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PC game download times could be about to shrink, thanks to AMD

AMD's new Neural Texture Block Compression system is due to be unveiled soon, promising to reduce the time waiting for games to download.

Honey I shrunk the Baldur's Gate 3 download

AMD has just revealed that it’s working on a system that uses AI to reduce the size of game downloads in the future. The technology is called Neural Texture Block Compression, and AMD says it plans to present it at the Eurographics Symposium on Rendering (EGSR) in London at the start of July 2024.

Much like Nvidia, AMD is making a big deal about AI at the moment, with AMD AI even being the new brand name for its laptop gaming CPUs. However, it still has a lot of catching up to do with Nvidia on this front. Its current GPUs, such as the Radeon RX 7800 XT, for example, may be among the best graphics cards for gaming, but their AI matrix cores are still largely going unused in games right now.

In its latest announcement, the AMD says it’s developed a new method of compressing game textures using a neural network. In a post on X (formerly Twitter), the AMD GPUOpen account stated that “nobody likes downloading huge game packages,” adding that its new AI texture compression technique would result in “reducing data size.”

Not only that, but AMD is confident that developers could get the new system up and running in games quickly and easily. “Unchanged runtime execution allows easy game integration,” says the company.

Textures are one of the areas that take up a lot of space in game installs, particularly as gamers demand higher resolutions with more detail, and if the textures from AMD’s new compression system maintain enough detail, and take up less space than current textures, then it could indeed reduce the size of game installs.

AMD GPUOpen neural texture compression diagram post on X Twitter

This isn’t the first time such a system has been touted, however. Indeed, in August 2023, Nvidia published a research paper at Siggraph 2023, called Random-Access Neural Compression of Material Textures. Similarly, this paper detailed a system of using AI to compress textures, with great-looking results in the screenshots.

The paper shows how an uncompressed (admittedly huge) 4,096 x 4,096 texture takes up 256MB, and this drops down to 5.3MB if it’s scaled down to 1,024 x 1,024 and uses block compression techniques. However, with Nvidia’s AI-based texture compression system, the same texture could remain at 4,096 x 4,096, retaining much more detail, and still only take up 3.8MB.

It remains to be seen if AMD will be taking a similar approach to Nvidia, but we’ll be finding out more information soon. July 2024 will also be the month that the first Zen 5 CPUs finally get released, so AMD has a busy time ahead.