AMD’s Neural Texture Compression May Lower Storage and VRAM Demands

Something to look forward to: High-resolution textures are a primary factor behind the growing install sizes and VRAM usage in modern blockbuster games. Nvidia proposed a neural-network-based method to improve texture compression last year, and AMD has announced what appears to be a concurrent method based on similar technology. Team Red will reveal more next month at EGSR.

AMD is set to present a new texture compression system to reduce gaming data usage at this year’s Eurographics Symposium on Rendering in London. Although the method uses neural technology like rival Nvidia’s, the requirements for developers to utilize such methods remain unclear.

Without going into detail, AMD called its solution “Neural Texture Block Compression”, confirming that it is designed to reduce download sizes by compressing textures through neural networks. Furthermore, the company promised that integrating the technology into games will be easy because it doesn’t alter runtime execution.

It isn’t clear whether neural compression can work at the driver level, which could help it immediately support a wide range of titles, or if developers must implement it on a per-game basis. A research paper from Nvidia described similar technology last year, but it has yet to appear in games, possibly due to lengthy development periods or challenges with the compression method.

Called Neural Texture Compression (NTC), Nvidia’s system employs multiple neural networks optimized for various in-game material types. The company’s research paper shows that, compared to conventional block compression methods, NTC achieves higher image quality at lower file sizes.

Also read: Why Are Modern PC Games Using So Much VRAM?

However, using NTC does require developers to alter their workflows and might not support popular antialiasing and texture filtering methods like DLSS and anisotropic filtering. AMD’s method is likely aiming for a similar result, and the company plans to reveal more information during its ESGR presentation on July 2.

New leaps in texture compression could help many users with slow internet speeds, smaller SSDs, or graphics cards with only 8 GB of VRAM. Today’s high-resolution textures have helped push install sizes to well above 100 GB for AAA games like Call of Duty, Baldur’s Gate 3, or Destiny 2. The textures can also choke VRAM, leading to stutters and degraded performance, especially since some of the most widely used PC graphics cards feature only 8 GB of memory.

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