Do DirectX 12 & Windows 10 Make Your Games Faster?

Something something low-level abstraction. Something something optimised pipelining.

The mixed blessings of Windows 10 have been ours to experience for a few weeks now, and that means a new gaming API thingy (technical term) in the form of DirectX 12. We’ve touched on the possible impact of DX12 for all things gaming previously, how it promises to unleash CPU performance for free, bring the PC level with consoles when it comes to reducing overheads and all that jazz. Well, now it’s out, some early DX12 software has emerged and there’s all kinds of intrigue going on between AMD and Nvidia, the big noises in PC gaming graphics.

So pull up a pew and let’s see if DX12 makes games run faster on the graphics card you’ve already got…

NB: There’s a TL;DR at the bottom if you’re that way inclined.

We’re very much in the early days of DX12. That applies to everything from software availability to the very substance of the technology and how it applies to differerent hardware.

In other words, DX12 isn’t yet a common feature in games. By that I mean it’s not actually in any fully available retail game. But whatever the current situation, the one thing you can be sure about is that it’s set to be a critical battle ground for the big boys in PC gaming hardware.

Before we dig into the details, a quick word on what DirectX 12 actually is and where you’ll find it. It’s a multimedia API or application programming interface. That means it’s a set of routines and protocols that sit between apps (ie games) and your hardware (ie your CPU and GPU) and define how it all interacts.

DX12 covers all kinds of things from audio to 2D video. For we gamers, it’s actually a subset of DX12 that matters most – the Direct3D bit that governs 3D graphics. The big change for the new version of Direct3D is a lower level of hardware abstraction (bear with me) along with a reconfiguration of how the graphics pipeline works.

Sometimes known as running ‘closer to the metal’, reduced abstraction basically means games can get at the graphics hardware more directly and efficiently. It’s a bit like having a game that speaks the same language as your GPU instead of needing an interpreter to translate messages. That should mean games running faster on pretty much everything including your existing PC. Better frame rates on the video card you already have. This promise of free performance is what makes DX12 so exciting.

This DX12 stuff has been a long time coming…

Technically, only Nvidia’s very latest second generation Maxwell GPUs (including the GTX 970, 980 and later) fully support the entire DX12 spec. However, my understanding is that any AMD GCN and any Nvidia Kepler card or better will support pretty much all the DX12 goodness that matters. For AMD that means GPUs that date right back to the Radeon HD 7000 series and thus anything newer qualifies. On the Nvidia side, we’re talking GeForce GTX 600 series and newer. In other words, most cards released from 2012 and onwards should, in theory, support it.

If there is a downside, with less abstraction comes a greater workload for developers. It’s the difference, very broadly speaking, between coding once and letting the API sort out the differences between AMD and Nvidia hardware and various generations thereof, for instance, and building more distinct code paths for each.

The significance of the change to the graphics pipeline, meanwhile, mainly involves a reduction of what’s known as the draw call overhead. Yup, more jargon. But it’s not actually that complicated a concept.

Better load balancing of software threads is part of the DirectX 12 promise

Draw calls are requests from the CPU to render an object or element in a 3D engine. Each call generates a certain amount of API overhead or load for the CPU. The idea with DX12 is to reduce or remove that API overhead.

Put another way, DX12 could well mean that your CPU will rarely be the limiting factor for existing games and in turn for future games that ‘spare’ performance could be used to do things like cleverer AI. We’ll see.

Anyway, that’s the theory. The big practical questions involve how much of this is going to materialise in reality and whether AMD or Nvidia graphics will have any particular advantages. The question of whether reduced CPU overheads might eventually make a cheapo AMD CPU more viable is interesting, too – currently Intel chips are very much the best bet for a gaming system.

To be frank, final answers to all these questions will take time to emerge. But we do have some early insight now in the form of the very first real-world game benchmark that includes support for all this stuff. Yup, it’s Ashes of The Singularity [official site], the gameplay content of which I am largely oblivious to beyond the fairly obvious observations that as an RTS game, there’s potential for a proverbial arse-load of objects, units and ballistics on the screen at any one time. It is thus the kind of game capable of generating a killer CPU load in ye olde DX11.

Lots of objects used to mean a heavy CPU overhead…

Now, I usually don’t like doing this, such is my impeccable work ethic. But on this occasion I’m going to cheat a bit and conjure up something of a poll of polls. In other words, I’m pinching performance impressions and numbers from across the web. I’m not convinced running the benchmark on the limited set of hardware I have currently is sufficient to provide a full enough picture. That’s my excuse anyway and I’m sticking with it.

If you fancy a look at the raw figures, the likes of PC Perspective and Computerbase (warning: auf Deutsch) are decent places to start. So, switching from crusty old DX11 code to the brave new DX12 kind in this benchmark is what the comparison is all about. Here’s the bombshell factoid. For AMD graphics, performance for some cards jumps by anywhere from 60 to 90 per cent. Yes, that’s huge.

Nvidia GPUs, meanwhile, do anything from actually losing a little performance to gaining about 25 per cent. The net result of which can see something like an AMD Radeon R9 390X leap from being miles off the pace of an Nvidia GeForce 980 to being on a par or even a bit quicker. It’s dramatic stuff.

