DirectX is probably the best
known collection of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) out
there. Originally developed to transition game development from
MS-DOS to Windows 95, it allows game developers to easily program for
a wide variety of hardware.
The development of DirectX over the
last 14 years has paralleled the development of Windows. There were
many frequent updates to DirectX from the release of version 5.0 to
DirectX 9.0, with gamers eagerly downloading each update in order to
unlock higher performance or better features. That was because there
were dozens of video card companies developing hardware during the
turn of the century. With only three major players today, most
performance boosts have come from GPU manufacturers
Nonetheless, Microsoft still understands the
importance of driving the baseline for graphics technology. Every
major release of Windows since Windows 95 has come with at least a
DirectX update. Windows XP came with DirectX 8.1, XP Service Pack 2
included DirectX 9.0c, Vista launched with DirectX 10, and Windows 7
will launch with DirectX 11 on October 22.
introduced the Windows Display Driver Model, which allowed new
features such as virtualized video memory and scheduling of
concurrent graphics contexts. Since DirectX 10 was so closely
integrated with Vista, it could not be easily used with older
versions of Windows. Along with poor consumer satisfaction, this led
to a dearth of game developers programming for DirectX 10, despite
its many features. Game developers target the largest number of
consumers possible, and none of them wanted to program exclusively
for DirectX 10 if nobody had hardware for it.
learned its lesson, and the situation is very different with DirectX
11. It is essentially a superset of DirectX 10.1, itself a superset
of DirectX 10. This means that game developers will be able to design
their games for DirectX 11, but the Direct3D 11 runtime will scale
back graphics features that are not supported by the hardware. This
also means that Windows Vista users will be able to install DirectX
11, which means a bigger market for game developers.
several key features in DirectX 11 that will make graphics on the
screen look closer to reality. Tessellation is used to increase the
polygon count in an image. The more polygons, the more realistic the
image will look. Gone will be the days of blocky looking characters
as the polygon count will increase significantly with the next
generation of DirectX 11 hardware.
will allow Direct3D processes to run across multiple CPU cores. Most
games are using dual core CPUs, but multithreaded rendering will make
gaming on triple and quad cores finally worth the cost. A faster
processing pipeline and increased scaling are only some of the
DirectCompute allows access to the shader cores and
pipeline. It allows for non-proprietary physics implementations,
which some open-source physics projects are looking to take advantage
of. Video transcoding will also take a significant leap due to access
to the many processors on a modern GPU.
Many improvements to
image quality and realism were already made available in DirectX 10
with Shader Model 4.0, and Shader Model 5.0 in DirectX 11 will bring
even more improvements. A new type of texture compression will bring
higher image quality as well.
Game developers are very excited
about the possibilities that DirectX 11 hardware brings. There are
over three dozen DirectX 11 titles currently in development, and some
of them will be available for the Windows 7 launch.
graphics cards will have something to challenge them.