At GDC this week, NVIDIA unveiled a major update to their suite of developers tools.  Having built developer tools for over five years now, and investing millions of dollars into the program according to NVIDIA themselves, these tools allow game developers to work faster and more efficiently, getting us games faster.  With DX10 gaining in popularity, slowly but surely, the need for more advanced tools is increasing. 

And because using their tools helps to sell NVIDIA graphics cards, all of these developer tools are FREE.  NVIDIA took some time this week to give us some information on the updated tool kit.

First up is the new SDK 10.0 that provides code samples for the all-new Direct X 10 as well as OpenGL.  These code examples are mostly written by NVIDIA’s engineers and teach the developers how to take advantages of the new DX10 class GPUs.  As you might imagine, there are tips and tricks for tweaking code for NVIDIA’s GPUs too.

NVIDIA is also introducing GPU-accelerated texture tools that can compress textures up to 10x faster than on a CPU alone.  This in effect extends the video card into the GP-GPU arena by running code that would regularly be placed on the CPU.  Because this is very GPU-dependent, this kind of feature might be less likely to find its way into major software titles in order to not alienate AMD’s ATI graphics card users. 

PerfHUD 5.0 is probably one of the more interesting of these tools even when you are NOT a developer.  This software is incredibly powerful and is used for GPU debugging and performance profiling.

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With this software the developer can pause the game engine, edit the shader code and see the effects in real time as they would appear to the user in a game.  The ability to change these kinds of settings without a time consuming recompile is definitely a time saver, as someone who comes from a computer science background can attest to.  The PerfHUD also shows information on performance in an overlay that can display information like GPU load, fractions of shaders working on pixel versus texture code, memory states and more. 

Another tool that is updated in this release is the new ShaderPerf 2.0 that helps developers tune shader performance.  It runs in conjunction with another application called FX Composer 2 that is used for shader creation.  The FX Composer app allows developers to great shaders and see results in real time, integrate those shaders into a developer pipeline and then get performance metrics for various NVIDIA GPUs thanks to the ShaderPerf application. 

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Finally, NVIDIA is bringing a shader library to the developer kit that includes more than 100 HLSL shaders created by NVIDIA and other contributors.  This allows developers to use an existing shader if they wish or start with an existing one and modify to suit their specific needs or to customize the effect. 

And as I mentioned above, all of these tools are FREE; so if you are a serious game developer looking for help with your title or just a long programmer that wants to play with some new toys, you can get access to these tools at http://developer.nvidia.com/