Look a little closer and some really interesting details emerge. For instance, AMD’s FuryX board improves by as much as 94 per cent at 2,560 by 1,600 pixels. So this stuff is clearly relevant for high resolutions. On the other hand, as you move down the GPU stack, AMD’s advantage seems to dwindle. The Radeon R7 370 only improves by around 15 per cent with DX12 enabled. Disappointing.

RTS’er Ashes of the Singularity from Oxide is first out of the gate with DX12 support

On the CPU side, you can see that in some situations, a chip like an AMD FX 8370 can go from a rather unplayable frame rate well below 20 to a more tolerable number in the low to mid 30s. It’s a similar situation with cheaper Intel Core i3 chips. Flicking the DX12 switch can make those CPUs viable at higher detail settings. That said, the benchmarks also show that faster Intel CPUs still dramatically increase those frame rates at pretty much any setting. In other words, high performance CPUs are not suddenly redundant in DX12.

The problem, of course, is that one game makes for a rather singular data point. One might reasonably conclude there’s something significant in all this for the traditionally CPU-heavy RTS genre. Beyond that and in the context of the broader gaming landscape, it gets very complicated awfully quickly.

What’s more, the developers of Ashes of the Singularity, Oxide, are arguably somewhat aligned with AMD (you can read their views on all this here). Inevitably, the war of words between AMD and Nvidia has begun. Actually, that’s not entirely fair. By Nvidia’s standards, its response to the underwhelming performance of its own hardware in Ashes has been an uncharacteristically low key press release rebuttal. Here’s the key passage:

“We believe there will be better examples of true DirectX 12 performance and we continue to work with Microsoft on their DX12 API, games and benchmarks. The GeForce architecture and drivers for DX12 performance is second to none – when accurate DX12 metrics arrive, the story will be the same as it was for DX11.”

It’s precisely this kind of s***storm that should run better in DX12

So, Nvidia is saying this benchmark does not reflect how its hardware will broadly perform in DX12. Well, it would say that, wouldn’t it? My spidey sense, informed partly by the knowledge that AMD has been ahead of the curve in this area courtesy of its own Mantle tech (which is in effect an AMD-only API replacement for DirectX that offers many of the same claimed advantages), tells me AMD may have an early edge with this DX12 shizzle.

Oh, and you will need to install Windows 10 to get access to DX12. It’s not available as an upgrade package for earlier operating systems. All of which just leaves space to reiterate the fairly obvious fact that DX12 is essentially non existent in actual games as I write these words. Indeed, it will likely be years before it’s commonplace. That’s especially true when you consider the additional workload it creates for game developers.

And yet DX12 does look awfully promising. There’s enough potential on view to suggest it could be used to enable some very cool things in previously CPU-limited gaming genres sooner rather than later. DX12 looks like it will be very good for PC gaming. But the full impact is still a few years away.

TL;DR
– DirectX 12 is a new API that reduces CPU overheads in some situations dramatically
– That will allow at least some games to run much faster
– It’s probably compatible with your graphics cards unless it’s really, really old
– It’s only in Windows 10
– AMD cards benefit more than Nvidia in early DX12 software
– But there aren’t yet any finished, shipping games that use DX12

113 Comments

  1. Orillion says:

    I think that second to last point in the tl;dr is going to be the real killer for the foreseeable future (at least in preventing games from being released solely on DX12), at least until Microsoft’s recto-cranial problems are sorted out.

    • Orillion says:

      *third to last. Am I missing an edit feature somewhere?

      • Premium User Badge

        Skabooga says:

        You are not missing it. The edit feature was disabled because it was playing havoc with the code of the comments system. Research is underway to reinstate a fully functioning edit button.

        I’m pretty happy we’ll be getting more power out of our hardware in the future, but I’m kinda sad that upgrading to Win10 won’t magically make my crappy computer run better the games that I already own. I suppose I have to be content that computers are already kinda magical as it is.

        • dangermouse76 says:

          Anecdotally I would say that GTA V reinstalled on windows 10 running on a GTX 660 for me has greater stability at the 60fps mark than before on windows 7 with the same settings( same PC ).

          In fact all my games seem to be a little nippier old and new.
          That may be because it was a clean install also though.

          • Kitsunin says:

            I think that’s more from 7 to 8 than 8 to 10. Can’t say for sure because I also did a 7-to-10 update, but when I told my grandma I was shocked at how my computer boots like 5x faster now, and things seem to run faster, she said that her win-8 system already booted much faster than any previous Windows comp she’s had, and she didn’t notice a difference after updating to 10.

          • Conundrummer says:

            I also noticed this change on a 660, but without a clean install. GTAV went from playable, and “pretty smooth” to being a downright powerhouse pushing 50-60fps in almost every situation. I’ve felt that it DEFINITELY runs better than it did on Windows 7, for me, and it’s interesting seeing other people posting the same surprising conclusion.

      • gwathdring says:

        It was removed a while back for some reason.

      • OmNomNom says:

        No. The commenting system is awful and inferior to pretty much every other popular gaming site but they don’t seem to care and haven’t done for some time.
        It’s a huge shame because for the most part RPS is the cream of the crop.

        • NomadSoul says:

          I have to cut them some slack, I doubt the site generates much money. They probably don’t have the funds to hire a full time web developer. There is no other explanation for using wordpress on a community site of this scale. I love RPS, but I come for the articles not for cutting edge web design.

          • Bugamn says:

            This might not be cutting edge web-design, but I prefer it to what the PCGamer site became. That site was ok to browse, but now the front-page is nasty.

