By now, we’ve all been beaten to death with DirectX this, DirectX that. What does it all mean??! Today we try to shed a bit of light into the subject of DirectX 10 vs. DirectX 9 and what impact gamers will see. This is by no means a comprehensive article, we’re just touching on a few of the highlights and showing some screen shots from Age of Conan.
Since the introduction of DirectX 8 game designers have had the ability to control how the graphics cards pixel and vertex pipelines are used to draw the image on the screen. This was done for two reasons, ever increasing effects and to make programming those effects easier. Each subsequent release of DirectX has been primarily to increase the number of instructions, instruction length, and registers which make the shaders more powerful. DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 3.0, also supported flow control/dynamic branching, which allows developers to add loops to their shaders, making programming easier.
With DirectX 10, Microsoft has done away with the fixed function pipeline for pixel and vertex shaders, now even those are programmable. This alleviates bottlenecks in vertex heavy, or pixel heavy parts of the game. They have also taken many steps to reduce overhead on the CPU by offloading tasks like integer and bitwise instructions onto the GPU. The most important aspect is certification, to be certified for DirectX 10 the video card must meet strict feature requirements. This removes the capability bits of the past showing what the card did and did not support. You know out of the box what your new video card can do!
The biggest thing to take away from this article is not that some magical effects have been added with DirectX 10, it’s that efficiency is increased and the GPU is capable of doing much more than it has in the past and by offloading tasks from the CPU. Since more can be done in less time that means more impressive effects can be created and displayed on the screen. DirectX 10 is nothing like the jump from DX7 to DX8 but it is a significant step. When you add it all up DirectX 10 games will look better than what we’ve seen in the past with detailed worlds and real-time physics enhancing game play. And that brings us to what is likely to be the first DirectX 10 title to hit the streets, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures!
In the first photo we see that the lighting changes significantly and there is much more draw distance, shown by the number of trees in the background. This helps add to the atmosphere that you’re deep in the forest.
The second picture shows off just how much dynamic lighting can add to the ambience. In the DX9 photo the light provided by the burning torches really does not stand out. In the rollover photo however you see that the fire illuminates the area nearby, as it would in a real life setting.
In our final picture we can see that we are deep in the forest with light beaming through the tree canopy. Once you rollover you see that shadows are very dark and the lights are very bright. Since the transition from light to dark is immediate, it feels as if you are in a very thick forest. We can also see more vegetation on the ground which provides even more ambience and immersion.
For those that can’t wait to see the game in action, we are providing a link to the AOC video site where you can eat up Developer commentary and previously mentioned in-game-footage. The Age of Conan DirectX 10 teaser video in 720p really shows off DirectX 10 the best and has all the screen shots above in motion!
We hope that you have learned a little something today from our quickie on DirectX 10 and maybe cleared up some misconceptions. At the very least you’ve seen some new photos of a great looking game that supports the highly touted DX10 features we’re all so eager to get our grubby little paws on!