AMD TressFX, Bringing REAL Hair To Gaming

Yeah, let that title sink in for a second.. Good? Ok!

As somebody who loves high-fidelity graphics and eye-bleeding special effects in my games, it’s always come as a surprise that nobody has been capable of developing more natural looking hair. Well, that problem has officially been solved, thanks to the brilliant minds at AMD and Crystal Dynamics, with the end result being AMD TressFX made possible via the DirectCompute programming language.

Apparently the problem has always been that hair is extremely hard to render, thanks to the amount of resources it takes to keep it consistently updated in the frame. AMD has explained it a bit more in-depth with this quote from their blog. The “most complex and challenging materials to accurately reproduce in real-time [is hair].” A new blog post on the AMD Game Blog says that games characters have historically tended to be very fond of wearing helmets or seem to overindulge in hairspray. This is because “Convincingly recreating a head of lively hair involves drawing tens of thousands of tiny and individual semi-transparent strands, each of which casts complex shadows and requires anti-aliasing. Even more challengingly, these calculations must be updated dozens of times per second to synchronize with the motion of a character”.

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Tomb Raider

That’s all fine and dandy, but what titles actually utilize this technology right now? Well the answer is a given. Since this was co-developed with the folks at Crystal Dynamics, it only made sense that the first character to strut their new wavy locks would be Tomb Raider’s very own Lara Croft, utilizing the DirectCompute programming language, and “massively-parallel processing capabilities of the Graphics Core Next architecture”. The 2013 version of Tomb Raiser uses AMD TressFX to render Lara’s hair in the game of a quality “previously restricted to pre-rendered images”.

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The power of TressFX is quite extensive and impressive. The hair is affected by almost every natural thing you can think of: wind, gravity, movement, and has been designed to react naturally to these affects. So whether you’re engaging in combat, tomb raiding, or anything else, the hair is going to bob and weave like real hair. AMD even went as far as to implement true to life wet and dry hair.

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Other Things Of Note

So let’s wrap this up with the two biggest questions: 1) is it available on Nvidia, and 2) Since AMD developed the new APU for the PS4, will it be available on PC?

1) “Graphics cards featuring the Graphics Core Next architecture, like select AMD Radeon HD 7000 Series, are particularly well-equipped to handle these types of tasks, with their combination of fast on-chip shared memory and massive processing throughput on the order of trillions of operations per second”. However, what if you have NVIDIA hardware? Bit-Tech contacted AMD about this very question and a spokesperson replied “TressFX is not exclusive to AMD, it works on any DirectX11 card, similar to some other AMD-built technologies – for example Order-Independent Transparency (OIT) or High Definition Ambient Occlusion (HDAO).” So it looks like if you have a decent NVIDIA card you can also enjoy TressFX hair in games.

2) The new APU technology built into the PS4 will indeed be available to PC users later this year, with certain Sony features being cut out of course. What we can expect is AMD’s third-generation APU technology, which is by far their most powerful. I’ll be interested to see the number compared to first-gen and second-gen, especially since I did a review on the first-gen not to long ago.

John Taylor, head of marketing for AMD’s Global Business Units, told The Inquirer that the APU made available to consumers will be the based on the same technology but sounds like it will be cut down in several ways. Talking about Sony’s PS4 reveal AMD’s Taylor said “Everything that Sony has shared in that single chip is AMD [intellectual property], but we have not built an APU quite like that for anyone else in the market. It is by far the most powerful APU we have built to date, it leverages [intellectual property] that you will find in our A-series APUs later this year, our new generation of APUs but none that will quite be to that level of sheer number of cores, sheer number of teraflops.”

What’s you guys’ opinion? Are we wasting resources on hair, when we should be focused on other areas in need of improvement? Or are we on the right track, even if this does feel like a minor advancement as a whole?

Let us know! Thanks go out to for compiling the quotes.

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