          • Baines says:

            I haven’t looked at PCGamer lately enough to know what has changed, but was it perhaps the result of the move to being mobile-friendly? Some other sites that I frequent have gone to frankly awful layouts in order to become “mobile-friendly”.

          • Bugamn says:

            I don’t know if it was modified for mobile, I know that I don’t like a site that only loads older posts as I browse the list. That means, for example, that if I have to reopen the page I will have to go through the entire list again.

        • Premium User Badge

          Grizzly says:

          I can safely assure you that RPS does care about, well, the entire website. However, the website’s software is that of a glorified blog and thus starts to creak a bit under the massive load, one which it wasn’t designed for back in 1873. The edit function being disabled is simply a symptom of that underlying problem and it simply costs time and resources to get it fixed (and these resources should not be expended at the cost of the articles, which is what draws people in).

          I do agree that it’s very inconvenient though!

          • Cinek says:

            Problem isn’t in software than handless the website (which is WordPress, more than capable of handling high-traffic sites), but the implementation of editing functionality they want to have (which is non-standard, ajax-based).

      • Neutrino says:

        It isn’t just the lack of an edit button though. At the same time as the edit button disappeared I lost any and all notifications of replies to all my posts.

        So whereas in the past the RPS comment section used to be a place full of interesting and winding conversations, it has now become a Twitter like wasteland of throwaway one-liners.

        • Bugamn says:

          Notifications are working fine for me. Maybe you are doing something wrong? When I write a comment, I check the box “Notify me of follow-up comments by e-mail.” After that, I’ll get an e-mail from RPS asking for confirmation. Now here is were you might have a problem (I had): if you use GMail, there will be a button that you can click for the confirmation. It doesn’t work. You have to open the e-mail and click the confirmation button inside the e-mail. Then you will get e-mail when people comment on the post, although not only in reply to you. This works, that is how I have seen your comment.

          • Neutrino says:

            I’m talking about the notification button next to my logged in user name where it say ‘Howdy, Neutrino’. Last entry there is several hundred days ago.

            Mail notification is useless firstly because I’d never give an email I actually use to an online website, and secondly because I don’t have the time or inclination to filter auto-generated spam from one website out of the auto-generated spam of a hundred other websites. The way it worked before with all replies to my posts listed on the notification dropdown was fine.

            I don’t know why they changed the commenting system, but it’s annoying that months after completely breaking it they still haven’t sorted it out. It’s not like they have to build a new one, existing off-the-shelf systems are freely available.

          • Bugamn says:

            Sorry, I had never seen that before, so I didn’t know it was broken. I only care about comments on RPS, so for me e-mail notifications are enough.

    • jacobvandy says:

      Definitely. To add to my other comment, successor to OpenGL Vulkan will support Windows 7, 8, and 10, as well as Linux and Android. There is very little reason to create a DX12 game right now when the install base for Win10 simply isn’t there yet, if it ever will be.

      • Premium User Badge

        gritz says:

        I’m a little baffled by comments like this. Windows 10 hit the 75 million installs mark almost a month ago.

        • melnificent says:

          Most likely because 75 million users isn’t that large a number in the world of operating systems. link to netmarketshare.com XP is STILL on twice the market share.

          • Spakkenkhrist says:

            I wonder if that takes into account things like tills and what not because loads of those still run XP.

          • Spakkenkhrist says:

            Also I wouldn’t imagine many of those XP users are playing a lot of current releases.

        • jacobvandy says:

          I’m referring to adoption among gamers. Steam’s August survey puts Windows 10 at about 17%… We shall see where it goes from there.

          • Cinek says:

            Many people wait till it matures, myself included. Also a new Microsoft way for infringing privacy with Win 10 are a big stoppers a lot of people I know of.

          • KillahMate says:

            So, 17% of all Steam users in one month? Damn, Microsoft’s really dragging their feet! Remind me again

          • Hedgeclipper says:

            17% when they’re doing their level best to ram it down everyone’s throats? – Not what I’d call a great result even if its only been a month and given how aggressive they’re been you’d have to anticipate that most of the rest of us will be waiting for at least a while longer.

          • Deadly Sinner says:

            Well, there’s no actual need to upgrade to Windows 10, yet, as there’s no games that utilize dx12. Once the first major dx12 game that people want to play is released, I expect that number to jump, since 63% of Steam users have a dx12 capable graphics card.

        • ButteringSundays says:

          Well one of those 75 million would have been me. I rolled back after 3 days.

          Windows 7 was the last proper Windows OS, I’ll be sticking with it for the forseable.

  2. jacobvandy says:

    On a related note, Valve are among a group of developers saying DirectX 12 will be ruled irrelevant before it even takes off. They’re putting their support behind cross-platform, open-source, low-level API Vulkan, to which Source 2 has already been ported and for which Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA already have driver support.

    link to youtu.be

    To quote: “Unless you’re aggressive enough to be shipping a DX12 game this year, I would argue that there’s really not much reason to ever create a DX12 back-end for your game.”

    • rcguitarist says:

      I hope this becomes true. I’m ready for a new OS company to come forward and save us all where all windows games easily run on it.

      • subedii says:

        If it’s a new OS, then by default it’s unlikely that all Windows games will run easily on it.

