Does it really matter which version of Windows you are using to send an email, work on a spreadsheet, or look at a web page? Let’s face it, since Windows 95 these features are essentially the same and Window’s incremental improvements for $100-$210 a pop really do not matter for common PC tasks. Windows OS releases do, however, bring faster changes to what is possible in the world of PC games. I may not work on a spreadsheet everyday, but I do game every single day. Windows 10 has been catching my eye since late last year. Windows 10 is bringing with it a lot of interesting features that affect my gamer lifestyle and that is why I jumped right into the Windows 10 Insider Program. My intuition was telling me this could be the next “big” thing for games, and as time went on this is what I found.
DirectX 12 – Not Just More Fx, But Performance Enhancements
Like Windows releases, DirectX releases herald new features and visual ideas for the next generation of games. DirectX 9 has proven to have a long lasting effect on games. While DX10/11 have impressive realistic features, the efficiency of DirectX 9 has made it the predominant API in game development since its 2002 introduction. Some of the most popular multiplayer games being played today are still DX9 based, since even low-spec budget PCs handle DX9 games well.
Thanks to efficient chip designs like AMD’s APU cores, and Intel’s built-in HD graphics, almost every low to mid-range PC can make a decent gaming box. Yet DirectX 9’s longevity still lies in its efficiency, it’s CPU/GPU overhead is low enough to achieve minimum playable framerates on most computers. The range of speeds, core configurations, brands are staggering for global PC configurations, yet the majority can fire up a Source based game like Team Fortress 2 and play online with millions of other gamers, regardless of their hardware setup.
With the completion of DirectX 12, that API efficiency is returning, and without sacrificing any of the visual splendor in previous DirectX releases. API inefficiency is the number one reason AMD developed the Mantle API. Mantle only affected AMD hardware owners, but what about everyone else? That’s where DirectX 12 comes in.
This video shows a test i5 machine running the same game with identical hardware utilizing an AMD GPU on the two latest versions of Windows. The performance boost is impressive, and hard to ignore. AMD’s DX12 driver, which will work only with Windows 10, adds superior multi-threaded performance. AMD users will notice better game performance immediately. Eurogamer reported the following findings:
Curiously, the DX12 driver in Windows 10 seems to have DX11 enhancements not found in the current Windows 8.1 driver, resulting in tangible performance boosts to Project Cars when it’s run on the new OS. Hopefully this is just the beginning of AMD’s efforts to optimize DX11
That’s an immediate reason for all AMD owners to give a long hard look at Windows 10, if not jump on board outright. Does that mean Nvidia card owner don’t need to make the move WIndwos 10? There are a few reasons why all gamers should upgrade, one of the most apparent reasons is aesthetics and OS optimization. Windows 7 was a phenomenal gaming platform, Windows 8 brought with it superior memory management ability, yet it was continually ignored by gamers because of the unsightly Metro user interface and initial poor driver support. After utilizing Windows 10 extensively, I can state that this version of Windows continues the optimization and memory efficiency trend started with Windows 7/8.
With Windows 10, I am able to run any game just as easily as in Windows 8. Switching between programs continues to be a breeze. Windows 10 is now everything I loved about the minimalist design of 7, blended with the performance of 8 in one OS. However, as an avid gamer, DirectX 12 looms heavily on the horizon. It is the single most intriguing aspect of Windows 10 that I am looking forward to experiencing.
Square Enix released an impressive DirectX 12 demo this past April. Granted, Square Enix Final Fantasy games are known for vivid, highly detailed cutscenes that are not indicative of actual gameplay. This is not the case in their DX12 real time demo. If you note in the video, the presenter manipulates many in-game effects with ease and render times are smooth and impressive throughout the entire presentation. Square Enix reports that they are able to push scenes like these to around 63 million polygons. They estimate that amount to be six to twelve times more polygons than they were able to push using DX11 using the same demo engine. Additionally they are able to increase the texture maps to 8000×8000 for a far more photo-realistic look.
