATI, I know how the roadmaps and the product waterfall from hi-mid-low and thence to integrated/mobile works. You get what you pay for.

As far as DX10 cards - we need to understand how the DX10 GPU hardware delivers on the promise of the API. Early tests show that the promise of less call overhead and better low-batch performance can be realized. Running at production rates with actual frame data will prove this, but small tests look promising.

This means there are real benefits to be squeezed from existing hardware with the RTM bits of FSX, independant of DX10 or multicore CPUs. And that DX10 should add to the benefits.

And I haven’t even gotten to the FSX tweaks. Some of these look interesting and worthwile; some just aren’t doing what you think they are doing.

The point is, there are positive actions to be taken with today’s hardware using the FSX RTM bits. The CPU is just one part of the cost equation. And just because we don’t make more use of multicore today doesn’t mean the end of the franchise or the end of your fun using it.

4 ) CPU architecture and moving forward.

Aces made its architectural decisions about FSX 2-3 years ago.

It wasn’t clear to me, and I am sure it wasn’t clear to the rest of Aces and many of our readers in 2003 and 2004, that multicore was the future. Since those sorts of design decisions are baked in early, as it became clear in late 2005 and 2006 that the CPU landscape had changed it was just too late to make the major architectural changes required to make our internal architecture more parallel.

We use fibers and threads, but still have serialization issues to work out. Which is why our second core (and beyond) usage is low, on the order of 20%. And the changes required are not trivial changes, like simply shifting thread affinity. The order of operations required for correct rendering and sim behavior and the linkage between subsystems is what it is, and it means that none of our options include simple fixes.

Once you are on the glide path it is a very risky decision to change the architecture underneath the product. For better or worse, we decided to not do that and ship the product.

With that said, we are listening to the community.

5 ) Aces DX10 Update Plan

We are following two paths:

Path 1

An investigation is under way to understand if we can do something that is:
1) targeted and isn’t a complete rewrite, and
2) gives real customer benefit.

That investigation includes areas of performance. I cannot comment on the full roster of issues under investigation, I can only say that if there are results worth reporting I will be back.

Path 2

Aces is making a commitment to a freely available Web download DX10 update that will enable all FSX RTM purchasers to upgrade to DX10 support on Windows Vista with DX10 hardware.

We are making progress on understanding what DX10 does and doesn’t do, and what we can and cannot count on. When we are done with those investigations we will have a fully booked DX10 plan. And then we can turn those screenies into real rendering and not "artistic impressions".

Conclusion

In the long run, it’s all about fun. I believe everyone can find settings that are a blend of flyable and beautiful. Some of you can do that with existing hardware, some of you need to buy new hardware, some can do it with tweaks, some with all of the above. Regardless of the path you take, if you are having fun, we succeeded with the product.

Please bear with us while these investigations are underway. I understand the desire of some to vent their frustrations. Where the posts are targeted and constructive, we do hear you. This post and our active investigations stand as evidence that we are listening and taking action.

Moving forward, the conspiracy theories and other negativity should really be reconsidered. The Aces team put a lot of love into the product, and work far above and beyond the call to create each and every version of Flight Sim. I am continually amazed by the commitment of the team to the product.

Consider that as you put fingers to the keyboard to slag over something, and consider rewriting your comments to be more constructive. There is always a nice way to say something, and a not-so-nice way. One definitely works better than the other in getting the point across. ‘nuff said.

I do promise to report back in a few weeks, right before or right after Thanksgiving.

Thanks for listening and for your patience,

Phil
Senior PM, Graphics and Terrain, Aces Studio



Thanks Phil ! thumbsupguy.gif
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3ckpilot
Posted: Nov 2 2006, 11:48 PM
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Interesting! I wonder if ACES is going to have that convention in Seattle that was mentioned at the AVSIM convention. If they do have it, I think I may go and see what else they are doing for FSX.
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Chaos81
Posted: Nov 3 2006, 12:08 AM
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QUOTE (Mango @ Nov 2 2006, 10:33 PM)
QUOTE

It was a conscious design decision of the studio to load the sliders so that, on day one, no one can run the sim at full slider levels. We did that so the sim will still have life in it three years from now. For better or worse, that is our design center. It is what it is. It will be that way in FS11, and it was that way in FS9 - so this conscious design decision should not come as a surprise.

Do you think people will finally understand?



Ahh, who am I kidding, of course not, that's just not possible with certain people on this forum. laugh.gif


EDIT: I forgot. THANKS Mango! biggrin.gif As always. thumbsup.gif

This post has been edited by Chaos81 on Nov 3 2006, 12:09 AM
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lindsay
Posted: Nov 3 2006, 12:21 AM
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so with that said how about folks who still have windows xp will there ever be a patch for fsx to increase pereformance

and the other ssue I believe he said with direct x 10 will not be compatibile to windows xp users since I have 9.1 you must have window vista

besides I'not ready to buy another computer or update mine its only 2yrs old every other current game plays on it.
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mickezzz
Posted: Nov 3 2006, 05:24 AM
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Tommorow November 4th and 5th the Microsoft/ACES team will be at the FSweekend in Holland/Netherlands. Maybe are some Dutch people interessted in it. The Microsoft/ACES team will be there to demonstrate FSX.

