Product: Assassin's Creed
Company: Ubisoft
Authour: Alex 'Morgoth Bauglir' Voicu
Editor: Charles 'Lupine' Oliver
Date: April 16th, 2008
Assassin's Creed - First DX10.1 Title?

Altair has a well kept secret

Assassin's Creed is a title that needs little introduction. Benefiting from ambitious marketing efforts, an intriguing gameplay idea, the expertise of an experienced developer like Ubisoft Montreal and the charm of Jade Raymond, the game was prone to land with a splash. It has been generally well received, and gamers seem to enjoy being in the shoes of a medieval assassin. Graphically speaking (remember, that's our primary focus here), it employs an advanced engine, with both a DX9 and a DX10 pathway, with the DX10 one being faster according to Ubi. Albeit a little on the undertextured side, it's certainly nice looking and rather well performing with some caveats we'll soon discuss.

If AC's only peculiarities were limited to the above, you'd be entitled to wonder why we're writing a separate sneak-peek about it, as there are quite a few games who share the same characteristics. In a moment, you'll see that quite probably there's something that Altair has brought to the table that's extremely unique...and we're not talking about his extensive arsenal.

One of those "What the....?!?" moments

As soon as we finally got our copy of AC, we got around to...playing it, of course (what, did you think we started testing right away?). As it were, between two separate sessions, Service Pack 1 got uninstalled. Intent on resuming our trek through the Kingdom of Heaven, we were quite surprised to notice that performance got perceivably worse on our 3870X2 using rig, in spite of the only different thing being the lack of SP1 (all other available updates were installed after uninstalling SP1). Since SP1 was never proven to be the ultimate performance enhancer, it was quickly discarded as the possible reason for the sudden loss of performance. After quite a bit of useless tinkering trying to figure out what went wrong, whilst going through some whitepapers these two slides seemed to suggest an unexpected yet obvious answer:

 Directx10.1-Enabling breakthrough graphics on the ATI Radeon HD3800 series pg.3
Directx10.1-Enabling breakthrough graphics on the ATI Radeon HD3800 series pg.3
 Directx10.1-Enabling breakthrough graphics on the ATI Radeon HD3800 series pg.9
Directx10.1-Enabling breakthrough graphics on the ATI Radeon HD3800 series pg.9
 S3 Graphics DX10.1 Architecture for Chrome 430/440 Processors pg.3
S3 Graphics DX10.1 Architecture for Chrome 430/440 Processors pg.3

That was the thing we were missing, the one aspect of SP1 that might explain the performance delta: it introduces DX10.1, and the X2 is a 10.1 part. As seen above, DirectX in its latest incarnation brings some nifty features that might translate into better AA performance and quality-we were seeing both with SP1 installed. Could it be that AC is the first title to support DX10.1?If that is the case, why was it not actively advertised? Since it seemed we had an enigma on our hands, there's was no easy way out other than to investigate it.


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