Why the Wii U is Probably more Capable than you Think it is

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Shin’en’s Manfred Linzner has once again discussed the capabilities of the Wii U in a new interview. Check out all the details and analysis here. 

“The Wii U eDRAM has a similar function as the eDRAM in the XBOX360. You put your GPU buffers there for fast access. On Wii U it is just much more available than on XBOX360, which means you can render faster because all of your buffers can reside in this very fast RAM. On Wii U the eDRAM is available to the GPU and CPU. So you can also use it very efficiently to speed up your application.

The 1GB application RAM is used for all the games resources. Audio, textures, geometry, etc.

Theoretical RAM bandwidth in a system doesn’t tell you too much because GPU caching will hide a lot of this latency. Bandwidth is mostly an issue for the GPU if you make scattered reads around the memory. This is never a good idea for good performance.

I can’t detail the Wii U GPU but remember it’s a GPGPU. So you are lifted from most limits you had on previous consoles. I think that if you have problems making a great looking game on Wii U then it’s not a problem of the hardware.”

From HDWarriors – Their personal analysis of what Shin’en said. 

So, let’s break down these comments for explanatory purposes. If you like, you may want to use the earlier links for further insight.

“The Wii U eDRAM has a similar function as the eDRAM in the XBOX360. You put your GPU buffers there for fast access. On Wii U it is just much more available than on XBOX360, which means you can render faster because all of your buffers can reside in this very fast RAM. On Wii U the eDRAM is available to the GPU and CPU. So you can also use it very efficiently to speed up your application.”

The Xbox 360 has 10 MB of eDRAM. With that eDRAM, the console was able to use it for several rendering targets. Yet, the amount was slightly insufficient for even 720p resolution at times once Multi Sampling Anti Aliasing was used. This was why at times you would see games that had sub 720p resolution, or the Console had to chug extra hard with Predicated Tiling in order to pick up the slack. As Mr. Linzner explained to us in an earlier interview, about 16 MB of eDRAM is required for 1080p rendering with a double buffer, even without Anti Aliasing.

So what is meant by: “On Wii U it is much more available”?

Two main things. For one, all in all, the Wii U has around 38 MB total of eDRAM if you count the total of 35 MB on the GPU die, and the 3 that exist as Cache for the CPU. That gives the Wii U in total, nearly 4 times the amount of very fast eDRAM that the Xbox 360 (which had enough to use it for 720p frame buffers) has, with more than double the amount needed to render in 1080p. Hence the statement that ALL of your buffers can reside in this very fast RAM.

Mr. Linzner then makes it a point to say once again, that on Wii U, the eDRAM is available to the GPU and CPU. So effectively, outside of the CPU Cache eDRAM, this RAM exists as a unified pool that can be used as needed for a variety of tasks. I.E. “Very efficiently, to speed up your application.”

At this point, you may be wondering, how does the speed of this RAM make such a difference? The Wii U has 2 Gigabytes of RAM, with one currently available for gaming, along with the eDRAM described above. How can 38 MB of RAM make that much of a difference?

The easiest way that I can explain this is that when you take each unit of time that the Wii U eDRAM can do work with separate tasks as compared to the 1 Gigabyte of slower RAM, the amount of actual Megabytes of RAM that exist during the same time frame is superior with the eDRAM, regardless of the fact that the size and number applied makes the 1 Gigabyte of DDR3 RAM seem larger. These are units of both time and space. Fast eDRAM that can be used at a speed more useful to the CPU and GPU have certain advantages, that when exploited, give the console great gains in performance.

The eDRAM of the Wii U is embedded right onto the chip logic, which for most intent and purposes negates the classic In/Out bottleneck that developers have faced in the past as well. Reading and writing directly in regard to all of the chips on the Multi Chip Module as instructed.

So what then is the 1 Gigabyte of slower RAM for? As stated:

“The 1GB application RAM is used for all the games resources. Audio, textures, geometry, etc.”

Think of it in terms of the quote/unquote larger, slower bit of RAM holding the foundations of what you see on screen. While the quote/unquote smaller, faster bit of RAM is responsible for allowing the CPU and GPU to express much of the detail that makes a High Definition game, a High Definition game in a way that doesn’t call for insane amounts of heat producing power and Developer annoying latency.