        That said, I’m hoping for Vulkan to become the mainstream choice since that’s a good thing for Linux support in general.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Dont forget Valve have their own reasons for wanting DX to lose supremacy so taker their comments with a nice bit of money laden salt.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      On a related note Valve love their hyperbole and selective use of information.

      Look at the slides on that presentation. Valve states Vulkan has multivendor support and lists all the vendor hardware Vulkan works on…and doesn’t bother saying the same for DirectX12.

      Lets also put some of that presentation in perspective.

      Between July and August Windows 10 (both versions) went from about 3% Steam marketshare to just under 18%. Windows 10 already surpasses the combined total of all other Windows OS’s other than Win7 64bit and Win8.1.1 64bit. Both of those OS’s lost marketshare in the same timeframe.

      Linux and OSX Steam marketshare is still insignificant at under 5% between them.

      Why exactly would Android matter in this list of supported OS’s? The types of games that need to be close to the metal on an Android system are not going to tax an entry level PC and the type of games on a PC that need to be close to the metal aren’t going to have a hope in hell of running on Android.

      The only real reason to build a game around Vulkan over DX12 is to sell to Win7 64bit users which will be an ever dwindling userbase. The other benefits just don’t make much financial sense.

      • w0bbl3r says:

        So what you’re saying is that windows 10 already has more users than windows 98, windows 2000 and windows XP?
        It has more users than all other OS, except the one’s that are new, and better? Like windows 7?

        The first thing that makes DX12 irrelevant for me…… windows 10 only. Something I will never use.

        • mattevansc3 says:

          You can add Win7 32bit, Win 8.1.1 32bit, Win 8.1 64bit, Win 8.1 32bit, Win 8 64bit, Win 8 32bit, Vista and XP to that list of OS’s it beats.

        • Asurmen says:

          So what you’re saying is that a new OS takes time to be adopted over anything released previously and has reduced the market over those previous releases, but has still seen a massive rate of adoption among gamers?

      • Premium User Badge

        TightByte says:

        Who are you, mattevansc3? Every time, but each and every last time, there is an article or comment on RPS not praising Microsoft, its direction or its products, you surge to the rescue, batting away in defence of Redmond.

        Your enthusiasm is impressive, if that is all it is. I am however curious to know whether you have more vested interests than you let on? Care to comment?

        • Asurmen says:

          Why should they have to bow down to your demands to explain themselves?

        • jezcentral says:

          So, mattevansc3 has an opinion. Whatever. Everyone does. That doesn’t mean he has to reveal his background to do so. We don’t demand that of people who constantly do MS down.Take issue with hat he actually says. Live and let live is also good.

        • sithalo says:

          Tightbyte isnt making demands or asking anyone to bow down here in the comment. they where curious so they asked. Tightbyte is living and let living here. Said “care to comment?” not “tell me exactly why your doing whatever it is your doing or im going to work on banning you from the site!” or something actually demanding like that.

          they where just curious so asked…

          • Asurmen says:

            Er, Tightbyte is clearly demanding an explanation as to why matt is posting how he is, with an angle that matt is a paid for shill in MS employ.

            Or matt is just defending something he likes against opinions he doesn’t agree with.

    • Jeremy Laird says:

      Given the anti-Microsoft rhetoric that sometimes comes out of Vale (remember Newell’s claim that Windows 8 was such a catastrophe we’d all be forced onto Linux?), it’s difficult to know if their comments reflect serious analysis or merely an axe to grind.

      Broadly speaking, DX is one of the better things MS does so at the very least I’d say it’s rash to rule DX12 out at this stage.

      • Tacroy says:

        To be fair, if Microsoft had left Windows 8 out there without a follow-up, it would have been the unmitigated disaster Newell mentioned. There’s been roughly zero corporate upgrade migrations to Win 8, for instance.

        • Cinek says:

          I know of a few, so your “zero” is pulled out of the ass. Not to mention that the whole “switching to Linux” thing we all would be “forced to do” never happened.

          Gabe Newell is pulling stuff out of his ass much like you do. He is known for anti-Microsoft rhetoric for years, Valve is as trustworthy source of the information about Windows as Linux Foundation is.

          • ButteringSundays says:

            The person you’re replying to said *roughly* zero. I don’t think any of us here lack the mental capacity to imagine that at least 1 business has misguidedly upgraded to Windows 8.

      • subedii says:

        remember Newell’s claim that Windows 8 was such a catastrophe we’d all be forced onto Linux?

        No, I’m fairly sure that’s not what he said (speaking of “anti-x rhetorhic”…).

        Unless I’m missing a later statement, what he did say was:

        The thing about Windows 8 wasn’t just [Microsoft’s] distribution. As somebody who participates in the overall PC ecosystem, it’s totally great when faster wireless networks and standards come out, or when graphics get faster. Windows 8 was like this giant sadness. It just hurts everybody in the PC business. Rather than everybody being all excited to go buy a new PC, buying new software to run on it, we’ve had a 20+ percent decline in PC sales — it’s like “holy cow that’s not what the new generation of the operating system is supposed to do.” There’s supposed to be a 40 percent uptake, not a 20 percent decline, so that’s what really scares me. When I started using it I was like “oh my god…” I find [Windows 8] unusable.

        I don’t really find anything to disagree with there. Frankly, Windows 8 was pants, and even Microsoft knew it.

        I think you’re confusing the fact that W8 lead to Valve doubling down on Linux gaming / SteamOS / Steambox.

