DirectX 12 and other innovations coming across the board to gaming have many excited, and one of the most vocal within the gaming industry about what’s awaiting for us has been Stardock CEO Brad Wardell, who gave more interesting details in an interview on The Inner Circle Podcast.
Wardell mentioned that once we’ll see DirectX 12 games we won’t be able to look at DirectX 11 games the same way anymore. The difference isn’t even focused much in the number of objects displayed, but in the lighting.
It’ll be possible to have thousands of light sources simultaneously. Nvidia and AMD cards are set up to do that, but the graphic stack can only handle a handful at a time with DirectX 11, but with DirectX 12 developers can throw at the hardware as many as they want.
Wardell also explained that he winces whenever someone says that PS4 and Xbox One are like mid-range PCs. They have eight cores and eight gigabytes of RAM. According to him both consoles are “monsters,” and he hasn’t seen a game coming out for either that is remotely taxing the hardware. With the Xbox One the evolution of games from the early ones to late on the generation is going to be “vastly more extreme” than what we’ve seen on Xbox 360, and that’s because games being made now are still done like they were DirectX 9 games.
Wardell explained that Xbox One often gets lower resolution in multiplatform games because to get to 1080p developers need to do a little bit more specific coding for Microsoft’s console. Everyone is in a hurry to ship the game, so they don’t do it.
He mentioned, though, that DirectX 12 is not magic. Current games won’t get any benefit. If the game isn’t designed to be CPU-bound, there won’t be any difference.
Another important element is that the engine will need to be able to use DirectX 12 effectively. If an engine is designed to be very paralel, there will be a massive difference.
He explained that games with thousands of characters on the screen or a massive number of laser shots casting light are often CPU-bound. On the other hand, a Halo game with one character shooting against six more probably won’t be CPU-bound.
According to Wardell, it’ll be possible to reach not 50%, but 300-500% in CPU optimization. On a Nvidia GTX 980 a benchmark by AnandTech managed to increase performance from 22 to 56 FPS with DirectX 12, while on a Radeon they went from 7.5 to 43.
Surprisingly, Wardell mentions that a lot of the things that DirectX 12 will do on Xbox One could already be done today, if developers were willing to do a lot of custom work themselves. With DirectX 12 the API will do most of that work for them.
According to Wardell, Xbox Division head Phil Spencer is managing expectations carefully now, even because the first generation of DirectX 12 games are going to get only a 10 to 20% boost, because they’re written for DirectX 11 and updated to support DirectX 12, and will catch only the “low-hanging fruits” of the API.
It won’t be until the coming of engines written directly for DirectX 12 that the real benefits will come, but it will happen during the lifetime of the current consoles. Wardell believes we’ll be playing games that look like The Lord of The Rings: Return of the King by the end of this console generation.
People forget the specs of the Xbox One and PS4, Wardell argues. They have eight cores, eight gigabytes of ram and 64 bits, which means that games can access all of those resources, and as time goes on, there will be APIs that will grant more access to more of them. Deferred rendering will be seen at the end of this generation like now we look at sprites.
According to Wardell, it doesn’t matter if you’re on Xbox or PlayStation, the games from the beginning of this generation are going to look so dated compared to what we’ll get at the end of the cycle (which he argues will be a long one). First of all they are gonna look like movies, blatantly different. Secondly, they’ll have thousands of NPCs running around at the same time. Current games will look empty and static in comparison.
Incidentally, he also mentioned that AMD is working on something “crazy,” that in hindsight will make us wonder why it hasn’t been done before.
One thing is for sure: we’re in for interesting times.