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A demo of the game Just Cause 2 is available on Steam today. What’s interesting is that this is the third DirectX 10-only game to be released. There have been any number of DirectX 10 enhanced games, but until a few months ago there was just one DirectX 10-only game release, Stormrise, a mediocre game released in March 2009. Shattered Horizon then came out in November from Futuremark, who are known more for their graphics benchmarks. Just Cause 2 is a sequel, and distributed by a well-known publisher. Humus describes the logic in going DirectX 10-only.

I’m looking forward to see how DirectX 11’s DirectCompute gets used in commercial applications. Perhaps the day there’s a DirectX 11-only game of any significance is the day we need to start writing a fourth edition. Let’s see: DirectX 10 was released November 2006 with Vista, so it took about three and a quarter years for an anticipated game to be released that was DirectX 10-only (and even now it’s considered dangerous by many to do so). DirectX 11 was released in October 2009, so if the same rule holds, then we’ll need to start writing in February 2013. Pre-order today!

Even now, 13% of Steam gamers have only SM 2.0. Games like World of Warcraft and Left 4 Dead 2 don’t require more, for example. So what’s the magic percentage where the AAA games decide to set the minimum level to the next shader model? I don’t recall it being much of a deal between shader model 2.0 and 3.0 games; there was a little hype, but I think this was because going from SM 2.0 to 3.0 involved just a card upgrade, vs. an OS upgrade. Which is funny, in that an OS upgrade is usually cheaper than a new GPU, but I think it’s also because it’s more critical, like a heart transplant vs. a cornea transplant.

Poking around, I found the interesting graphs below. I’m sure games have been left off, and some are miscategorized, e.g. Cryostatis is the only one under SM 4.0, and it doesn’t require DirectX 10. But, let’s assume this data is semi-reasonable; I’m guessing the games are categorized more by a “recommended configuration” than a minimum. So Shader Model 1.x game releases (and remember, 1.x was pretty darn limited) peaked in 2006, 2.0 peaked in 2007 but outnumbered 3.0 until 2009. SM 3.0 hasn’t peaked yet, I’d say (ignore 2010 and 2011 graph values at this point, of course). Remember that SM 2.0 hardware came out around 2002, so it peaked 5-6 years later and still was strong 7 years later (and perhaps longer, we’ll see). SM 3.0 came out in 2004, and seems likely to continue to be strong through 2010 and into 2011. 4.0 came out in 2006, so I’d go with it peaking in 2011-2012 from just staring at these charts. Which entirely ignores the swirl of other data—Vista and Windows 7, Xbox trends, GPU trends, blah-di-blah—but it’ll be interesting to see if this prediction is about right. (Click on a graph for the lists of games for that shader model.)

Shader Model 1.x

Shader Model 2.0

Shader Model 3.0

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Gift Books

What with Saturnalia and Festivus coming up, I’ve been buying books. Here are some of the more visually-related titles I’ve found:

  • Mars 3-D – a book of 3D red/blue stereograms of pictures of Mars. I like the way that you cannot lose the glasses: they’re built into the cover of the book.
  • ABC3D – Officially a kid’s alphabet book, it’s actually a well-crafted (and relatively inexpensive) pop-out book with clever little mechanisms and visual tricks throughout.
  • Gallop – This one really is a kid’s book, but the animation mechanism is fun. You can also get a set of greeting cards of the book. Swing is another by the same author.
The main reason GPUs are so numerous and so cheap is games, of course. My current addiction is Left4Dead, but I hope to play a lot of good board games during the holiday break. Some books I’m passing out this year:
  • Game Design Workshop – My older son hopes to do a class project of designing a board game, and this looks like a book that will help. I wish Game Developer magazine would gather its game design articles into book form.
  • The Game Maker’s Apprentice – I hope to lure my younger son into making simple videogames with this, a good book of tutorials for the Gamemaker software, which itself is free to download.
  • One Jump Ahead – About a computer program to play checkers and so much more, by the person who eventually solved checkers. Longer review here. I just love this book on so many levels. I don’t know what the new edition adds; the older edition is noticeably cheaper on half.com.
OK, enough diversion from the main topic of this blog; I’ll get back to that next post.

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