One week after graphics programmer extraordinaire John Carmack noted that DirectX is much improved and even preferable to OpenGL, AMD developer relations manager Richard Huddy is suggesting the Microsoft API is holding back PC games. In an interview with Bit-Tech, Huddy says the most common request he gets from game developers is to make DirectX go away. Despite high-end PC graphics hardware offering "often at least ten times" the horsepower of modern consoles, DirectX overhead is purportedly getting in the way of making PC games look better.
On consoles, you can draw maybe 10,000 or 20,000 chunks of geometry in a frame, and you can do that at 30-60fps. On a PC, you can't typically draw more than 2-3,000 without getting into trouble with performance, and that's quite surprising - the PC can actually show you only a tenth of the performance if you need a separate batch for each draw call.
Huddy goes on to explain that consoles allow for much more flexibility with draw calls by letting programmers interface more directly with the hardware than the DirectX API allows. He also suggests DirectX's programmable shaders have caused a sort of convergence in visuals on the PC, leading to games that "have the same kind of look and feel." Huddy expects developers would be more innovative with graphical effects if they weren't going through DirectX.
Of course, Huddy does concede APIs provide a measure of "safety and security." Coding to the metal is great when you're working with a console that has a single hardware configuration that remains constant for years. On the PC, where you have multiple generations of graphics hardware based on very different architectures, DirectX does a pretty good job of ensuring compatibility.
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