From the movie-like graphics in the action game “Gears of War” to the nearly photorealistic racer “MotorStorm,” video games have come a long way since the bouncing blocks of “Pong.”
A new breed of visually striking games promises to light up computer screens with even sharper, more lifelike graphics than ever before. But unlike the popular “Gears of War” or “MotorStorm,” the games won’t be debuting on Sony’s PlayStation 3 or Microsoft’s Xbox 360 consoles.
Instead, the PC is returning to the pinnacle of video game graphics — thanks to some under-the-hood tweaks in Microsoft’s Vista operating system.
“What we tried to achieve with the graphics is something that we called ‘magical realism,”‘
said Jorgen Tharaldsen, product director for Funcom, which is developing the game in Oslo, Norway. “With DX10 we can just add a lot more bells and whistles. We can start pushing graphics to the stage where it almost looks realistic.”
Bill Roper, whose Flagship Studios is developing the action adventure game “Hellgate: London,” said he wasn’t concerned that not everyone has Vista or a DX10-capable graphics card yet.
“As with every new technology, the hardcore lead the way and the masses catch up,”
he said. “Not everyone that has an iPod or a DVD player went out and bought theirs on day one. As with previous operating system and hardware advances, the more products that support it and can show the tangible benefits of upgrading, the more widespread the adoption.”
The DirectX standard dates back to the mid-1990s when upgrading add-on video cards on home computers was still a hobbyist’s pursuit, something hardcore gamers did to extract the most performance from 3-D shooters like “Quake” or “Unreal.”
Subsequent versions have added new features to speed up graphics and give game programmers more tools to simulate the movement and appearance of liquids and other complex objects.
As the demands from game makers (and players) have grown increasingly complex, so too have the capabilities of DirectX. The software lets programmers tell the 3-D computer chips in graphics cards whether to simulate a wisp of smoke or a mirror’s reflection.
DX10 not only makes games look better, it also promises to improve performance by simplifying how the graphics cards process video information and display it on the screen.
“It means the realism will take a dramatic jump,”
says Roy Taylor, vice president of content for Nvidia Corp., which makes 3-D video chips for computers. “It’s going to look dramatically more real.”
Related Links: Microsoft DirectX
, DirectX @ Wiki