Back when it was announced, AMD were very bullish on the future of their Mantle API. They were confident it could help unleash the full power of gaming PCs, and they thought that developers would adopt it because of the advantages it offered.
But today, in a statement on their website, AMD explained that their plans for Mantle are changing rather drastically, and even recommended developers focus their efforts on other APIs, like DirectX 12.
Up front, we should be clear that the meaning of AMD’s statement is not immediately clear. They write that wrote that the “future of Mantle” and of PC graphics will be made clear later this week at GDC. But the wording of this statement sure looks like AMD are trying to tell everybody that they’re not going to continue developing Mantle as a DirectX alternative without actually saying that they’re abandoning the effort.
“...Today we are especially thoughtful about Mantle’s future,” Hallock writes. “In the approaching era of DirectX 12 and the Next-Generation OpenGL Initiative, AMD is helping to develop two incredibly powerful APIs that leverage many capabilities of the award-winning Graphics Core Next (GCN) Architecture.”
Trust me, kids, I’m a Classicist: I know the opening to a funeral oration when I hear one.
“AMD’s game development partners have similarly started to shift their focus, so it follows that 2015 will be a transitional year for Mantle.” I’m not sure calling something a “transitional year” has ever meant good news, and certainly, AMD have had their share of difficulties.
But here’s where AMD’s statement becomes absolutely cryptic. While promising that AMD’s will continue to support partners, like the Battlefield: Hardline team, who are committed to using Mantle in their game, they also say that, “Mantle’s definition of ‘open’ must widen. It already has, in fact. This vital effort has replaced our intention to release a public Mantle SDK, and you will learn the facts on Thursday, March 5 at GDC 2015.”
That GDC announcement just became must-watch for me because I have no idea what this actually means. I have a strong feeling that we’re going to learn that Mantle lives on “in spirit” as a part of some other technologies. Maybe Mantle was inside you all along.
But the really telling line right here: “The Mantle SDK also remains available to partners who register in this co-development and evaluation program. However, if you are a developer interested in Mantle ‘1.0’ functionality, we suggest that you focus your attention on DirectX 12 or GLnext.”
So if you are a dev who was thinking about supporting Mantle and building your game around it... maybe pick something else.
This is not an entirely unexpected development. As we reported earlier today, the PC marketplace is already fragmented, and there are collective benefits to developers and card manufacturers by having some common standards out there. DirectX 12 does many of the things Mantle does, and it stands a far better chance of being widely adopted, particularly because it won’t be a poison-pill to Nvidiea. And, as one developer we talked to for our DirectX story said, “Frankly, the only reason I would support Mantle is if AMD paid me to.”
And it’s possible that AMD never really meant to push Mantle too far. It’s telling that DirectX 12 is pursuing a similar approach, a year after Mantle was unveiled. It’s possible that the main purpose of Mantle was to push the industry toward a new standard, one that would take better advantage of graphics hardware and drive sales of newer cards. In that case, it really is mission accomplished for Mantle, and it makes sense that AMD would put their focus elsewhere.
Still, AMD went to pains not to say they were giving up on Mantle, so it will be interesting to see what Mantle the White does now that Mantle the Grey has been chucked into the abyss.