In a single second, a single Megabyte of eDRAM, embedded on the GPU, can receive and send amounts of data, that so greatly surpass the number on paper, it’s scary. Being so close in proximity to the shader units, and the CPU, and embedded directly into the same logic wafer that connects them all, every piece becomes so much more than they would be when separated and connected in the more classic way. Not to mention far less wasteful, and more capable than most people realize or acknowledge.

“Theoretical RAM bandwidth in a system doesn’t tell you too much because GPU caching will hide a lot of this latency. Bandwidth is mostly an issue for the GPU if you make scattered reads around the memory. This is never a good idea for good performance.”

The picture appears to become more and more clear.

Finally, when I asked Mr. Linzner if there were any features of the latest version of Direct X that Wii U couldn’t perform the equivalent of, he had this to say:

“I can’t detail the Wii U GPU but remember it’s a GPGPU. So you are lifted from most limits you had on previous consoles. I think that if you have problems making a great looking game on Wii U then it’s not a problem of the hardware.”

GPGPU = General Purpose Graphics Processing Unit. In the case of the Wii U, this chip is connected to the CPU, with eDRAM as the ‘magic’ facilitator. A chip that as a whole, can do whatever it’s programmed to, and do it fast and efficiently. Even the Xbox 360 and PS3 could be configured to perform effects and mimick features beyond what their chips were actually designed to do. The Wii U Multichip module in addition to its standard feature set, is a canvass upon which a talented artist can achieve whatever it is that he can imagine through code, in a way that will not cripple the hardware.

How can a machine that has such a (relatively speaking), low wattage be so capable? In short, Nintendo has created a tight focal point where the most important pieces are all integrated in a way where speed is great but has a low cost, while travel distance is very short and interwoven. A lot of power is not necessary, so in terms of power draw, the machine, and in fact, all 3 new consoles cannot be judged in precisely the same ways as before.

Nintendo, having had the Wii U painted for the most part as less capable than it is by the gaming public at large, continues to have to push the boundaries of their comfort zone as far as pricing their hardware at a financial loss to them goes. However, as a result, they, by far have the lowest price point and a machine of true quality, which now that the library of games begins to become rather stout, Gamers will have to strongly consider Nintendo’s Wii U once they take their wallets out to buy a new console.

All I know is I’m playing amazing games like The Wonderful 101, Pikmin 3, and The Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker HD on my Wii U, and I’m having a blast. As long as Nintendo keeps the games fun, I’m happy.

Thanks to brintourfair for the tip!

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23 Responses to Why the Wii U is Probably more Capable than you Think it is

  1. Bay2OnWiiU4Life says:

    Shin'en is truly one of the best independent developers for Nintendo systems. Third party developers worldwide need to take notes from Shin'en… especially money hungry b*stards like Electronic Arts and Square Enix.

  2. LBXZero says:

    There is a reason why the CPU can operate at lower wattage while maintaining performance capabilities. The POWERPC architecture is a RISC that is design for performance. When you cut down the CPU to the basic needs, it does not require so many individual processing units.

    There is another part about the Wii U's CPU that is unlike other CPUs, it has operated at more than 1 GHz with a 4 stage pipeline. Not only does that say something about power, but the CPU may be immune to several performance loss factors, like conditional branching, that will cripple the performance of the CPU in the PS4 and Xbox One.

  3. Maestro says:

    A software developer & a console maker develops a console-oriented architecture, 2 other hardware maker develop 2 multimedia oriented architecture. See the difference ?

  4. krubele yilma says:

    I cant wait to buy shin' en multimedia's 2 new Wii U game thats using their gen 2 Wii U engine, I like so support devs that care and that make fun addicting games.

  5. […] to the GPU and CPU. So you can also use it very efficiently to speed up your application. The 1GB application RAM is used for all the games resources. Audio, textures, geometry, etc. Theoretical RAM […]

  6. Suportedcofe says:

    I didn't understand a word of that but all I know is that the Wii U is not like the Wii when it comes to power.