        • Premium User Badge

          basilisk says:

          The famous quote is from July 2012 and runs like this:

          I think that Windows 8 is kind of a catastrophe for everybody in the PC space. I think that we’re going to lose some of the top-tier PC [original equipment manufacturers]. They’ll exit the market. I think margins are going to be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that’s true, it’s going to be a good idea to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality.

          Source

          • subedii says:

            Even there I don’t see that as us all being forced onto Linux. As far as I can tell he’s talking about the need for an alternative to hedge against the release of W8 having bad effects on OEM’s.

            To stretch that out some more, W8 had a bad effect on vendors, but the extent to which he’s suggesting was pretty heavy hyperbole on his part.

          • Premium User Badge

            basilisk says:

            He was explicitly talking about Linux just before this. Perhaps I should have posted the previous paragraph as well; it’s obvious in context.

          • Asurmen says:

            It’s obvious anyway. There is no alternative other than Linux.

          • Cinek says:

            Of course there is. Mac OS. Or, you know, people could keep on using Windows 7 – which is what happened in most of the cases.

          • ButteringSundays says:

            “There is no alternative other than Linux.”

            “Of course there is. Mac OS.”

            OSX is the successful Linux (well, Unix) build so many people crave. You can think what you like about Apple but it’s still the best OS available – it just doesn’t carry the variety of games that Windows does (due to its pervasiveness). Things are changing, and if one day I can get rid of the windows box I’d be happy to.

            Given a choice I’d rather stick with an open source Linux, but if you want Linux without the headache and propensity of basement-built software, that’s OSX.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      I’m all for fighting Microsoft’s and D3D supremacy in the desktop gaming market, but please ignore Valve’s hyperbolic crap on the subject.

      Actually, with them pushing their silly things around they’re probably doing much more damage to the future of non-windows gaming than not doing anything at all.

      • subedii says:

        OK serious question: How are they damaging non-windows gaming?

        I mean the worst I can see for Steambox and SteamOS is that they both sink without trace. But Valve have already had a massive and measurable impact on Linux gaming with the support and work they’ve done. Previously linux support was essentially microscopic. Within the past few years of that push starting, we’re at a situation where almost a quarter of games on Steam now have native Linux versions.

        link to phoronix.com

        That was pretty much inconceivable back in 2010. And at least according to the Linux gaming websites, that’s heavily down to Valve.

        “At the end of 2013, when Valve released the beta of SteamOS everything changed,” Dean said. “After years of promoting the various Linux distributions, we had a major gaming company not just porting their games to Linux, but actually creating their own Linux-based operating system. It was an incredibly exciting moment and a turning point for Linux users.”

        link to arstechnica.com

        Yeah there still needs to be a push from a lot of the major AAA devs, no doubt. But if we’re talking about impact on non Windows gaming, the effect has already been pretty huge.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          Look, i actually like Valve a lot and it’s indeed indisputable that they heavily helped change some things, maybe it’s just that the general tone of my response came slightly off.

          What i mostly meant is that they need to be far more careful with their claims and projects or they’ll lose the huge amount of credibility they need to actually push their goals.

          Then again it’s true, Linux is an different position now and Vulkan can only be a good thing, but it still won’t work ( broadly at least ) if the company that pushes it the most has such an extreme position.

        • SomeDuder says:

          Of course they aren’t damaging “non-Windows” gaming, unless they enforce some sort of policy so that Steam games for Linux only run on their SteamOS distribution (But I doubt even Valve are that shortsighted)

          I think the main reason that gaming under Linux is finding so little traction, even with such a massive effort being stimulated by Valve, is that use of a Linux distribution as an OS to play videogames through, is still a very small drop in a huge ocean. Well, maybe not as small as it was 10 years ago, when the likes of Tux Racer was the most extreme form of hardcore gaming on Linux, but it’s still clearly in the minority.

          Most people still just use Windows as their daily OS. Hell, I manage several distributions of Linux at work on a dozen machines and appliances, but at home I just can’t be bothered. Too much hassle.

          • Cinek says:

            in fact – Linux is still 3rd when it comes to gaming on a PCs – MacOS still holds an upper hand, even if it requires a machine from Apple and cannot simply and easily be installed on any random PC like Linux can.

  3. Ascalon says:

    While this is a good general overview, I feel that there are a few omissions. Mainly that the reason that AMD cards are doing better with DX12, according to Ashes developer Oxide, is that their GPUs support asynchronous compute/shaders through their GCN architecture. Nvidia have opted until now to use serial compute on their cards. This causes the huge speedup in the new APIs as the benchmark results show.

    Though, honestly, if you ask me, DX12 is too little too late. The Vulkan API is clearly the wave of the future, with major vendors and developers all joining the Khronos group and the early results being no less impressive. Not to mention that it supports all platforms, including older versions of Windows, not just W10. I’d be interested to see RPS reach out to Valve or others to see what they’re cooking up with Vulkan since I think that’ll have a more lasting effect on gaming in general.

    • Martel says:

      I also would like to see this.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      A big pinch of salt is needed with that. That presentation does omit a lot of derails. For a start DirectX12 also has similar levels of support. Intel, AMD, nVidia and Qualcomm have all been involved in DirectX12. DirectX12 support is already part of UE4 and Unity. Most importantly Valve is really the only big company putting their flag in the sand.

