Considering that the vast majority of users still run DirectX 9, is Microsoft making a Vista-sized mistake with its latest multimedia API?
There’s no stopping the march of technology, even when folks don’t actually want or need advancements, and Microsoft’s DirectX API is a great example. Even though Valve’s recent hardware
survey showed that a paltry 9.66% of gamers have a DX10 compatible PC (both Vista and a DX10 compatible graphics card is necessary to make it into this elite club), Microsoft this week officially announced DirectX 11.
At this week’s Gamefest 2008 game technology conference in Seattle, Microsoft first reassured existing DX10 and DX10.1 users that their thousand dollar video cards aren’t about to become dangerous Frisbees. The new version of DirectX is totally compatible with these ancient APIs, unlike the split between DX9 and DX10. While that’s great news for existing DX10 card owners, it’s not so good if you don’t want to upgrade to Vista. There was no mention of Windows XP support, but it’s safe to assume that we’ll probably see an end to global warming before that happens, especially considering DX11 is built on DX10 technology.
Despite the fact that we’re still yet to see significant visual or performance improvements from today’s DX10, Microsoft announced that one of the major features of the API will lead to an “incredible step in the evolution of graphics”. This feature is tessellation, yet it’s not exactly new. ATI has been working with the technique for years, but because it wasn’t a standard part of DirectX, there has been little support for it from game developers.
The second major feature discussed at the event was DX11’s Compute Shader. Neatly stepping past the gobbledegook, this feature is meant to “enable faster and simpler implementations of techniques already in use, such as imaging and post-processing effects”. To us it sounds eerily similar to the performance improvements promised by DX10, which have yet to live up to their bold claims. Other features that were briefly covered include improved multi-core support, as well as using the GPU as a processor for tasks other than just graphics.
No release date for the API was announced, but given the fact that it will likely demand Vista support, we’ve got grave concerns for its adoption by the gaming community. Then again, if this version of DirectX can deliver the kinds of visuals that DX10 promised, it could be a very potent reason for Windows XP owners to upgrade their OS.