The State of DirectX 11 - Image Quality & Performance

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BattleForge: Image Quality



Unlike most of the games we're looking at in this article, BattleForge is the only game from a completely new franchise. It's also the only strategy game out of the bunch. Though to be more accurate, we should say BattleForge is a card based real-time strategy game. If a collectible card game and a traditional RTS collided and mixed together, the result would be BattleForge, which takes elements from both genres.

The concept is actually simpler than it may sound, instead of training units like in traditional RTS', you play cards. Each card produces a unit or squad of units. The cards are collectible in the standard playing card style, you can purchase booster packs and trade/sell individual cards in the built-in marketplace. There are hundreds of cards in total and new editions which add new card sets and themes to the game are released periodically (currently 3rd edition), but you can only bring 20 cards with you into a given match. The rest of the gameplay is standard RTS fare and winning depends on the cards you bring with you into the match as well as how you use them in-game.

Most interesting of all, BattleForge is the only "free" DirectX 11 game currently available. BattleForge is an EA "Play4Free" title, which means the basic game is completely free to download and play. The catch is you will need to shell out cash in exchange for BattleForge Points which can be used to buy cards, which you'll need to do eventually since the free game only comes with 32 basic cards.



BattleForge wasn't released as a DirectX 11 title, this functionality was added in a patch. As a result, the image quality improvements offered to DirectX 11 users is minimal. Most of the improvements come in terms of performance as the video, which shows the built-in benchmark, clearly shows. The video shows the performance of DirectX 11 against the performance of DirectX 10.1 in BattleForge.

In contrast, we performed our image quality comparison between DirectX 11 and DirectX 9. This was done because DirectX 10 hardware is still able to run many DirectX 11 features in software and BattleForge, along with many of the other games featured in this article, use the same rendering path for both APIs. However DirectX 9 must use a different rendering path as the API is very different under the hood. In other words, there wouldn't have been any image quality difference between DirectX 11 and DirectX 10.

 

BattleForge takes advantage of the DirectCompute API and the game's screen space ambient occlusion (SSAO) effect is compute shader accelerated. The game may also make use of hardware tessellation, although we can't confirm if this is offered in the current version of the game since it may have been removed to improve performance as the effect is not noticeable from a typical RTS camera perspective.

In games, high levels of geometry tessellation is generally only used in a very limited scope, determined by the distance from the camera to the object. The effective result is that objects close to the camera will contain a higher level of geometry detail while objects further away will be less detailed. This works great since it's harder to notice geometry detail the smaller (further away) the object is on screen and despite hardware acceleration, tessellation is still a relatively expensive operation that would slow things down if it were used on the full scene.

   

Overall BattleForge is a good looking game, although the cartoony style and fantasy setting don't appear especially graphically impressive, technically speaking. It also doesn't help that the RTS camera, in general, tends to hide graphical detail. While we did notice some impressive shader effects, especially in the particle and water effects, they were barely noticeable in-game. This is one game were DirectX 9 users aren't really missing out. However it's worth noting that the game is still being expanded and new features and expansions are being added periodically so we may see more DirectX 11 graphical perks in the future.

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