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Mango
Posted: Nov 3 2006, 05:36 AM
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QUOTE (mickezzz @ Nov 4 2006, 05:24 AM)
The Microsoft/ACES team will be there to demonstrate FSX.

Hope they have their tweaks done... biggrin.gif
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BOPrey
  Posted: Nov 3 2006, 09:08 AM
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What bugs me is that Phil actually said that ACES is still in the process of understanding DX10. Duh, didn't MS designed DX10 and all those previous DXs. no.gif
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Lateral-G
Posted: Nov 3 2006, 09:30 AM
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It's very strange to adopt a business model where your product cannot be fully optimized with today's hardware. That's sort of like buying a car with the promise that you'll get more horse power or better gas mileage or more luxury items several months AFTER you drive it off the lot AND you pay for those upgrades. But hey, you'll have FUN upgrading your car. dry.gif

Can you imagine if they did this sort of decision with an XBOX game or console? Sales would tank and the designers would be out looking for new employment. When IL-2 first came out it ran as advertised with the settings on full (yes you had to have a high end machine but the hardware to run it was available and the choice to upgrade was an option). With FSX we're pretty much forced to upgrade our hardware if we want to play the game with any sort of comparable level to current FS9 levels.

While Phil has some good information on the why and how behind FSX development and marketing strategy the bottom line is they rushed the product to the marketplace to get their profit right away and are basically leaving it up to the consumer to go the remainder of the distance.

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sarge
Posted: Nov 3 2006, 09:42 AM
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QUOTE (lindsay @ Nov 3 2006, 01:21 AM)
so with that said how about folks who still have windows xp will there ever be a patch for fsx to increase pereformance
From what I read in Phil's post, no. Any patches will be to correct "bugs" or move FSX forward towards more compatibility with Vista and the D3D10 architecture. We're going to have to realize that MS is moving deeper into the 21st century; they can't do that if they're back-peddling.

QUOTE (lindsay @ Nov 3 2006, 01:21 AM)
and the other ssue I believe he said with direct x 10 will not be compatibile to windows xp users since I have 9.1 you must have window vista
Again, from Phil's post, no. FSX will still run with DX9 and WinXP, but not as effectively or efficiently as it will with DX10 and Vista.

Analogy: when the auto industry switched over to engines that require unleaded gasoline, you could still run you car on leaded gasoline; the downside was that you didn't get the gas milage you would have gotten from unleaded gas and the wear/tear on the engine was greater than if you were burning unleaded.

Same with FSX -- it will run on DX9/WinXP, but it's geared for DX10/Vista.
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kattana
Posted: Nov 3 2006, 09:42 AM
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QUOTE (BOPrey @ Nov 3 2006, 09:08 PM)
What bugs me is that Phil actually said that ACES is still in the process of understanding DX10. Duh, didn't MS designed DX10 and all those previous DXs. no.gif

simple. so far all they really had to go on was theory about how it would work.

while im sure they have had dx10 hardware for a bit, but im sure it hasnt really been that long. now that they have it and some beta drivers they can bring the theory of DX10 into reality and see just how well it works in the real world.

also remember, that DX10 is vista only..and that there really hasnt been a "final" build of it until pretty recently.

so its really only been say the last month or so that they have had the hardware/OS/drivers of DX10 to see how it REALLY works.

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sarge
Posted: Nov 3 2006, 09:51 AM
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QUOTE (jbrundt @ Nov 3 2006, 10:30 PM)
It's very strange to adopt a business model where your product cannot be fully optimized with today's hardware. That's sort of like buying a car with the promise that you'll get more horse power or better gas mileage or more luxury items several months AFTER you drive it off the lot AND you pay for those upgrades. But hey, you'll have FUN upgrading your car.  dry.gif
We asked for it. The flight sim community pushed and pushed -- just look at how antsy we became when it was announced that Vista rollout was going to be delayed, wondering if the new FS was also going to be delayed. Well, MS released it ahead of the OS and hardware for which it is optomized.

