How to read shader assembly

When I started graphics programming, shading languages like HLSL and GLSL were not yet popular in game development and shaders were developed straight in assembly. When HLSL was introduced I remember us trying, for fun, to beat the compiler by producing shorter and more compact assembly code by hand, something that wasn’t that hard. Since then shader compiler technology has progressed immensely and nowadays, in most cases, it is pretty hard to produce better assembly code by hand (also the shaders have become so large and complicated that it is not cost effective any more anyway).

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How to read shader assembly