The State of DirectX 10 - Image Quality & Performance

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DirectX 10 (DX10) has been one of the hottest topics for discussion and news coverage since the first DX10 compliant hardware appeared in the second half of last year. Touted as the biggest milestone in games development since programmable shaders were introduced with DirectX 8, nearly seven years ago, DX10 has generated a lot of buzz. Unlike the older versions of DirectX which were each built on top of the previous version, DirectX 10 is a completely new beast. With Windows Vista, Microsoft fundamentally changed the way drivers are designed, and they also completely redesigned DirectX from the ground up.

Before DirectX 10, each new version of DirectX was an incremental improvement over the previous version and it was also backwards compatible. This meant that many of the limitations of the previous versions were carried forward to each new version of DirectX. Microsoft broke this cycle by completely redesigning DirectX 10. The overhaul of both DirectX and the way drivers work in Vista is so complete that Vista actually comes with multiple versions of DirectX in order to support DX10 while still remaining backwards compatible with older software.

While DirectX 10 has seen heavy coverage both in the press and in forum discussions across the 'net, most of the discussion has been centered around the potential of DX10 since, at least initially, no one had any actual real-world, reproducible performance data. Since the first DX10 game didn't appear until June, nearly seven months after DX10 hardware first hit the shelves, no one had any idea how DX10 hardware and software would perform until rather recently. Due to its reliance on Vista's new driver model, DirectX 10 is only available for Vista and there are no plans to make a version available for Windows XP. Thanks in part to the relatively slow uptake of Vista, especially in gaming circles, developers didn't have a huge incentive to implement DirectX 10 in their games and as a result, games with DX10 support have been somewhat slow in coming.

One of the biggest issues holding back the maturation of DirectX 10 is the need for DirectX 9 support for the immediate future. It will take years for DX10 hardware to be ubiquitous and until then developers will be unwilling to alienate the section of the market that still uses DX9 hardware by releasing a DX10 exclusive game. This forces developers to compromise between DX9 and DX10 and currently the logical choice is to lean towards DX9 since most of the hardware out there today doesn't support the newer API. However, it's been nearly a year since the first DX10 hardware appeared and there are now several DX10 capable games on the market.  And it looks like things are about to really pick up.

This holiday season is shaping up to be one of the most exciting for PC gamers in years with dozens of highly anticipated PC games set to be released. Hotly anticipated titles like Crysis, Hellgate: London, Unreal Tournament 3 and the PC version of Gears of War are all due to arrive in the coming months and they share another thing in common; they all feature DirectX 10 support. In fact, the holiday release cycle has already started and two highly anticipated DX10 games, Bioshock and World in Conflict, have already been launched. With all of these big holiday releases right around the corner, we think it's about time we looked at the current state of DirectX 10 and answer the big question; are we ready?


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Davo 7 years ago
Sorry we lost the previous comments on this post. We just added new functionality to the site and forum that allows you to comment in either place and it shows up on the main site.

The gist of the comment was that a loyal HH reader liked Mike's article here. We concur whole-heartedly. :)
sebastian___ 7 years ago
you guys are so weird. First you say that in BioShock the shadows are better because are sharp and crips. Which is weird as everybody knows that soft shadows are desirable because are more similar with reality. And games makers struggle to offer soft shadows. - And then you said "Call of Juarez's DX10 mode offers softer, more natural looking shadows." - It appears that you contradict yourself. - And then again in World In Conflict you say : "we noticed that, like in Bioshock, shadows in DX10 are crisper and more accurate than in DX9. In the image below, the shadow in DX9 has blurry edges while the same shadow in DX10 has sharp and crisp edges" - ? ? ? sebastian___
recoveringknowitall 7 years ago

[quote user="sebastian___"]you guys[/quote]

 

Reviews/commentaries are written by individuals, so naturally oppinions/perceptions will vary!

sebastian___ 7 years ago
I'm talking about a single review : "The State of DirectX 10 - Image Quality & Performance" - written by (I think) a single reviewer/writer. And it's clearly a contradiction, because one minute he said ..." in BioShock the shadows are better because are sharp" , then the next minute he says : "Call of Juarez's DX10 mode offers softer, more natural looking shadows" ..and than again the writer change his mind by saying about World In Conflict : "we noticed that, like in Bioshock, shadows in DX10 are crisper and more accurate than in DX9".
Thunder Chunks 7 years ago

 My only fear with Dx10 is that it appears to have become one of only two reasons, the other being a shiny aero interface, that people have any interest in investing in Vista.

 

The difference between the comparative frames in World in Conflict are so negligible that Dx10, for most, would seem to be worth the financial outlay unless you are a complete techno purist. The hit in Company of Heroes is even more dumbfounding

 

I would have felt gutted if I had spent two hundred quid (400 dollars) on an 8800 GTS on the sole premise that I would have been able to play Dx10 games at reasonable frame rates  with a small modicum of future proofing.

 

Maybe Im just getting old and grumpy (actually I am, my wife keeps telling me) but Im sure Dx9 (especially c) was greeted with much more enthusiasm from gamers, developers as well as hardware manufacturers and had an even more positive effect on the whole PC industry.

 

(By the way, I thought the actual article was well written). 

MikeL_HH 7 years ago

[quote user="sebastian___"]you guys are so weird. First you say that in BioShock the shadows are better because are sharp and crips. [/quote] 

Point out where it was said that the shadows were 'better'? The article simply points out the difference in the way shadows are rendered between DX9 and DX10, noting that they are sharper in DX10. No where does it say the difference makes things better/worse, therefore no contradiction. 

 

[quote user="sebastian___"]and than again the writer change his mind by saying about World In Conflict : "we noticed that, like in Bioshock, shadows in DX10 are crisper and more accurate than in DX9".[/quote]

Note again that the article does not say that the difference in the way shadows are rendered improves image quality, simply noting that they are crisper and more accurate. In this case, "accurate" means how close the shadow resembles the silhouette of the object, not how accurate it is to real life.

sebastian___ 7 years ago

Well, maybe you're right. But he was writing about the BioShock DX 10 features like they were some improvements :

Quote 1 :

"The new DX10 enhancements include the use of dynamic water ripples, soft edges for particles, and crisper shadow edges"

Quote 2 :

"The last and least noticeable image quality difference between DX9 and DX10 in Bioshock is the appearance of shadows. In the screenshot you can see that the shadow in DX10 has a slightly sharper edge when compared to the same shadow rendered in DX9".

- Indeed it doesn't say it's better, but as you are reading this, you are inclined to think that the writer think this is an improvement albeit a very small one. 


MikeL_HH 7 years ago

[quote user="sebastian___"]

Well, maybe you're right. But he was writing about the BioShock DX 10 features like they were some improvements :

Quote 1 :

"The new DX10 enhancements include the use of dynamic water ripples, soft edges for particles, and crisper shadow edges"

Quote 2 :

"The last and least noticeable image quality difference between DX9 and DX10 in Bioshock is the appearance of shadows. In the screenshot you can see that the shadow in DX10 has a slightly sharper edge when compared to the same shadow rendered in DX9".

- Indeed it doesn't say it's better, but as you are reading this, you are inclined to think that the writer think this is an improvement albeit a very small one. 

[/quote] 

The articles mentions that crisper shadows was mentioned in the Bioshock game manual. I have my copy right here and it does indeed list crisp shadows as a game feature in a section titled "DirectX 10 Enhancements".

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