Ubisoft caught in Assassin's Creed marketing war

Written by Tim Smalley

May 12, 2008 // 11:06 a.m.

Tags: #101 #amd #assassins #ati #creed #directx #dx10 #dx101 #graphics #marketing #nvidia #patch #ubisoft #war

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.
Discuss this in the forums

QUICK COMMENT

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

WEEK IN REVIEW

TOP STORIES

SUGGESTED FOR YOU