  7. mohuz says:

    Nintendo should let these guys make a new F-Zero or something. i wanna see how good that would look like! F-Zero GX still looks beautiful to this day, so let's see how a developer as skillers as Shin-en can make the series look like.

  8. *NormalGamer* says:

    Good games that have a lot of effort put into them just as long as you take advantage of the Wii U’s hardware correctly, are what really matters in the end; developers just have to be willing to take that risk and not be lazy about it. ^_^

  9. donzaloog says:

    That's right, Francis. As long as the games are fun, I'll enjoy the hell out of them.

  10. DePapier says:

    "All I know is I’m playing amazing games like The Wonderful 101, Pikmin 3, and The Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker HD on my Wii U, and I’m having a blast. As long as Nintendo keeps the games fun, I’m happy."

  11. Mark says:

    They've so far debunked every single negative comment regarding the Wii U's power. I find it funny how a smaller thrid-party such as Shin'en can be more skilled and knowledgeable than the other bigger devs out there; this goes to show how dedicated and how talented the people at Shin'en are.

  12. RicardJulianti says:

    "I think that if you have problems making a great looking game on Wii U then it’s not a problem of the hardware."

    I laughed too hard at this. It basically boils down to, "Can't get something to work? You are a shitty programmer", hahah. It's funny to see people try and damage control anything Linzner says about the Wii U and its capabilities. They try to say that because Shin'en has only produced games on Nintendo systems that they don't know anything else….which is as false as false can be.

    If anyone's word is to be believed, it is theirs. Shin'en is just the group that works on Nintendo games really….they are a part of a larger group called Abyss that started in the demo scene. Basically limiting themselves and producing things that most others couldn't because they don't care enough to learn.

    Keep on keepin' on guys. Blow our socks off with your next games.

  13. Twinkie says:

    Why is this still a topic? I'm tired of hearing Shin’en having to debunk this argument.

  14. Matthew Wesley says:

    I've said this before and I'll say it again. With graphical engines being scalable and the wii u being good enough for most games, if a developer is having trouble with developing on the wii u it's on them. They can't blame the hardware (EA, Bethesda, Gearbox) for their lazy, haphazard game software development. If a game is released with major bugs (Ubisoft) it is your fault, not Nintendo's.

  15. frankie4fingers83 says:

    That was a interesting read.

    I guess this puts to bed the “current gen” argument in respects to the wiiu, but really, probably not :(

    • brintourfair says:

      Not a chance of that, there will be plenty more bloggers and even mouthpieces for developers that push forward the "Wii U is weak' argument. I really don't understand all of the Nintendo hate, the company brought back an industry that was on its last legs. The policies they implemented on the NES that many publishers thought unfair kept a lot of the shovelware that almost killed off the industry a few years before off was a smart move.

      On topic, it's nice to see developers touting the Wii-Us capabilities and potential instead of bashing it. Some companies who had disparaging remarks never intended to put software on the Wii U anyway. It will be up to the developers to tap in to that potential and exploit it. Laziness by developers and to a greater extent patience by publishers will be key. Too many publishers want games to be produced to meet a release schedule that sometimes can't be met. That's where we run in to games having really glitchy, sometimes broken games and patch after patch to fix things that would have been if the devs at the proper time.

      Nintendo's first and 2nd party studios will and should lead the way, it will be up to the 3rd parties to up their game and produce quality titles. With games like Mario Kart 8, Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze and X we're beginning to see the graphical abilities of the system. Future games should look even better than these. My only hope is that the developers don't forget to make the games fun to play while they're at it.

      • frankie4fingers83 says:

        And funny enough, these devs that don’t plan on making games for it will say its current gen when they haven’t actually developed anything on it. How would they know, if they haven’t worked on it?

        • lindyshutterbug says:

          Somehow some of the devs feel that bashing The Wii U would somehow help sell their game. All it's doing is just spotlighting their lack of tact, skill, and intelligence to everyone except the most rabid of fanboys.

          I'm sure the small number of fanboys would be willing to fork over the cash necessary to buy multiple copies of software necessary to reach their multimillion copies sales goal. j/k

  16. Dusklurker says:

    As I have said many times. Nintendo developed their console to be very streamlined and game oriented, just like they did with the Gamecube. Great article.

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