Speculation over the technological prowess of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim can cease, as the game's director seems to have cleared up some past statements. After initially leading some PC gamers to believe that Skyrim would be using DirectX 9 to bring the game's stunning vistas and character models to systems everywhere, Todd Howard has now confirmed that DX 9 is being used for now, with aspects of DirectX 11 being implemented alongside it. As the game progresses, more features of DX 11 may be used before the game is released.
The news no doubt comes as somewhat of a relief to PC fans who may have felt somewhat overlooked up to this point. After Skyrim's first gameplay trailer showed just what kind of artistic style the game's developers were going after, and was later revealed to be powered by the Xbox 360, it was clear that Bethesda was doing things differently.
Generally developers will use a high performance PC rig to produce the visuals for promotional material, wishing to put the best foot forward. Bethesda's decision wasn't a completely outrageous one, but when Howard confirmed that Skyrim's visuals would look the same on consoles as the PC, he went too far.
The latest batch of screenshots were impressive, but definitely not on the same level of polish as other modern RPGs like The Witcher 2. So when PC gamers heard that Bethesda wouldn't be using the newest technology possible to bring them their version of the game, they had every right to feel jilted.
Howard recently spoke with AusGamers to clarify his earlier statements, which will likely come as a relief to those who do their gaming with mouse and keyboard as opposed to controllers:
"Basically, it's mostly a DX9 game in terms of [how the] shaders work...When it comes to DX11 there are things they give us for free in terms of performance gains, and that's really what I meant. "
"So we get performance gains out of it, versus an older version, and there are specifics that DX11 does like tessellation and that kind of stuff; we aren't taking advantage of that right now. But that doesn't mean we won't in the future, we just aren't right now."
Whether Howard is implying that Skyrim stands a good chance of using a majority of features made possible with DirectX 11 isn't clear, but at least now fans can be sure that the PC version of the game won't look old by the time it releases. Howard also confirmed that mod tools would be available for the game, but wouldn't clarify if they would be accessible on launch day.
Given just how much The Elder Scrolls has proven its worth over the years, it's somewhat of a disappointment to think that a few comments concerning the next game's graphics could worry so many fans. Disappointing, but all to much of a reality in today's game industry. Because like it or not, how a game looks can often impress just as much as compelling gameplay, with polished mods of Morrowind enough to get people interested all over again.
Do Howard's words ease your own concerns over Skyrim's PC incarnation, or do you still think that the developers are focusing their attention on the console releases? How important are visuals to your RPG experiences? Let us know in the comments.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will be released on November 11 for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.