Better graphics mean better gameplay

Surely Microsoft’s new API means developers will be spending time on games with volumetric smoke, soft shadows and all the depth of Paris Hilton?

As someone who works for a graphics company, my opinions on this matter tend to meet with a certain amount of cynicism, but I’m not alone in arguing that DX10 is going to be as much about better gameplay as pretty pictures.

In fact, the graphical effects that DX10 makes possible actually have the potential to enable new gameplay features and concepts. It’s inevitable there will be triumphs of style over substance in any creative industry, but to write off DX10 as pure cosmetic enhancement is short-sighted in the extreme.

Imagine this gaming scenario – you’re chasing a thief through a city. Suddenly he runs out into a busy market square, trying to hide in the huge crowd. Each individual reacts as you push past them, searching for the culprit’s distinctive face.

Or you’re watching the wind blowing across a wheat field as you lie in wait to ambush an enemy, cranking up the suspense even before the action begins. Or, in the midst of an artillery barrage, you can order your men to take cover in fresh craters that have opened up in the deformable terrain. These kinds of effects can make games more involving and immersive than ever, and they’re becoming possible because of DX10.

Crysis from Crytek and EA is a great ambassador for DX10’s gameplay-enriching potential. Working with NVIDIA’s The Way It’s Meant To Be Played developer relations program, Crytek has achieved an unprecedented level of realism, not just with objects and environments, but also facial animation. It’s this kind of attention to detail, building the features of DX10 into gameplay right from the earliest stages of development, which creates truly next-generation titles.

And this is just the start. I believe DX10 is PC gaming’s trump card that will set the platform apart from its rivals. From genre-blending titles, in which players choose from several gameplay models within a single game, to MMOGs played over maps hundreds of square miles wide, to movie tie-ins where the sheer realism of the characters’ faces makes the game as engaging as the film, DX10’s potential is massive.

Of course the proof will be in the playing, and the first results from those pioneers who have seized this opportunity from the outset are about to be put to the test.

I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but early indications from the likes of Crytek, Massive, Flagship Studios and Funcom are that gameplay purists and eye-candy lovers alike certainly have a lot to look forward to.

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