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AMD: DirectX Holding Back Graphics Performance On PC

AMD: DirectX Holding Back Graphics Performance On PC

March 18, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

While Microsoft's DirectX API has made it much easier to develop PC games that work across different hardware, at least one major PC hardware manufacturer thinks the system is holding PC game developers back.

AMD GPU division worldwide developer relations manager Richard Huddy told PC tech enthusiast site bit-tech that the DirectX layer is largely nullifying the hardware advantage PC games could have over their console counterparts.

"It's funny, we often have at least ten times as much horsepower as an Xbox 360 or a PS3 in a high-end graphics card, yet it's very clear that the games don't look ten times as good," he said. "To a significant extent, that's because, one way or another, for good reasons and bad -- mostly good -- DirectX is getting in the way."

Huddy says the software overhead of DirectX implementation can be the difference between 2,000 to 3,000 draw calls per frame in an average PC game and 10,000 to 20,000 draw calls on an average console game.

Console developers can also get more power out of a system near the end of its lifecycle, by moving from an API to programming directly for a stable, well-known set of underlying hardware. The DirectX standard, along with differences among various GPUs, means this usually isn't feasible on a PC.

"Wrapping it up in a software layer gives you safety and security," Huddy said, "but it unfortunately tends to rob you of quite a lot of the performance, and most importantly it robs you of the opportunity to innovate."

Of course, not all PC game developers might be eager to give up an API that lets them program just one graphics system per game, rather than coding different implementations optimized for multiple different graphics cards.

But Huddy said adding more hardware virtualization options -- which would allow for more direct access to the GPU without impacting overall system stability -- would help some developers truly get the most out of the hardware.

"If we drop the API, then people really can render everything they can imagine, not what they can see -- and we'll probably see more visual innovation in that kind of situation," he said.

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