Today at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Microsoft took the lid off its graphics API, DirectX 12. According to the company, developers will have the ability more direct control over their visuals than ever, with more complex scenes and rendering features. And yes, these changes should translate to Xbox One games, in addition to a new focus across multiple platforms.
“Xbox One games will see improved performance and we’ll bring the same API to all Microsoft platforms,” said a Microsoft representative during today’s GDC presentation.
Microsoft wants DirectX 12 to exist as a “console-like” API, making it easier for developers to work with higher consistency and predictability. Direct3D 12 will apparently spread performance across multiple cores, lowering overall strain on hardware, and creating an environment where your rig–or PC rig–will have more headroom for running high-end graphics. Microsoft says 40 percent of all DirectX 11 hardware will be ready for DirectX 12 on day one.
Chris Tector of Turn 10 Studios presented a demo of Forza Motorsport 5 running through Direct3D 12 on PC. Tector was quick to point out Direct3D 12 would allow developers to more efficiently handle resources, but it was difficult to see exactly how Direct3D 12 was really impacting the game’s performance based on the demo. Overall, the game looked more or less the same as it does on Xbox One.
While GPU manufacturer AMD was present at the presentation–and were adamant DirectX 12 would offer improvements to performance–it’s still a bit unclear to what extent existing AMD graphics cards will take full advantage of DirectX 12. AMD did say its existing customers will “benefit.”
Intel vice president Eric Mintzer said 4th-gen Core processors will be ready for DirectX 12 at launch, and the the “most important” improvements may affect lower-power Intel CPUs, thanks to improved power management. Additionally, DirectX 12 will be supported on Fermi, Kepler, Maxwell, and future Nvidia architectures, said Nvidia’s senior vice president Tony Tomasi.
“Epic will be working closely with NVIDIA and Microsoft to create a world-class implementation of DX12 in Unreal Engine 4,” said Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney. “DirectX12 is a great step forward, exposing low-level hardware functionality through an industry standard API to give developers more control and efficiency than ever before.”
Interestingly, Qualcomm also gave a presentation extolling the virtues of DirectX 12 for mobile. According to company vice president of engineering Eric Demers, DirectX 12 could be the missing link between console and mobile. “We’re excited to see Xbox and PC titles move into mobile,” said Demers.
As far as compatibility across Windows operating systems, Microsoft was a bit coy. While DirectX 12 will not support Windows XP, but Windows 7 support is unclear, only saying they weren’t “discussing Windows 7 support today.” Moreover, Microsoft stated 50 percent of all PC game rigs will be DirectX 12 compatible at launch. A preview of DirectX 12 is due out later this year.