Just in time for the launch of Intel's QX6700 Quad Core processor, Valve Software held their third Hardware Editor's Day in beautiful Bellevue, Washington USA. The subject of Multi-Core processing was on the agenda in their "Source" game engine, which powers games like Half Life 2, Lost Coast and Episode 1.
There has been plenty of talk in the industry of late debating whether or not we really need Dual Core let alone four CPU cores. In our Intel QX6700 processor article, we concluded that it was probably worth waiting until investing big bucks in Intel's latest processor, as the average user will not see much of a gain in performance by moving to four cores. Right now, CPU technology is ahead of software and the industry needs to move quickly to catch up to the hardware - they are doing it but it is taking some time. Valve is one company who understands this and is quickly working to add Multi-Core processing into their Source gaming engine and all of their very successful gaming titles.
Sure, there are games and applications out there which are able to take advantage of Multi-Core but they are currently few and far between. In the future, Multi-Core will be a more feasible option as the software will be there to take proper advantage of the technology. For instance, you'll see massive multi-core processor systems (even to the point of 80 cores and above in 2011 according to Intel) which are able to assist in counter-terrorism - such as being able to identify known criminals over surveillance video and even detect what they are saying and then translate it into another language for you.
All of that is many years ahead though and right now we are interested in what type of advantages we can see today or in the coming months, especially for the gamer. ID Software added multi-CPU support for Quake 4 in patch version 1.2 and above which saw frame rate performance improvements of around 25% and above. Valve intends to add Multi-Core CPU support to their Source engine in Q1 next year before the release of Episode 2. Although besides pure frame rate improvements, Valve are not just thinking about the FPS numbers, they want to improvement the overall game play experience with vastly improved AI and physics.
We were invited to the third Hardware Editor's Day at Valve's offices where members of the press were told about their scary yet exciting Multi-Core adventures over the last 10 months. After flying half way around the world, they told us their plans for implementing Multi-Core technology into the Source engine and exactly what benefits it will provide for gamers.
If you are at all interested in the future of computing, especially when it comes to Multi-Core processing, do read on!