AMD's position in the graphics market continues to be a tricky one. Although the company has important design wins in the console space—both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are built around AMD CPUs with integrated AMD GPUs—its position in the PC space is a little more precarious. Nvidia currently has the outright performance lead, and perhaps more problematically, many games are to a greater or lesser extent optimized for Nvidia GPUs. One of the chief culprits here is Nvidia's GameWorks software, a proprietary library of useful tools for game development—things like realistic hair and shadows, and physics processing for destructible environments—that is optimized for Nvidia's cards. When GameWorks games are played on AMD systems, they can often do so with reduced performance or graphical quality.

To combat this, AMD is today announcing GPUOpen, a comparable set of tools to GameWorks. As the name would suggest, however, there's a key difference between GPUOpen and GameWorks: GPUOpen will, when it is published in January, be open source. AMD will use the permissive MIT license, allowing GPUOpen code to be used without any practical restriction in both open and closed source applications, and will publish all code on GitHub.

Making the libraries open source should make AMD's library much more appealing than it currently is. AMD already has offerings in this space; in particular, its TressFX library handles fur and hair generation in a manner comparable to Nvidia's HairWorks. Developers can, if they take the time and effort, even include both; the PC release of Grand Theft Auto V has both TressFX and HairWorks support. But this is extra work, and many developers won't bother. This tends to leave one or other GPU vendor at a disadvantage.

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