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The Prettiest Tech Demo Ever Created Gets a Stunning DirectX 11 Makeover

Illustration for article titled The Prettiest Tech Demo Ever Created Gets a Stunning DirectX 11 Makeover

In 2002 NVIDIA released "Dawn", a high-end DirectX 9 tech demo featuring a beautiful forest fairy that captured the hearts and minds of PC gamers all over the world. That mystical creature looks even more gorgeous ten years later.


The original "Dawn" tech demo was a revolution in PC graphics, the first time a character as lifelike as the titular fairy had been rendered in real time. To this day no video game has featured a character quite as detailed.

I have to admit, I was more than a little smitten by the virtual creation. Not only for her looks, but also for what she represented: the massive leaps video game graphics were making every year. I purchased a video card just to run that original demo. I had her as my desktop wallpaper. I constantly watched the video of her and her sister Dusk performing Evanescence's "Bring Me to Life", just to watch them render slowly.


And now we have "A New Dawn".

What's changed? For starters, the original tech demo didn't have a background to speak of, just a six-sided box with Dawn trapped inside. The original environment utilized a mere 7,000 triangles to render the box and the tree limb Dawn cavorted upon; the lush forest in "A New Dawn" clocks in at four million at its peak.

Illustration for article titled The Prettiest Tech Demo Ever Created Gets a Stunning DirectX 11 Makeover

Then there's Dawn's hair. In the original, which still impresses to this day, her head was home to 1,700 strands of hair. Now she boasts 40,000 tessellated strands of physically animated hair. That's more hair than I have on my head (technically so is 1,700).

Anyone can download "A New Dawn" right now, manipulate the scene, change the time of day, or simply marvel at Dawn's skin oil reflectance maps. Just make sure you've got the real ultimate power under your hood.


GPU: GTX 670 or 680 (GTX 670 SLI, GTX 680 SLI, or GTX 690 recommended for Ultra mode)
CPU: 2.5GHz Dual-Core or higher
System Memory: 4GB
Disk Space: 2GB
Operating System: Windows 7 or Windows Vista

Falling in love all over again. Stupid fairies.

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People really underestimate the importance of good videogame hair. No, I'm not being facetious. Think about it, in most games, girls have ponytails, perms, or short hair. It is rare to see a woman with long, natural hair that actually LOOKS like hair and not just a skirt for the top of their head.

It is one of those things people don't think about until they play a game and realize that the only hair their character has is a texture map painted to the top of their skull. It has gotten marginally better over the years, but current-gen consoles are being pushed as hard as they can go. They simply have nothing more to give, and they have given a lot.

A lot of people who say graphics are not important are not ideologically opposed to the tech, I think. I believe it's just that they haven't been exposed to incredible realtime stuff to any significant degree. For some games, cutting-edge graphics truly don't matter. See Minecraft or The Binding of Isaac. But if you are trying to make a realistic game that sucks people into the experience, or even a stylistic fantasy game, they absolutely do.

After seeing some of the crazy stuff that DX11 can do in Metro 2033 and Crysis 2, I am pretty much sold on this tech being the best thing for realistic videogames in a long while. People who have never had money for a top-end computer are going to be pretty amazed when this tech makes it onto the PS4 and XBOX720.