Should SIMD be used by people who are new to game development?

  • Should SIMD be used by people who are new to game development? Tsvetan

    I have been learning game development, using C++ and OpenGL, for about 4-5 months. Before that I used to program in C# and the .NET platform(about a year). So, I consider myself new to game engineering and software development as whole.

    Recently I read about SIMD math. I found it interesting and started wondering if it was good to use it in my math library. But, considering that I have so much to learn and I haven't even laid the foundations of my knowledge of game development, should I explore it in depth and start using it? Or should I wait until I really start to need it?

  • This is really a matter of opinion, but I think SIMD can safely be postponed. It'll probably be a long time before you're doing so much math on the CPU that you'll need it. Besides, there are probably vector/matrix math libraries out there that have SIMD built-in already, and if you use one of those, it should "just work" and you'll have very little need to dig into the details.

  • SIMD in and of itself is straightforward to use, provided you are even mildly experienced with C++. The problem here is that not every problem lends itself to SIMD calculations. You need to appreciate that using SIMD to save time naturally assumes that you have a set of operations all of which are the same in nature (eg. div, sqrt) and all of which may be executed in parallel. Given the nature of real-time simulations (games), I would furthermore assume that there would be some degree of repetition of these set-operations several times per second for it to be worth considering using SIMD ops at all, as well. Two examples are:

    • Ray packets in RTRT (real-time raytracing)
    • Pixel operations (as found on the GPU which is massively parallel -- originally more SIMD but things have moved toward MIMD)

    SIMD is never useful where you need the results of one operation to calculate the results of the next; performing physics stepping for an entity is an example of where SIMD would not be useful.

c++ opengl mathematics simd
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