      With a few exceptions such as Nintendo, the vast majority of those within the PC market supporting Vulkan also support DirectX12. Microsoft is a member of the Khronos group for example.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Still, both AMD and Nvidia support some DX12 features that the other vendor doesn’t, as of now none is actually feature complete and nothing worthwhile will happen before the next GPU family.

        Besides, DX12 titles won’t happen before that point anyway, for the most part at least.

    • NomadSoul says:

      I was thinking the same thing. While the article points out the performance gains AMD is enjoying in DX12 Jeremy never explained why or mentioned Asynchronous compute. I agree that MS is late to the party with not only Valve showcasing their cross platform Vulken API but AMD already has achieved some of what DX12 hopes to with Mantle by taking the strain off older / low end CPUs and doesn’t not require windows 10.

      Less relevant to a PC gaming site but still worth mentioning is Apple’s own Metal API for iOS devices. Like Mantle, it is already in use in some games for the iOS platform and leverages the stronger GPU in the iPad.

    • EvaUnit02 says:

      It’s cute that you think that DirectX won’t continue to be the AAA industry standard. Valve will be running their F2P/”games as a service” MP titles and the rest of their old as sin game catalogue off Vulkan (ANOTHER engine update that will break a load of HL1/2 mods AGAIN), so what? The a good chunk of the AAA publishers won’t follow suit.

      I can already tell you that Steam Machines won’t take off in the mainstream, utterly bone-headed to launch SO MANY SKUs.

      • Ascalon says:

        Perhaps your dismissive stance would be justified if Valve were the only ones adopting Vulkan. Both Unity3D and UE are planning for Vulkan and those are by far the most popular engines used today. EA’s Frostbite will also support it which is no surprise given that Vulkan is heavily influenced by Mantle. The Cryengine will also likely follow suit as they’ve mentioned looking into implementing Vulkan.

        If I were a game developer why would I want to target DX12 only when all the major engines allow me to use a crossplatform API that’s as good? With no real hassle, I could use an API that targets mobile devices, consoles, SteamOS/Linux and previous versions of Windows such as 7. In short, the overwhelming majority of the market. Sounds like a no-brainer to me from a development standpoint. As an added bonus, I wouldn’t have to depend on Microsoft’s whims when it comes to future developments.

        In short, both AAA devs and indies will have working implementations at their disposal soon and then it’s just a matter of economics. But feel free to continue to dismiss clear industry trends regardless, it’s cute.

        • Cinek says:

          Unity and UE both will (or to a degree: already are) supporting DX12. On top of that you have CryEngine which also runs DX12, but at the moment has no announced plans for Vulcan support.

          DX12 has an enormous advantage in that it’s supported by Xbone – already making it de facto industry standard, while Vulcan still remains a song of the future.

        • Solidstate89 says:

          That’s the same argument people have had for OpenGL for years now and it’s never mattered even once. DX12 is already available right now, while Vulkan won’t even reach “shipping” status for another year, if that. Not to mention all of these development houses have all their tooling and experience working with Direct3D and moving to a whole graphical API presents a huge financial challenge.

          If you think it’s as easy as a developer choosing which graphics API of an engine they want to use and that’s the end of it, you’re sorely mistaken. Not to mention there’s the very simple fact that DX11 and DX12 coexist in Windows 10. And I don’t just mean that Windows 10 supports older version of Direct3D, I mean that DX12 is a full replacement for DX11.

          When developers are making a modern DX12 game, they will still be using DX11 APIs in areas where it makes no sense to remove the abstraction (like in audio for example). So any development house (read: basically all of them) that is already familiar with DirectX development still has literally no incentive to move to Vulkan.

          • DanMan says:

            Back then Mobile wasn’t a thing. Of course, if you don’t plan to release your game on mobile platforms, that point is moot.

            Apple kind of killed Flash, too. Why couldn’t something similar happen to DX? One can dream, right? ;)

    • Geebs says:

      DirectX and OpenGL need each other; without competition, OpenGL stagnated for far too long.

      What worries me more about this is: for all of the talk of “closer to the metal” coding being better, the abstraction layers of OGL and DX were there for a reason – so that the manufacturers who, let’s face it, know the hardware better than anyone, would be responsible for the drivers, and most code would run on most hardware.

      Without that, how on earth is a single-person coding team going to cope? Yes, I know, only madmen write their own renderers, we should all be using Unreal or Unity, whatever. There’s still a huge potential raft of QA and compatibility issues caused by the increased difficulty of coding and potential for wider performance gaps between different subsets of hardware.

      I think this will work out well for the big shops, but raise the bar for entry into 3D graphics for the little guy.

  4. Xerophyte says:

    I believe Valve were quoting similar 50% to 100% improvements in at least some situations in Dota 2 for their Vulkan port. Presentation here, which quotes nothing of the sort but their sampling slides certainly shows a lot less overhead in the render thread.

    It’s not entirely trivial to predict when and how the new APIs will matter in actual games. Yes, RTSs often have to do a lot of simulation and use the CPU more heavily than many games but that’s not the same as API overhead being the bottleneck. It might well be that the actual rendering is easily batched and requires very few state transitions, depending on other things.

    My semi-professional suspicions are that we’ll see more effect in things like MMOs and other games where the scene complexity at any given time is entirely unpredictable and doing optimal scene graph traversals might be difficult. Of course, these are also the games that have the longest dev cycles so that’ll take a while to percolate.

