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Nicolas Thibieroz interview – Shogun 2 DX11 patch plays to our strengths

Originally released on 15th March 2011, Shogun 2 is the latest in the famous Total War series. Across most of the top sites, this epic was seen as a return-to-form for its developers and it scored over 90% in most tests. But is it as good as it can be?  KitGuru managed to get an exclusive 1-on-1 interview with AMD Developer Relations Guru, Nicolas Thibieroz. In part one, we find out more about Shogun 2 as a game and its up-coming patch to DX11.

For anyone totally unconnected to Total War, Shogun 2 allows you to take part in stunning battles from one of the richest periods in Japanese history. The Creative Assembly (CA) took all of its development experience from previous campaigns and poured in a rich helping of skilled warriors form the land of the rising sun. At launch, Tim Heaton (Studio Director at The Creative Assembly) said he was “Extremely proud of Shogun 2”, especially the “AI, multiplayer and stability” aspects of the game. He was quite sure it was “the best Total War so far”.

Nic believes that AMD's implementation of DirectX 11 is the best, so a DirectX 11 patch for Shogun 2 will look best on a Radeon. Let's wait and see.

While visually impressive, there was one thing quite obviously missing – and that was any use of the latest API for PC gaming, DirectX 11. Given the big investment that CA has made in its brand new console development team’s offices, it’s clear that ‘hitting the biggest audience first’ was high on the crew’s list of priorities.

Having launched successfully, the next order of business was to work closely with DirectX 11 leaders, AMD, to see just how good the game could be made to look.

Enter Nicolas Thibieroz, 14 year veteran of the Developer Relations business and the man set to lead AMD’s efforts with Shogun 2. We kicked off by asking him about CA’s motivation.

“The original Shogun: Total War was the first in the series and I personally believe Creative Assembly has been relishing the opportunity to perfect this title using all the design experience they’ve gained developing the series in the past 10 years”, said Nic.

So what does he think the draw is ?

Nic replied, “With new multiplayer features and character development similar to what you would find in an RPG, it is easy to see why players can quickly become addicted to this game”.

OK, that’s the past. What about the ‘new stuff’ that DirectX11 can add?

“An upcoming patch will add DirectX 11 support to the game, adding features such as distant terrain and object tessellation, advanced shadow filtering, Morphological Anti-Aliasing and DirectCompute-accelerated post-processing effects”, said Nic.

So is DirectX 11 all about adding in new features?  Doesn’t appear so. Nic also spoke about the ways in which DirectX 11 can make your existing code better, “A number of optimisations made possible by DirectX® 11 were also implemented. The graphic engine used by the game allows hundreds of troops to be rendered concurrently at high quality and performance”.

So how does that translate to real world differences. Ones we can actually see?

Nic explained, “Night-time sieges in particular are very impressive with a huge number of light sources dynamically contributing to the atmosphere of the battle; these are made possible thanks to the deferred lighting approach employed by the graphic engine”

So will Radeon owners get a boost over their console-owning friends?

“Owners of DirectX 11-capable GPUs can expect beautifully rendered battles of epic proportions”, smiled Nic.

Epic proportions. We like those. They are, you know, epic.

When applying DirectX 11 techniques, are all games handled the same?   For example, if you compare Shogun 2 against another game that Nic is closely involved with, like Deux Ex Human Revolution?

Nic explained how features can be applied in completely different ways in various games, “Tessellation for instance is used quite differently; I mentioned in a previous answer how Deus Ex: Human Revolution is using tessellation to enhance the silhouette of characters at close range. In the case of Shogun 2, tessellation is used to improve the silhouette of distant terrain, and additional usage sees it combined with displacement mapping to create enhanced detail on static objects like rocks. On the other hand both games use high-quality shadows and although their usage is quite different the underlying shadow filtering algorithm is very similar.

In addition to being a DirectX 11 guru, Nic also claims to have 3 children, own a Renault Espace and be a life-long lover of Norwegian group, A-Ha. Surely these 'facts' can't all be true - at the same time?

KitGuru says: It all sounds highly intriguing. The clever money seems to be on a DirectX 11 patch for Total War: Shogun 2 being available on this site http://www.totalwar.com/shogun2 before the end of the week. We’ll flag it for you, as soon as it goes live. In the meantime, we’ll begin working on two other significant interview areas that we covered with Nic, namely why AMD’s approach to 3D is better and how the next generation consoles will begin to lead games development in a whole new direction.

Comment below or in the KitGuru forum.

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