Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Silicon

Dave Mark on September 4, 2008

Is the GPU the promised land for game AI programmers? Read a chapter from the book of Dave Mark (of Intrinsic Algorithm) and find out the whole story. Then join in the discussion on AiGameDev.com and post a comment below!

You have to read the fine print.

In the beginning, Intel created the microprocessor. And the microprocessor was without speed. And the Spirit of Moore moved upon the face of the silicon. And Intel said, “Let there be speed.” And there was speed. And Intel saw that the speed was good. And the Game Programmer turned to Intel and said “What, are you kidding me?”

And in the second age, the Spirit of Moore moved again upon the face of the silicon. And Intel said, Let there be more speed: and there was speed. And Intel saw the speed and said “There. Are you happy?” And the Game Programmer said “I suppose that will do for now.”

And onto the processor moved a strange presence. And the Game Programmer turned to Intel and said, “Whoa dude… who are these cats?” And the presence spoke, saying “We are the Programmers from the Tribe of Turing. We have come from afar to spread the Gospel of Autonomous Behavior. In exchange for these powerful truths, we only ask that you allow us a tithe of a small portion of your bountiful land of microprocessor.”

And the Game Programmer turned his questioning gaze upon Intel. And Intel shrugged and spake “Don’t look at me, dude. You deal with them.” And so the Game Programmer adopted the Programmers of Turing into their fold and thenceforth called them AI Programmers. And the Game Programmers shared what processor they had.

“The AI Programmers grew restless and asked for more tithing with which to do their work.”

And it came to pass that a period of darkness and discord descended upon the whole tribe of Game Programmer. The AI Programmers grew restless and asked for more tithing with which to do their work. And there were those amongst the Game Programmers who cast their eyes upon the AI Programmers and uttered foul curses saying that that the Programmers of AI were greedy and not blessed. Those that had been Game Programmers spake against those of the AI and great arguments did ensue with each tribe raiding the other’s processor under the cover of night. Some Game Programmers formed their own tribe and sayeth loudly that they should forever be known as “Graphics Programmers”. And they were proud.

And the besieged Programmers of AI cried out to the Intel about the actions of the Graphics Programmers saying, “did they not take us in as their own and yet now they persecute us such?”

And the Intel called upon the Spirit of Moore and bestowed greater bounty upon the land of microprocessor. And the Great Intel spake saying, “Verily I say unto you, get over it.”

And all of the tribes of Game Programmers, the Programmers of Graphics, the Programmers of AI, the Programmers of Network Protocol, and the Programmers of Engine, looked upon the vast new lands and spake as one, saying “Wow… this is kinda groovy. Thanks, Intel.” And it came to pass that a period of peace descended upon the tribes of Programmers of Game. And lo, even the Producers in the neighboring land of Cube Farm spake saying “Oh, thank Intel… it’s finally quiet over there!”

A little CD scratch filler will take care of that…

And it came to pass that the tribe of Programmers of AI grew restless once again. And there was unrest amongst them. They felt that there were great works to be done using their skills upon the land of microprocessor. And they raised a shout unto the mighty Graphics Programmers saying, “Why dost though oppress our people so?”

And the Programmers of Graphics turned to them and replied, “Why do you dudes talk like that? Do you realize you sound completely stupid?”

And those of the AI sayeth “It is the language of our ancestors — Kings of Academia from the Land of Ivy. But that layeth beside the point. Canst thou sparest some more Cycles of the Clock so as we may feed our Artificial Brains?”

And the Programmers of Graphics scoffed at the feeble Programmers of AI saying unto them, “Dudes, you already get like… what? 10 percent? What do you want to do with that much anyway?”

And the priests of the AI did cite their Holy Mission saying that their works were dedicated to glorifying the products of their oppressors — the False Idols of Graphics. They didst say unto the Graphics Programmers, “our Holy Men can breathe life into your Graphical Idols, bringing upon them motion such that they will move with great purpose upon the NavMesh of the land. Then, O great Programmers of Graphics, your works will have meaning and power beyond mere beauty. And all the world will rejoice and praise the Game Programmers.”

And the Graphics Programmers did join in council with one other saying “Man, they have a point. Our Idols do kinda just sit there. They may be pretty but they act kinda stupid, ya know?” And yet their hearts were not softened and remained were greedy. They yielded little to the cries of the Programmers of AI.

“And it came to pass that new Gods made themselves known to the Programmers of Games. Gods by the name of nVidia and ATI.”

And it came to pass that new Gods made themselves known to the Programmers of Games. Gods by the name of nVidia and ATI. And those Gods did offer new and wondrous lands to the Programmers of Graphics. Their tribes multiplied in number and spread into these new continents — leaving only an occupying force behind in the land of the God of Intel (and the God of AMD who looked a lot like Intel but pretty much just did what Intel said).

And verily, as the lands of Graphical Programmers multiplied, as well did the power and beauty of their Graphical Idols. And they said unto the other tribes of the Game Programmers, “Damn… check this pad out!”

And the tribes of AI, Networking, Engine and the new tribe of Programmers of Physics did rejoice at their freedom. They expanded and multiplied. Even as the Programmers of Graphics left their lands, the Spirit of Moore continued to bless them and there was plentiful bounty for all in the land of processor.

And, as they swore to do, the Programmers of AI dedicated their work to glorifying the Idols of the Programmers of Graphics. And all Game Programmers were amazed at the wondrous things that the Idols could now do. And the Game Programmers became known across the face of the Earth.

