|Perhaps, DirectX 10.1 is not an immediate success, but it is on track to find home in several titles, which is good news for ATI, graphics product group of AMD.
Usually, any super-set of a DirectX release does not have a lot of chances to become popular among video game creators and publishers unless it is supported by all developers of graphics hardware. This happened to DirectX 8.1 and pixel shaders 1.4 in 2001, the same happened to shader models 2.0a and 2.0b of DirectX 9.0 in 2003/04, whereas the shader model 3.0 only became more or less wide-spread two years after its release and the launch of ATI Radeon X1000 lineup along with Microsoft Xbox 360 video game console.
The destiny of DirectX 10.1 seems to repeat the destinies of DirectX 8.1 and 9.0c: video game developers would hardly embrace a new application programming interface that is supported by only one independent hardware vendor (IHV) unless AMD supports them in some way. In fact, the first title that took advantage of DirectX 10.1 â€“ Assassinâ€™s Creed made by Ubisoft Montreal â€“ quickly lost it after, as it is widely believed, Nvidia pressured the developer of this title that belongs to the companyâ€™s The Way Itâ€™s Meant to Be Played initiative... What is interesting to note in the particular case is that Nvidia will support DirectX 10.1 automatically once it launches DirectX 11-compatible graphics chip and will be able to take advantage of all the pros of the 10.1.
Fortunately for ATI, not all PC games belong to the aforementioned program and there are at least two coming in within the next six months to nine months that take advantage of DirectX 10.1: BattleForge developed by Phenomic and published by Electronic Arts as well as an unnamed title from Sega.
BattleForge by Phenomic EA is a fantasy online real-time strategy (watch the video here), which involves loads of battle units. Image quality in the game is truly impressive: all the units have high-quality geometry, terrain and vegetation look pretty realistic and special effects are remarkable. According to officials from Phenomic Studio, the BattleForge game runs about 30% faster on DX10.1 compared to DX10 thanks to lower amount of rendering passes needed (perhaps, not in all types of scenes). The game is set to emerge already this year, but the release date is unknown.
Little is known about the DirectX 10.1 game title set to be published by Sega in early 2009 and formally unveiled sometime in July, possibly at the E3 convention. According to Chris Southall, technical director of Sega Europe, the title will only have DirectX 10 and 10.1 rendering paths, hence, will not work on DirectX 9-compatible hardware and will not function under Windows XP operating system. What is the most important, the unnamed title is PC-exclusive. According to Sega, DirectX 10.1 allowed the developer to create its title â€œeasierâ€, make it look â€œprettierâ€ and make it work â€œfasterâ€, though, no actual details were unveiled.
Obviously, two or three games cannot make an API truly successful/popular and there will be many months before DirectX 10.1 will truly be required to play games with high-quality effects and decent frame-rates. Nevertheless, the support of DirectX 10.1 is an indisputable advantage of ATI Radeon HD 3000 and HD 4000 series at the moment.
|So why did Ubisoft remove DirectX 10.1 support? The official statement reads as follows: "The performance gains seen by players who are currently playing AC with a DX10.1 graphics card are in large part due to the fact that our implementation removes a render pass during post-effect which is costly." An additional render pass is certainly a costly function; what the above statement doesn't clearly state is that DirectX 10.1 allows one fewer rendering pass when running anti-aliasing, and this is a good thing.
We contacted AMD/ATI, NVIDIA, and Ubisoft to see if we could get some more clarification on what's going on. Not surprisingly, ATI was the only company willing to talk with us, and even they wouldn't come right out and say exactly what occurred.
Reading between the lines, it seems clear that NVIDIA and Ubisoft reached some sort of agreement where DirectX 10.1 support was pulled with the patch. ATI obviously can't come out and rip on Ubisoft for this decision, because they need to maintain their business relationship. We on the other hand have no such qualms. Money might not have changed hands directly, but as part of NVIDIA's "The Way It's Meant to Be Played" program, it's a safe bet that NVIDIA wasn't happy about seeing DirectX 10.1 support in the game -- particularly when that support caused ATI's hardware to significantly outperform NVIDIA's hardware in certain situations.
Last October at NVIDIA's Editors Day, we had the "opportunity" to hear from several gaming industry professionals about how unimportant DirectX 10.1 was, and how most companies weren't even considering supporting it. Amazingly, even Microsoft was willing to go on stage and state that DirectX 10.1 was only a minor update and not something to worry about. NVIDIA clearly has reasons for supporting that stance, as their current hardware -- and supposedly even their upcoming hardware -- will continue to support only the DirectX 10.0 feature set.
NVIDIA is within their rights to make such a decision, and software developers are likewise entitled to decide whether or not they want to support DirectX 10.1. What we don't like is when other factors stand in the way of using technology, and that seems to be the case here. Ubisoft needs to show that they are not being pressured into removing DX 10.1 support by NVIDIA, and frankly the only way they can do that is to put the support backing in a future patch. It was there once, and it worked well as far as we could determine; bring it back (and let us anti-alias higher resolutions).