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Original author: 
Peter Bright


AMD wants to talk about HSA, Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA), its vision for the future of system architectures. To that end, it held a press conference last week to discuss what it's calling "heterogeneous Uniform Memory Access" (hUMA). The company outlined what it was doing, and why, both confirming and reaffirming the things it has been saying for the last couple of years.

The central HSA concept is that systems will have multiple different kinds of processors, connected together and operating as peers. The two main kinds of processors are conventional: versatile CPUs and the more specialized GPUs.

Modern GPUs have enormous parallel arithmetic power, especially floating point arithmetic, but are poorly-suited to single-threaded code with lots of branches. Modern CPUs are well-suited to single-threaded code with lots of branches, but less well-suited to massively parallel number crunching. Splitting workloads between a CPU and a GPU, using each for the workloads it's good at, has driven the development of general purpose GPU (GPGPU) software and development.

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Pirate!We recently announced AIR 3.2 with Stage3D support for mobile. Some of you have asked about learning more about GPU programming, best practices and also some of you had questions regarding the BunnyMark test we had in the AIR 3.2 video.

The BunnyMark demo we showed, uses a tiny framework developed internally at Adobe (named GPUSprite). It makes use of support classes called GPUSprite/GPUSpriteLayer, which optimize rendering by allowing a large number of of sprites to be drawn in a single draw call (batching).

This means all those sprites must be able to sample their image from the same sprite sheet.  Performance is really nice.  You could extend it to multiple sprite sheets, but you will have to organize your content into layers with one layer per SpriteSheet.

All the objects on a higher layer will be rendered on top of objects on lower layers.  For a scrolling game with background, foreground, characters, effect layers and so on, it is a nice authoring solution. Of course this has way more restrictions than what Starling would allow, it actually has very limited features.

So do not consider this as a silver bullet, consider this as an example to learn how to program GPUs efficiently, or also tweak frameworks to achieve higher framerates.

You can download GPUSprite on the FP-SDK github repo.
Download the BunnyMark code (using GPUSprite).

Special thanks to Iain Lobb for the original BunnyMark.
Special thanks to Philippe Elsass for the modified BunnyMark test.

Live demo of GPUSprite below :

Get Adobe Flash player

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Starling LogoI am excited to introduce today a new project we have been working on, called "Starling". So what is it ?

Starling is a 2D framework for game development developed in collaboration with the Austrian company Gamua (already behind the Sparrow-Framework on iOS), running on top of Stage3D (Molehill). It allows developers to leverage the power of the GPU without diving into the low-level details of the Stage3D APIs (available in Flash Player 11 and Adobe AIR 3). I am convinced that most of Flash developers will love this initiative, as most developers would like to leverage the GPU while reusing concepts like an event model, a display list, movieclips, sprites, etc.

Most of you, who had a look at the Stage3D APIs understand that this can be complex sometimes. So instead of writing 60 lines of code to draw a textured quad.

You will write the following :

// create a Texture object out of an embedded bitmap
var texture:Texture = Texture.fromBitmap ( new embeddedBitmap() );

// create an Image object our of the Texture
var image:Image = new Image(texture);

// set the properties
image.pivotX = 50;
image.pivotY = 50;
image.x = 300;
image.y = 150;
image.rotation = Math.PI/4;

// display it

Quite nice hu ?

Of course, as a little obligatory test, find below a bunch of things (yes, sausages!) moving around :


Click for demo.

Here is below another demo using Starling plugged with Box2D (for physics) :

Starling and Box2D

Click for demo.

Then, you have complete rendering of the your physics scene on the GPU.

Then of course particles! :

Starling Particles

Click for demo (press right key for starting the particles and change).

Below a more concret example including MovieClip (through spritesheet) :

Sausage Kong

Click for demo.

If you want to learn more about Starling, check the little book (Introducing Starling - 107 pages) I wrote about it, you can download it from the link below, it covers many concepts to get started with Starling :

Starling Book

click to download (Introducing Starling - rev 1.0).

Check the official Starling website to download it and share your content with the Starling community.

I hope you will like it!

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