AMD & NVIDIA GPU VR Performance in Call of Starseed

We are back this week to take another objective look at AMD and NVIDIA GPU performance in one of the the top selling games in the VR-only realm, The Gallery Episode 1: Call of Starseed. This is another GPU-intensive title that has the ability to put some GPUs on their heels. How do the new RX 480 and GeForce 1000 series perform?

What is The Gallery Ep. 1: Call of Starseed?

That game title is a mouthful, right? From here out we are going to refer to this VR-only title as "The Gallery," or maybe "Episode 1," or maybe just "Starseed" here and there to break up the monotony. Maybe just, "TGE1CoS?" I dunno....

You can find the official page that covers TGE1CoS at this link. Here is what Cloudhead Games, the title's developer, has to say about the game.

The Gallery is a virtual reality fantasy exploration video game inspired by dark 80’s fantasy movies and classic graphic adventure games. The Gallery has a deep narrative with bizarre characters who take you on an adventure through fantastical environments while challenging you with physical interactions and puzzle solving. We are not modifying or porting a game to be accessible in VR, we have built The Gallery to be a VR experience from the ground up, with the intricacies of the medium driving every aspect of design.

That all said, this game will break into at least four "episodes." Episode 1 requires that you use an HTC Vive as it requires room-scale, or standing play with motion tracked handheld controllers. Once Oculus releases its Touch controllers, you will be able to play this game with the Rift as well.

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Much like we saw with our look at GPU performance in Raw Data, Episode 1 is far from an off-the-radar title when it comes to the VR experience. Quite simply this game has been acclaimed in reviews from national magazines to gaming review websites we are all familiar with. A quick search will show you all that quickly.

The reason we used Raw Data in our last review was because it was extremely GPU-intensive, and it was also one of the more popular VR titles on the market at the time. Raw Data utilizes the Unreal Engine 4 and some Gameworks technologies, and some folks called us out on this, whining again that results are biased in favor of NVIDIA and we were going out of our way to show AMD in a bad light (Just like that Gold AMD review from last week). Honestly though, I can see where fanboys get worked up about that, so for this review we wanted to fully switch gears in terms of game engine and Gameworks.

For this article, we wanted to move to another engine being used for VR, and today we have Starseed using the Unity Engine, SteamVR, and the DX11 API. The Unity engine is the other "big guy" on the block when it comes to native VR game titles. It is pretty much either UE4 or Unity in the VR-only space currently. There are other engines out there that cater to VR; CryEngine, CopperCube, and Torque3D are the first few that come to mind. There are more like Stingray and Lumberyard as well, but have even less market penetration.

New The Gallery Ep. 1 Call of Starseed Update

Another reason we thought this would be a good title to test with is A.) it has been out for a good few months, and B.) it just got a big update in terms of performance as well as gameplay.

v1.1.2 Changelog


-General performance enhancements using Unity 5.4.0b17 ( native OpenVR )

-Rebaked lighting to fix some visual issues

-Better OC bake for tighter geo culling

The list is extremely long, so hit the above link if you want to see it all. However, my favorite "fix" is listed towards the bottom.

-I can't believe you're still reading this

I actually LOL'ed when I read this line and my son, sitting with me in the office, asked what was funny, and I told him that I was one of the jackasses that had to read that far down the list, and it made me appreciate the guys over at Cloudhead Games a bit more.

These VR Games are NOT Benchmarks

Raja Koduri also scolded us a bit last week on Twitter for using the game suggesting that it was not good for being used as a "benchmark." My take on this is just the same as it is here today with Starseed. We are not running "benchmarks." We are buying games, playing those games on RX 480 and Fury X cards that we paid for as well, and are reporting our real world gaming experience......just like you reading this are going to experience on your desktop. If AMD is not ready to handle those games and the performance supplied, that is on AMD....not HardOCP for showing you the truth about playing VR games in the real world today.

Getting Ready to Screw AMD to the Wall

Literally, while I was writing the paragraph above this title line, I was messaged that a new AMD driver had just dropped; Crimson version 16.8.1. This morning after building my graphs, I sent Raja Koduri this tweet.

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The RX 480 and Fury X performance seems to have been broken in Starseed with the previous driver v16.7.3. Even what you can see on that shrunken graph looks extremely bad in terms of performance. It was a stuttering mess. It seems that the new v16.8.1 non-WHQL drivers fixed the broken performance, and of course made a morning's worth of testing invalid. (Such is a reviewer's life.) So, AMD sneaks in and pulls off a save, because previously Call of Starseed was broken on AMD GPUs for all intents and purposes. It was "playable," but it was not "set to drive premium VR experiences" playable. But getting things fixed for the GPU buyers and users is what it is all about, so we are not going to talk about any more, at least until the conclusion page.

All that said, we want to see GPU competition in the market, so let's get it on, shall we?