AMD's Sr. Manager of Developer Relations Richard Huddy wrote a neat little blog post last week about DirectX 11, which should shed a lot of light on what to expect from the next generation of the API collection -- a much bigger jump than DirectX 9 was to 10, to be sure. Couple that with the advancements and improvements Windows 7 has in store (it will be available for Vista, too, though), and well -- it's a good time to be a PC gamer.
Huddy outlines three main areas (there are many others) in which DX11 will affect your graphics experiences, particularly with games, of course. If you're not really into this whole "reading" thing, feel free to skip to the bottom where a summary can be found.
The first step lies with "a beast called the tessellator", which will be behind the stuff we'll be most aware of, like in landscape silhouettes or character profiles (say goodbye to blocky features), as seen above. Most interesting is the change in dynamics -- whereas for what seems like forever, gamers have had to trade-off graphics for performance, or vice versa, old tessy here should offer much more freedom to developers, in turn giving us a more "naturalistic" experience. We've been getting a taste of this for awhile now, as the technology has been in video cards for a bit, including the Xbox 360's, but in combination with DX11, things should be stepped up considerably.
Number two comes from "Compute Shader", aka "GPGPU", a feature which will allow programmers a radically different way of writing for graphics chips (similiar to programming using NVIDIA's CUDA parallel computing engine). In scenarios like this, they can treat the GPU more like a highly parallel CPU, something Huddy says will abolish the "triangle approach" programmers have been forced to use before, allowing for more freedom of expression, also in keeping with the "naturalistic" mode of work offered by the tessellator. For the gamer, the Compute Shader will allow higher frame rates overall -- can't complain, there.
Quite notably, this could evolve into a situation where integrated graphics go the route of integrated sound, becoming substantial enough on their own, with the ability to run most modern games; the big boys from NVIDIA and ATI, then, would be sold to enthusiasts (e.g. those who want to crank the settings). In short, PC gaming would be accessible to just about everyone if this came to fruition.
On the CPU end, 11 is touted as being much more optimized to make use of the power multicore hardware offers, also helping in the frame rate department, as well as with realism and detail.
Though without elaborating, Huddy lastly notes "corner cases" should be significantly improved performance-wise, which would mean more consistent gaming experiences across the board.
In summary, here are his predictions:
- We’ll see higher frame rates because the way DirectX 11 uses CPUs will be more efficient.
- We’ll see higher frame rates because games developers will be able to use our GPUs more like CPUs.
- We’ll see smoother, more realistic characters and more realistic terrain as we move away from blocky polygonal representations to the kind that are used in movies.
- And a side-benefit, that will help PC gaming generally, is that the new version is easier to use, so it will help to keep game development costs down.
Windows 7 ships October 22 -- sounds like we have a lot to look forward to, and not long to wait.