And there was peace for a time. The Graphics Programmers lived in the lands of nVidia and ATI and did not disrupt the lands of Intel.

We could use some particle effects on this bush…

But lo, it came to pass, that the descendants of the land of Turing grew restless once again. They had grown comfortable and fat in the time of peace. Emboldened by their triumphs, they once again turned their eyes to the lands held by the Programmers of Graphics and said, “You people of the Graphic dost waste your time on particle systems and realistic water. Yet your creatures do not act in ways that are pleasing to the Gods. Giveth thou more of thy lands unto us so that we may glorify thee further and together we shall createth even better Idols to be the envy of the World!”

And the Programmers of Graphics looked upon their rivals, saying, “OK, first off… you gotta stop with that ‘Academia’ talking crap. No one takes you seriously like that. And you certainly aren’t going to pick up chicks talking that way. No… I’m serious! Look around you? How many of you are women? See?”

And the Programmers of AI cast their eye around their own numbers and saw that it was so.

And the Graphics said, “Secondly, what’s up with coming over here to our pad and demanding more? We left you alone. You got all those wonderful clock cycles. It’s not our fault that the Physics tribe is getting snotty. You deal with them… don’t come over here and take our stuff!”

And there was unrest amongst AI Programmers. And the Physics Programmers did slink away into the night or donned AI Programmer garb so as not to draw attention to themselves.

And lo, the Graphics Programmers berated the Programmers of AI saying, “And has not the Spirit of Moore continued to bless you — Damn! Now you’ve got us talking like that. Look around, man! You’ve got processor coming out the ying-yang! Are you seriously hurting that much?”

And the AI Programmers nodded to each other saying, “It is so. We have been blessed by the Spirit of Moore.”

At some point, we gotta get away from this tape drive stuff…

And the Graphics Programmers once again turned to the Priests of AI, saying, “And has it not come to pass that the Gods have offered you lands of your own upon which you may sow y-… DAMNIT! Haven’t people been trying to get you to use dedicated AI hardware for a while now? And you keep turning it down?!? What the hell is so wrong with that? Why do you have to come over here and bug us all the time?

And the AI Programmers shuffled their feet. But they said nothing.

And the Graphics Programmers asked once again, “Seriously, what is so bloody important? It’s freakin’ graphics-land folks. You do A freakin’ I, man. I mean, it’s cool and all and we really appreciate all the nifty things that you got our Idols to do. But what could you possibly do over here that you couldn’t do on your own card?”

And the AI Programmers were ashamed of their covetous and hid their faces.

And the Graphics Programmers spake loudly for all to hear, saying, “Get lost, dudes! And make sure those new Physics guys don’t get any ideas either!”

And thus the tribes of Game Programmers stayed separate, each unto themselves — casting wary eyes upon the lands of his neighbors. And the Spirit of Moore did work through the Gods of Intel and AMD and nVidia and ATI. And each God moved amongst the peoples at regular intervals bestowing the coveted clock cycles in increasing numbers.

And yet there was not to be peace in the land…

Discussion 7 Comments

Andrew on September 4th, 2008

Haha, oh dear me, that was silly :) I'm not even sure I can lend a comment. [I]And lo, he did not comment on this article in a justly way, but laughed about it instead.[/I]

Kevin Dill on September 4th, 2008

Doesn't IBM make the CPUs for all three of the consoles? Who's this Intel upstart you keep talking about anyway? ;) My take on this is twofold: 1) The better graphics get, the more expensive they get. The odds of there being free cycles on a video card any time soon is basically nil. 2) CPU time doesn't feel like it's usually the limiting factor for AI anyway. Development time is. The problem isn't that our algorithms are necessarily all that expensive - it's that effective implementation is time consuming, and we never have enough people or enough time. -K

alexjc on September 4th, 2008

Well, this post turned out very differently to what I expected -- but in a good way! "The Tribe of Turing" hehe. Anyway, here are two GPU-based AI papers from the wiki that prompted this whole topic: [LIST] [*][URL="http://wiki.aigamedev.com/Papers/Automatically-generated_Convex_Region_Decomposition_for_Real-time_Spatial_Agent_Navigation_in_Virtual_Worlds"]Automatically-generated Convex Region Decomposition for Real-time Spatial Agent Navigation in Virtual Worlds[/URL] [*][URL="http://wiki.aigamedev.com/Papers/Simulation_and_Rendering_Massive_Crowds_of_Intelligent_and_Detailed_Creatures_on_GPU"]Simulation and Rendering Massive Crowds of Intelligent and Detailed Creatures on GPU[/URL] [/LIST] I agree with Kevin though, the graphics guys will never give any of their stuff up! In a way, Intel's Larrabee has more promise here as it will have to be budgeted and shared like any other CPU. Alex

Ian Morrison on September 4th, 2008

This is Dave's wierdest post yet, which has got to be a milestone of [I]some[/I] sort.

Dave Mark on September 4th, 2008

[quote=Ian Morrison;4664]This is Dave's wierdest post yet, which has got to be a milestone of [I]some[/I] sort.[/quote] Blasphemer.

RyanP on September 5th, 2008

I have to say Dave, well done! I was laughing the entire time I read your article! Well done the fellow member of the Tribe of Turning! Oh oh I call Chief of the Tribe! ;) Ryan

Penumbra on September 5th, 2008

BRILLIANT!!!!!! Marvelous article... I really had to got that out of my system!!

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