The Elder Scrolls Online: Improved effects with DirectX 11 - Exclusive Tech Interview
In an interview with Zenimax Online Studios, PC Games Hardware learned exclusive information on the upcoming MMO The Elder Scrolls Online, which relies on an in-house DirectX 11 render engine. The engine should convince players from a technical side by a dynamic lighting and by huge number of parallel players.
PCGH had the chance to talk to Dan Dunham, Technical Director at Zenimax Online Studios. He answered our technical questions regarding TES Online, a new MMO which is supposed to get released in 2013. He clarifies a lot of technical details and we would to thank him for answering our questions.
Q: Have you developed a new engine (how is it called?) from scratch instead of utilizing the "Hero"-Technology to fit all the requirements like streaming, renderer and lighting but also client, server and social features?
A: Yes, we licensed it to start with and it was a useful tool for prototyping in the early days... but even then we were simultaneously developing our own engine. Having our own engine gives us greater ability to change, add new content, etc. I don't think anyone would really be happy long-term in an MMO unless it evolved over time. So our own engine is an investment in that ability to change and grow.
Q: Do you utilize PhysX, Havok or another middleware or do you program your own physics libraries?
A: We use Havok.
Q: If you had to advertise the visuals of The Elder Scrolls Online what would you mention? Can you list some modern and advanced rendering techniques (don't be afraid to go into technical detail here) or do you simply prefer to run The Elder Scrolls Online well on a good range of machines and it comes with the typical unique TES art design?
A: Massive player battles are the single most awe-inspiring moment for me. There were a lot of tech features to get that many crazy-customizable people on screen at once with that number of fully dynamic lights, but the payoff is great. The other thing for me is the world. Engineers just see the same test level over and over. I have seen characters running around on checkerboard planes and untextured models for years, so when I actually get to play, and stumble into incredible areas I have never seen before, dungeons or mountaintop vistas, it is all worth it. I remember having good debates with our art director over some of these features versus cost to implement (engineers hate time of day!), but every time he beat me down, wow, he was right.
Q: Did you integrate multi-core support into the engine / your game and what Fps benefit can we expect if we take a Quad-Core-CPU instead of a Dual-Core-CPU? Will there be even a performance boost for Hexa or Octa Core machines?
A: Massive alliance war battles get a big FPS boost out of quad CPUs, and it goes up for more cores beyond that. There is a lot of work to get giant player battles running smoothly, and we will use your extra cores to make it even smoother.
Q: We guess locations like the Imperial City or Blackmarsh show a lot of details, especially in case of the draw distance. Do you use a special kind of streaming or Level of Detail to render these scenes without a heavy performance drops?
A: The engine was designed to be a big open world streaming engine - you can run across (and wage war across) the entire expanse of Cyrodiil.
Q: We expect that The Elder Scrolls Online offers support for DX9 (again the good range of machines) and maybe for DX11 too? If not why do you stick to the DX9-API?
A: On Windows Vista and Windows 7, ESO runs with a DirectX 11 renderer, but we do still support Windows XP and DirectX 9.0c (shader model 3). We wanted players on launch day to get the big performance boosts and improved effects with DX11, but it is also important to let as many people experience the world as possible.
Q: Do you have any plans for offering a Mac or Linux version?
A: The game will launch simultaneously on PC and Mac. We currently have no announced plans to support Linux.
You will find more infos regarding The Elder Scrolls Online on our German website.
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