  5. melnificent says:

    There are now also the Fable Legends dx12 benchmarks available link to pcper.com

    What’s nice here is the full breakdown of which cards are better at what.

    • Baines says:

      I wonder why they didn’t include the GTX 970, since it seems that would be a rather useful test for current PC builds.

      • Procrastination Giant says:

        Odd omission, indeed. But since both 960 and 980 are present it’s not too difficult to extrapolate the results you’d get on a typical 970, i guess.

        Somewhere 2/3-3/4 of the way from 960 to 980 on a non-overclocked 970 or roughly on par with a 980 if you have one that overclocks really well.

    • SuicideKing says:

      More Fable results (Jeremy, if you read this, an update including these new results would be quite nice):

      link to techreport.com

      link to anandtech.com

  6. Freud says:

    The TL;DR was amazing. It basically told me everything I wanted to know.

  7. Holysheep says:

    “upgrading” (heh) from win7 to 10 made me gain like, 20-30 FPS on Ark. Ark is pretty unoptimal, so that’s outstanding. (Also uses dx12)

    • Holysheep says:

      Forgot to mention that I use a GTX780 I guess.

      • melnificent says:

        Ark is the new Crysis at the moment. It doesn’t matter what you throw at it on epic it becomes a slideshow.

        I’d really love for it to be used in benchmarking tests more.

        • Holysheep says:

          Crysis is optimal and aside from the first one, is pretty easy to run at 120 fps on not so new hardware. Ontop of that it almost exclusively relies on GPU. This is not the case of Ark, which isn’t optimal one bit and has CPU and RAM killers ontop of the GPU power it swallows.

          • Cinek says:

            The first one can be run on outdated software just fine, you simply had to go into options and use them. In fact – it was more optimal than almost any game offering similar level of details up till last few years when other optimization techniques became a common place.

            I run Crysis (1) on an integrated GPU in low details ~20-25FPS, back at the day of release – which was far below the average PC that struggled to even load some of the other games from these days.

            The fears for if Crysis would run were grossly overblown. People took their old PCs, turned up details to very high and expected it to work – lol. As long as you actually used settings to turn down details – it was a perfectly playable game on the average PCs back in a day.

        • Asurmen says:

          And yet still looked butt ugly.

    • Abalieno says:

      You too have been fooled by ARK devs.

      ARK does not support DX12 (currently, and likely for a long time), and the slight better performance was for a memory leak they fixed, not the operating system.

      • Holysheep says:

        Prove it, please. I moved on to windows 10 ASAP when I saw that a friend running ark on an laptop with a mid end AMD GPU had a huge performance boost after upgrading to 10, and I noticed the exact same thing on my own computer. And this before the so called dx12 update of Ark.

        • Holysheep says:

          (Ontop of that, most of the performance problems in Ark come from the fact that unlike UE3, UE4 has no texture streaming yet … and ark is an open world. Other than that… I don’t even see what it has to do with Ark devs actually! Because UE4 is dx12….)

        • Cinek says:

          Could be anything. Different drivers, fresh OS instead of one X-years old one, etc. etc. I run Ark on an old Radeon R9 in 60 FPS, medium details, yet know people with much newer and more powerful GPUs that struggle to have 30 FPS.

          Ark is very badly unoptimized – every detail matters. Antivirus software can cause significant drops in FPS (here it very much depends which brand, which version, which settings), different version of GPU driver, heck, even having some background apps related to auto-updates is impacting FPS count far more in Ark than any other game I ever seen.

  8. alms says:

    Aren’t you overgeneralizing a little too much by saying it will be supported on mostly anything from 2012 on?

    There’s graphs around the net showing how not even the most recent hardware supports everything, and you do make a proviso regarding “all that matters” yet personally I would have appreciated a little more detail in that area.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      Basically, the part that reduces the CPU overhead for draw calls (which reduces the amount of cpu power needed) is the most important parts, and is supported in all dx12 cards since 2012. This is the part that will give a huge leap in performance in CPU intensive games, like Assassin’s Creed (if they decide to use it.)

      The rest are basically extra features dependent on hardware. You can ignore those for now, because A. developers probably won’t utilize them, because a significant portion won’t be able to run them, and B. if they do use them, they won’t be absolutely necessary to run the game, and developers will just do a hardware check when the game starts and disable those features if you don’t have the right card.

  9. Pulstar says:

    Comments keep on barking up Vulkan’s tree, but isn’t console development really integral to PC as well? I don’t see most developers making their games around two API’s for several years.

    • Xzi says:

      Consoles are relevant, but on a hardware level they certainly support Vulkan already. Wouldn’t be a stretch to enable driver support with a system update on the PS4/XB1.

      That said, the XB1 is basically running some version of Win10 already, and there’s no way Microsoft will walk away from their own API. There’s 50% of the console market locked down for DX12 already. Sony might open up support for both DX12 and Vulkan, which would be wise, but I’d say they’re just as likely to side with momentum, which would be DX12. All speculative, of course.

      • mattevansc3 says:

        Its unlikely Sony would implement any of these options. OpenGL/Vulkan and DirectX are used for the sole purpose of bringing uniformity to open hardware platforms. Sony’s consoles are closed hardware platforms and their development tools are already close to the metal. Just like what Sony said about Mantle, these APIs will offer no performance improvements.

