Ubisoft caught in Assassin's Creed marketing war

Ubisoft caught in Assassin's Creed marketing war

Ever since the release of Assassin's Creed on the PC, there has been a controversy brewing over its support for DX10.1. It doesn't look like things are going to calm down.

Ever since the release of Assassin's Creed on the PC, there has been a controversy brewing over the game's support for DirectX 10.1 and it looks as if things aren't going to calm down.

You see, owners of ATI Radeon HD 3000-series graphics cards benefitted from the inclusion of DirectX 10.1, as it enabled them to run anti-aliasing in a single pass that resulted in it delivering higher performance than the GeForce 9600 GT. The improvement was to the tune of 20 percent as a result of DirectX 10.1.

However, Assassin's Creed has had several reports of stability problems—mostly from users with Nvidia hardware, according to a report on TG Daily—and this led to the announcement of a patch that would remove DirectX 10.1 support from the game.

Assassin's Creed is a part of Nvidia's The Way It's Meant To Be Played program and so it didn't take long for the conspiracy theorists to suggest possible foul play by Nvidia because the company doesn't have any DirectX 10.1 supporting hardware.

DirectX 10.1 gives the shader units access to all anti-aliasing buffers in a single pass – something that developers have been unable to do with DirectX 10.0. "DX10.0 screwed AA [performance]. . . . 10.1 would solve that [issue]," said one developer reportedly close to Ubisoft.

"Of course it removes the render pass! That's what 10.1 does! Why is no one pointing this out, that's the correct way to implement it and is why we will implement 10.1. The same effects in 10.1 take 1 pass whereas in 10 it takes 2 passes," added another anonymous developer, said to be working on a title that implements DirectX 10.1 support – in addition to DirectX 10.0.

Ubisoft confirmed that the decision to remove DirectX 10.1 support was made by the game developers and expressly denied any external influence. Michael Beadle, a senior PR manager at Ubisoft, admitted that there was some co-marketing between Nvidia and Ubisoft, but he said that "had nothing to do with the development team or with Assassin's Creed."

Nvidia, on the other hand, denied any financial agreement "Nvidia never paid for and will not pay for anything with Ubi. That is a completely false claim," said Derek Perez, Nvidia's director of public relations. In the past, during our talks with Nvidia's Developer Relations Team, the company has pointed out that Nvidia spends a lot of money sending its own engineers to development studios to help support them – whether or not that is what Beadle is referring to is unclear.

I spoke to Richard Huddy, AMD's head of developer relations, on Friday in an attempt to find out when we can expect to see the path implemented again, because I'm sure that owners of Radeon HD 3000-series graphics cards aren't too happy that they're missing out on a 20 percent performance increase (when AA is enabled). Huddy said that he is working hard with his team to get DirectX 10.1 support back into the title for Radeon HD 3000 graphics card owners.

I pressed this point further on Saturday during a call with Nvidia spokesperson Ken Brown, and asked him if Nvidia had requested for DirectX 10.1 content to be removed from the game. "We aren't in the business of stifling innovation - it's ludicrous to assume otherwise. Remember that we were the first to bring DirectX 10 hardware to the market and we invested hundreds of millions of dollars on tools, engineers and support for developers in order to get DirectX 10 games out as quickly as possible," said Brown.

That response was to the point, but I felt it was worth pushing from another angle. I asked him if Nvidia ever signs exclusive deals with developers. "Every developer we've worked with on TWIMTBP has not been part of an exclusive arrangement - we do not prevent any developer from working with other hardware vendors," responded Brown. "Assassin's Creed is a great example of this because both Nvidia and ATI developer relations teams worked with Ubisoft to help during the development phase."

The remaining question of course is whether or not DirectX 10.1 support would be re-implemented into the game in a future patch. Brown said he didn't know the answer to that question - he explained that Nvidia has no influence in that decision and it would be up to the developer and publisher to decide whether it would return to the game.

When questions were put to Ubisoft, nobody there seemed to know either and that seems to be the problem – I'm sure somebody knows the state of play when it comes to DirectX 10.1 support in Assassin's Creed; it's just that nobody wants to say anything at the moment. You'd think one of the lead developers would know, but when Charles Beauchemin, the tech lead for the title, was asked about the future of DirectX 10.1 support in AC, he responded by saying "We are currently investigating this situation."

I hope that DirectX 10.1 support comes back to Assassin's Creed, but I'm honestly not very confident that it will at the moment. Whatever happens as we go forwards, stifling technology progression is not good for consumers and this is probably the first of many arguments revolving around DirectX 10.1. I hope it stops, because an industry that doesn't move forwards is not a healthy one – and I think many consumers would agree that right now is a time when PC gaming really needs to move forwards. Let's hope the PC Gaming Alliance does its thing and puts the consumers' interests first in instances like this.

What's your take on all of this kafuffle? Share your thoughts in the forums.


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LeMaltor 12th May 2008, 11:13 Quote
Just don't patch the game if you want DX 10.1?
Tim S 12th May 2008, 11:16 Quote
Originally Posted by LeMaltor
Just don't patch the game if you want DX 10.1?