Like I said before: be careful what you ask for; you might get it. We wanted the next generation of FS NOW and MS gave it to us. Stop and think for a minute: what kind of uproar would there have been if, in announcing the Vista delay, MS had also said that FSX would be delayed until after Vista was released? I would venture that the more vociferous in the flight sim community would have been screaming for Microsoft's scalp!
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kattana
Posted: Nov 3 2006, 09:57 AM
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QUOTE (jbrundt @ Nov 3 2006, 09:30 PM)
It's very strange to adopt a business model where your product cannot be fully optimized with today's hardware. That's sort of like buying a car with the promise that you'll get more horse power or better gas mileage or more luxury items several months AFTER you drive it off the lot AND you pay for those upgrades. But hey, you'll have FUN upgrading your car. dry.gif

Can you imagine if they did this sort of decision with an XBOX game or console? Sales would tank and the designers would be out looking for new employment. When IL-2 first came out it ran as advertised with the settings on full (yes you had to have a high end machine but the hardware to run it was available and the choice to upgrade was an option). With FSX we're pretty much forced to upgrade our hardware if we want to play the game with any sort of comparable level to current FS9 levels.

While Phil has some good information on the why and how behind FSX development and marketing strategy the bottom line is they rushed the product to the marketplace to get their profit right away and are basically leaving it up to the consumer to go the remainder of the distance.

actually i am one of those who would be very un-impressed with the product if they didn't future proof it in this way.

there is absolutely no reason not to do this. and i hope this trend continues.

it will look as good as your current hardware allows, but it will look even better when you get newer more advanced hardware later...hows that a bad thing??

and its not really an accurate comparison to cars..since you can't download a patch over the internet for your car to improve things...though..someday i'm betting that will change as more computers get placed into the vehicle.

then there are those who would loudly complain and ridicule MS for not thinking ahead for new hardware if you can run FSX with everything maxed on today hardware, with which i agree.

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kevinsky18
Posted: Nov 3 2006, 10:06 AM
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First I do understand about releasing a game where no one can possibly turn all the sliders up all the way with current hardware. I want that and that’s what I got. For Phil to suggest that, that’s what we are mad about is pure distraction and corporate spin.

I don’t care that I can’t turn my sliders all the way up. I care, like most other people who are serious about FS, that the program doesn’t make use of the current technology available. And from what Phil says it never will.

From what Phil says two things are clear.

One, DX10 won’t give much of a performance boast. Phil stresses again and again that people are hyping DX10 and that it’s not a magic bullet, thus he is trying to brace us all now for the inevitable realization that in 6months when we all have Vista and our DX10 capable cards and the performance has only improved marginally he can say, “I told you so.”

Two, We are all screwed! Phil has made it clear that the MS FS team has no plans whatsoever to optimize FSX for duo or quad core machines! And SLI is not even a talking point.

All CPUs, Intel and AMD are now making their performance leaps using multi cores, i.e. first the duo and now the quad cores. So if FSX is never upgraded to optimize for duo and quad cores you and I will never, ever see any marked improvement over and above what a top of the line machine today can give. In other words, the performance we have today is basically the performance we will have 3 years from now. And may even drop in the short term.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Single core Intel cpu today running at 3000MZ might give say 15fps on low settings. Dual core comes out at 4000MZ, but that speed is gained by putting to two, 2000mhz cores on the CPU. With FSX only using one core you could in theory see a drop in performance from a solid 3000MHZ to 2000MHZ.

The fact is CPU makers are hitting a wall and they can’t make the cores go any faster so they are just adding more cores.

In a year from now we will see 6000MHZ machines, 3000mhz x 2 cores and then 12000MHZ machine 3000mhz x 4 cores. But because FSX will never code for multicore optimization we will always be stuck running the game at single core speeds of around 3000-4000mhz which is basically the performance we see today, maybe a bit better with some more RAM and better video cards, but not much.

If the MS FS team / ACES does not work towards incorporating Muti-core optimization into the game no one will ever see any decent frames per second on this release and the game will go down as the biggest flop and disappointment to come out of MS for a long time.


So ladies and gents take a good look at the performance you are getting now and ask yourself, “Can I live with this for the next four years?”
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justified
Posted: Nov 3 2006, 10:20 AM
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QUOTE (kevinsky18 @ Nov 3 2006, 10:06 PM)
The fact is CPU makers are hitting a wall and they can’t make the cores go any faster so they are just adding more cores. 

You don't agree with Moore's law then? It seems to have held out for the past thirty-odd years... blink.gif

Anyway, I agree with Kattana. FSX looks pretty good on my system at the moment. I'd be pretty hacked off when I came to upgrade if FSX just looked the same albeit with a better FPS count.

Flight sim, unlike standard PC games, is played for years and built-up over time, with scenery add-ons etc. If it looked amazing on current hardware, this time next year it'd start to look pretty dated, in my opinion.
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kevinsky18
Posted: Nov 3 2006, 10:37 AM
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I agree 100% with Moore's law. And it states that tranistor density doubles every 24 months.

At this point, in order to double the denisty of transistors they need to be put on two cores and to double again they will need to be put on 4 cores.

Moore simply says the desity will double, he doesn't specify the techniques that will be used to increase that density.

CPU manufactures have made it clear that doubling up on cores will be the way forward for doubling preformance every 24 months.




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