Tthis is what’s pushing me to test Windows 10 and urging other gamers to adopt immediately. There is no perceived risk. It’s free. It upgrades Windows 8 to an even smoother UI and efficient operating system. Driver support out of the box is already here. When DirectX 12 games begin to roll out, the future is looks brighter still. DX API changes have historically taken 12 months to two years to gain even a respectable foothold with PC gamers. Not this time. DX12 is poised to bring considerable performance boost by eliminating CPU bottlenecks. Anandtech’s findings show that with a four core processor setup, draw calls are increased considerably under DX12 for all cards. An increase of 10-12 million more calls per second, simply by using the DX12 API, will lead to more impressive detailed graphics in games, without additional hardware investment.
“Our goal in gaming at Microsoft is to let people play games wherever they are, gaming was once central to what we did on Windows, but we lost our way. Now we hope to have a Windows release that’s the best Windows release for gamers.”
Intel’s information mirrors that published by Anandtech. Intel has shown Broadwell based CPUs in laptops pushing call counts that would rival desktop computers with dedicated GPUs. In this demo, Intel states that under DX11, utilizing integrated Intel HD graphics, a Lenovo laptop is pushing 13,000 to 14,000 draw calls per frame, at 30 frames per second. The same laptop running DX 12 is now capable of 41,000 draw calls per frame per 30 seconds per frame. Nearly 3 times the amount of the DX11 API.
It’s hard to believe that all of this performance and ability will arrive free for Windows 10 adopters. There has to be a catch? What does Microsoft gain from all this?
Unified Gaming, Old Buzzword, or Microsoft’s future vision?
Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox division said earlier this year, ““Gaming was once central to what we did on Windows, but we lost our way. Now we hope to have a Windows release that’s the best Windows release for gamers.” Microsoft has lost ground with consumers across several markets. Tablets and mobile devices tend to favor IOS/Android operating systems. Console sales are leaning Sony’s way. So Microsoft is looking for a way to regain market foothold. In the past, consumers buying new computers that come preinstalled with a new Windows version was by far the largest and quickest way for a new Windows OS to gain popular acceptability. By offering it for free, and with features that entice gamers, Microsoft hopes to rewrite their OS adoption model.
Microsoft’s old strategy was to empower their console and mobile OS with exclusive content available only on that device. After poor response from gamers, Microsoft has changed their tune. Their new song is “Our goal in gaming at Microsoft is to let people play games wherever they are” ad this new song is being sung without the cha-ching sound of doubloons flowing out of people’s bank accounts. Microsoft is also releasing a new version of Minecraft for free existing Minecraft account holders. As a leading example for with their new gaming centralized mantra, Pocket Edition Minecraft players will be able to join and play with Windows 10 PC gamers with tablets or smartphones.
Microsoft is also bringing Xbox Live closer to PC gamers as a community platform to compare achievements, games, game recordings, and seamlessly share this information with any Windows 10 capable device. This idea could easily bolster PC game sales and PC related sales in general if Microsoft keeps pushing for consolidated social interactivity across devices. Keep in mind that DX12 games, and games that take full advantage of Windows 10 unified social features are not that far off. Motiga’s upcoming MOBA Gigantic, is slated as a Windows 10 only game, utilizing one account method regardless if you are playing on Xbox One or a Windows 10 PC. Developers for the MOBA are giving a hopeful August deadline for switching over to closed Beta status, well after Windows 10 releases to consumers.
Game eras have been cyclical, and PC games are poised to enter yet another “golden age of gaming,” where PC gamers have access to the best of all gaming genres, and the connection between all other platforms in one solid gaming station. Microsoft may have alienated some in the past with their business decisions, but this is a solid on that is extremely easy for gamers to get behind. We will of course, be on the forefront of any news involving DX12 games, and Windows 10 game coverage as we head into this amazing new release.