That is an option of course, but if you want to keep your software up to date as there may be performance improvements, image quality improvements or bug fixes... which of course you won't get with the unpatched version of the game. And that frankly sucks IMHO.
steveo_mcg 12th May 2008, 11:33 Quote
I'm a bit confused, if you have a dx10 gfx card an 8800 series for example can you play this with dx10 or are you stuck at dx9?
CardJoe 12th May 2008, 11:37 Quote
You can play it in DX10 with an 8800, but you can't get DX10.1 enhancements like AA - the card doesn't support it. High end ATi cards do though.
steveo_mcg 12th May 2008, 11:46 Quote
thanks. Wasn't sure if the dx10 incremental updates were backwards compatible, dunno why since dx9 was :?
blackerthanblack 12th May 2008, 12:01 Quote
There are many was to apply your influence without actually spending money directly on incentives. It's hard to see how it's too difficult to make the patch selective to either nvidia or ati hardware, and either apply or leave out dx10.1? Failing that, why not just make 2 patches available, for either ati or nvidia cards?
koola 12th May 2008, 12:03 Quote
Just another reason to get a console. None of this DX10/.1 rubbish.
DXR_13KE 12th May 2008, 12:10 Quote
remembers me when i wanted to patch GTA:SA but i still wanted the hot coffee stuff in it!

and i think it is time for nvidia to make DX10.1 graphic cards....
bowman 12th May 2008, 12:17 Quote
Haha koola. And in return you get visuals that belong in the 90's along with texture popup enough to drive the sanest man to the institution, along with framerates that belong on gameboys and 720p resolutions stretched to 1080p...

I'll stick with my PC.
frontline 12th May 2008, 12:31 Quote
hmm, seems a bit strange that the developers remove a significant benefit for one set of graphics card owners, rather than concentrate on identifying how performance can be improved for Nvidia cards. Surely it would have been better to wait until a patch was ready to fix the problem, without hobbling performance on Ati cards? "Stability problems" sounds suitably vague enough for them to completely remove DX10.1 support.

Oh well, another title to ignore until they re-introduce proper support for my card.
coolius 12th May 2008, 12:36 Quote
I hope they sort out the stability issues, my game keeps crashing after an hour or so on my 88gt
The Infamous Mr D 12th May 2008, 14:44 Quote
If it isn't a conspiracy between NVIDIA and Ubisoft, then it's one hell of a convenient coincidence.

And judging from the lack of any definitive information, it does come across as being very suspicious and deceitful from both NVIDIA and Ubisoft.
Cptn-Inafinus 12th May 2008, 15:11 Quote
I really do think there is some foul play from Nvidia going on here.

And it really does undermine my confidence in them. As aforementioned, this is <b>no/b> sense what so ever in holding back advances in technology alike this.
HourBeforeDawn 12th May 2008, 16:40 Quote
they need to or I should say they better release to types of updates then those who want to keep 10.1 and those whos hardware cant support it, if they cut it completely and the updates dont have it then that will be complete BS.
chrisb2e9 12th May 2008, 19:12 Quote
if they can take out the 10.1 why not just add a check so that is a nvidia card is detected is disables the 10.1 and leaves it in if an ati card is detected?
Considering the work to take out 10.1 it shouldn't be much trouble to add that.
koola 12th May 2008, 20:46 Quote
Originally Posted by bowman
Haha koola. And in return you get visuals that belong in the 90's along with texture popup enough to drive the sanest man to the institution, along with framerates that belong on gameboys and 720p resolutions stretched to 1080p...

I'll stick with my PC.

You must be talking about a Wii, I said console
Mentai 12th May 2008, 22:58 Quote
Seen the pop in of any UT3 engine title/GTA4 on 360? Also hardly any games being allowed above 30fps...
CowBlazed 13th May 2008, 00:34 Quote
How could he possibly be talking about a Wii, that can only do max 480P, no hes talking about 360s and PS3s with 720p to 1080p stretching and lack of memory compared to a PC, making for lots of pop in.
NoOther 13th May 2008, 16:03 Quote
I think everyone here is missing another extremely valid reason for this patch. If you are a business, then you need to decide who your biggest customer is and try to appease them. Ubisoft's biggest customer is neither ATI or nVidia, its the gamers. But if you look at the population of gamers, what do the majority of them have in their systems? They majority of the graphics market is still firmly in the hands of nVidia. So if you have a game that will not run properly on the majority of your clients computers, then you obviously need to do something about it. It's neither the fact that they made some ultra secret deal with nVidia (which quite frankly is ludicrous) or that they wish to alienate their ATI clients (which is unfortunate). It is that they need to provide a solution to the problem a majority of their clients have, and unfortunately the solution is going to alienate a small minority of their clients. I don't really see what is the big to do about this at all. Besides which, there are tons of games out there now that continually crash on ATI products, while nVidia's drivers continually improve. So why would nVidia even contemplate trying to sabotage "1" game for ATI?
karolis 13th May 2008, 16:59 Quote
I really think this is unfair. dx10.1 clearly has advantages over dx10.0, so why shouldn't the developers use it? So, nVidia doesn't bother to support 10.1, thats their problem. why should the gamers (i.e. the customers) suffer? I'm no ati fanboy, but this is damn unacceptable.
Axman 14th May 2008, 02:57 Quote
All good, 'til the last paragraph.

;) (Here's to living in glass houses.)
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