        Also with Sony’s dominant position in the console market they’ve already got developers and engine creators tailoring their tools for the Playstation so there’s no need for Sony to adopt a multiplatform API.
        .

        • DanMan says:

          It’s not about performance, it’s about portability. Having a single codebase, with only (hopefully) minor tweaks for different platforms sounds good, no?

          • mattevansc3 says:

            But why would that matter to Sony? Sony isn’t porting its first party titles to other platforms and its dominant position in the console market makes it the primary target for development.

            Portability only affects companies who’s plans include more than one platform (Microsoft with their Win10/XboxOne strategy) or those who aren’t performing well enough to be the primary development target and are getting sloppy seconds (Microsoft and Nintendo).

  10. Wings says:

    “…out of Valve”(sorry)

  11. nimbulan says:

    I haven’t really noticed any framerate improvements on Windows 10 but several games, namely The Witcher 3 and Guild Wars 2 are running much smoother than they did on Windows 7 and it stopped a weird crash I was getting in Guild Wars 2.

  12. Abalieno says:

    “We believe there will be better examples of true DirectX 12 performance.”

    After Nvidia released that statement they blocked the DX12 client release for ARK. It was literally pulled during the night, promised for the following week only to completely disappear.

    So it’s pretty obvious that all Nvidia is doing is stalling DX12 actual use in order to still maximize sales while pushing for new hardware with better DX12 support next year. It’s all a game of fooling customers for profit, and this article only does the job for them.

    Wait 6/12 months and all the hype will be about new hardware, and very poor performance on current one due to the software emulation that is required.

    So basically 90% of this RPS article is misdirection and misinformation.

    • Abalieno says:

      “The net result of which can see something like an AMD Radeon R9 390X leap from being miles off the pace of an Nvidia GeForce 980 to being on a par or even a bit quicker. It’s dramatic stuff.”

      Now Fable Legends benchmarks are coming out. The 390X runs FASTER than the 980. Another game confirming the fact.

      link to techreport.com

      • SuicideKing says:

        So let’s ignore the 980 Ti beating the Fury X, and the 980 matching the more expensive Nano and Fury?

        Hawaii performs really well, but your one-sided representation is more misdirection and partial truth than anything else here.

        • Asurmen says:

          That doesn’t invalidate his claim though. Without DX12 on the market Nvidia are in the lead in terms of performance across a wide range of hardware. DX12 release so far shows it to be far more competitive.

    • Xzi says:

      ARK devs (Wildcard) claim they had to reach out to Nvidia and AMD for DX12 support issues, although they are partnered with Nvidia, which does reek of playing to the green side. It is possible that Nvidia is just having driver issues as they claim, but support for async compute should be built right in to the hardware, should it not?

  13. Xzi says:

    I was mostly apathetic when it came to getting shorted .5GB on my GTX 970. I’m pretty apathetic to this DX12 stuff too, as long as I get to keep my currently high-end card performance. If there is a drop in performance from DX11 to DX12, Nvidia needs to address it. As far as AMD users getting to experience similarly high-end performance because of DX12 features, I’m happy for them.

  14. fish99 says:

    The DX12 update for ARK Survival Evolved was pulled at the last minute due to ‘driver issues’ and given that it’s a Nvidia Gameworks game it’s not a huge leap to assume that it’s mainly the Nvidia drivers they were having issues with and they didn’t want to put out an update that made Nvidia look bad.

    I’m sure Nvidia are currently desperately trying to do something with their drivers to somehow get more performance out of Maxwell with DX12.

  15. EhexT says:

    Oh wow you’re taking Ashes of Singularities marketing at face value. That’s a big problem, considering they’re doing nothing new, yet claim to be the first people do a variety of things “previously impossible” – that just so happen to be things already done in Dx9 in Supreme Commander (and various other post-Sup Com games, notably Spring).

    • Jeremy Laird says:

      No, taking Ashes of Singularities marketing at face value is exactly not what I’m doing. You can tell that when I say it’s just one game, that the developer is arguably aligned with AMD etc.

      One does wonder if people at read stuff or just see a headline and see it an an opportunity to grind ye olde axe!

      • EhexT says:

        You’re talking them seriously enough to act as though their claims had any merit in the first place. You’re explaining why their claims of DX12’s promise aren’t as great as they say – but the issue is their entire premise is flawed, regardless of DX12 being the bees knees or not. They’re so utterly wrong, they shouldn’t even appear in a serious article about Dx12.

  16. RegisteredUser says:

    Basically the new WDM update currently does more for performance than DX12. And yes, that, too, of course, thanks to MS being a dick and monopoly to the max power, is not coming to Win7.

    • Asurmen says:

      Back porting a WDDM model isn’t just a case of pushing a few buttons you know.

      • RegisteredUser says:

        And 57% marketshare installbase for Win7 is not nothing, either.

        • Deadly Sinner says:

          If Microsoft had that attitude, we would still be on XP. You simply can’t expect them to update their old OS’s in perpetuity for free.

  17. porcelain_gods says:

    My laptop runs fine after the upgrade to 10, my gaming PC with AMD graphics card runs like poop, so much fan noise.

    Lasted about a week before I clicked the downgrade button, I’ll come back to it when I’m forced to upgrade

  18. Nathan says:

    And then there’s Vulcan, which looks interesting as APIs go.