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Microsoft announces DirectX 12 at GDC 2014

Microsoft announces DirectX 12 at GDC 2014

Microsoft's DirectX 12 has been formally announced, and rumours suggesting that it will offer CPU performance enhancements similar to AMD's Mantle have proven true.

True to its word, Microsoft has used the Game Developers Conference to formally announce DirectX 12 with the promise of significant performance improvements thanks to an approach that allows programmers to get closer to the bare-metal hardware.

Introduced back in 1995 as the Windows Games SDK, DirectX is a collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow developers to abstract themselves away from the hardware in a system. By far its most famous component is Direct3D, added to DirectX in 1996, which allows for high-performance 3D acceleration across any Direct3D-certified graphics processor - first introduced as a lightweight consumer-grade alternative to the Khronos Group's OpenGL API, which was at the time focused on professional use on workstation-grade hardware.

Now, Microsoft's Direct3D - and, by extension, the DirectX bundle - has grown into the dominant standard in the PC gaming industry, and even extends to consoles since the launch of the Xbox family. In its latest incarnation, Microsoft claims DirectX significantly reduces CPU overhead for gaming using techniques similar to AMD's hardware-specific Mantle technology to allow programmers lower-level access to the graphics hardware.

'First and foremost, [Direct3D 12] provides a lower level of hardware abstraction than ever before, allowing games to significantly improve multithread scaling and CPU utilisation,' claimed Microsoft's Matt Sandy of the new release. 'In addition, games will benefit from reduced GPU overhead via features such as descriptor tables and concise pipeline state objects. And that’s not all – Direct3D 12 also introduces a set of new rendering pipeline features that will dramatically improve the efficiency of algorithms such as order-independent transparency, collision detection, and geometry culling.'

To back up his claims, Sandy offered a demonstration of 3DMark running on Direct3D 11 compared to Direct3D 12 which halved the CPU time required to render a scene while also helping to spread the load more evenly across multiple processor cores - something from which the eight-core Xbox One will draw considerable benefit.

Microsoft has promised that DirectX 12 will be supported by current-generation hardware, with AMD claiming that all Graphics Core Next (GCN) GPUs and Nvidia that all Fermi, Kepler and Maxwell GPUs will be updated in future drivers to include DirectX 12 support. What the company has so far been silent on, however, is operating system support: while Microsoft has promised that DirectX 12 will be launched across Windows desktops, laptops, tablets and mobiles as well as the Xbox One, the company hasn't yet confirmed whether it will be available on anything but its latest Windows revisions.

Although Microsoft has shown off working Direct3D 12 implementations - including the application and driver layers - it has not yet suggested a launch date for the bundle. It has, however, posted some technical details over on the MSDN Blog.

24 Comments

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Tyrmot 21st March 2014, 12:11 Quote
God I hope it isn't Windows 8 only...
Corky42 21st March 2014, 12:18 Quote
More likely to be Windows 9 only.
Dave Lister 21st March 2014, 12:33 Quote
I have been planning a new rig for the last month or so, now my GPU & OS plans will have to go on hold :( If the next win 8 update includes a full start menu and metro skipping boot up option along with DX12 support then I can live with that.

If I have to hang around and wait for windows 9 then i'll be a tad peeved off.
Panos 21st March 2014, 12:53 Quote
We should be looking more to Mantle as a general solution not DX12. And Nvidia should follow to support Mantle.

Because Mantle has to succeed so we can get rid of our systems from the cancer called MS Windows.
SAimNE 21st March 2014, 12:58 Quote
i hope to god this is windows 8 only, and mantle gets all linux market. if all goes well that could instantly reduce all of my dependency on microsoft to almost fricken 0 and then i could live happily ever after gaming my but off on linux with openGL and mantle.... would bring tears to my eyes to finally bid goodbye to windows and directX
jrs77 21st March 2014, 13:04 Quote
I'm all for OpenGL. Mantle is aswell controlled by a single company and that's just as bad as DX.

And you can be sure that DX12 won't be available for Win7.
RichCreedy 21st March 2014, 13:09 Quote
I would say it will be win8.1 update 1
SimoomiZ 21st March 2014, 13:20 Quote
Good news.

But it does beg the question, why didn't they do this earlier? Those claims, that they've been holding PC gaming back to boost the Xbox, seem to have been given more credence.

Hopefully Mantle will come to Linux/Steam OS providing an alternative and keeping proprietary inclined Nvidia and MS behaving nicely.
Cthippo 21st March 2014, 13:21 Quote
Just maybe Widows 9 will be worth owning.

Maybe
Corky42 21st March 2014, 13:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichCreedy
I would say it will be win8.1 update 1
With only a month to go for update 1, they would have to use their time machine to include it.
Especially as update 1 has already hit RTM.
Quote:
Originally Posted by SimoomiZ
Good news. But it does beg the question, why didn't they do this earlier? Those claims, that they've been holding PC gaming back to boost the Xbox, seem to have been given more credence.
It's not a coincidence that new version of DirectX only get release shortly after new Xbox's ya know, Microsoft has shunned PC gaming since XP.
sandys 21st March 2014, 13:36 Quote
The showed Forza 5 on PC hardware, that is all I was interested in, four months to port it to DX12, can't imagine they would take that effort if it were not coming out on PC.
SimoomiZ 21st March 2014, 13:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
It's not a coincidence that new version of DirectX only get release shortly after new Xbox's ya know, Microsoft has shunned PC gaming since XP.

I'd imagine it's Mantle and the performance woes they're having with Xbone vis-a-vis PS4 that's driving this move. If Mantle hadn't come along, this may have gone to the Xbone only? As with Xbox 360's DirectX with its greater functionality for devs.
Lenderz 21st March 2014, 14:34 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandys
The showed Forza 5 on PC hardware, that is all I was interested in, four months to port it to DX12, can't imagine they would take that effort if it were not coming out on PC.

I read "4 man months" which is significantly different. 1 person 80 days, 40 days for 2 people, 20 days for 4 people, 10 days for 8 people or a week for 16.

They could have just assigned a team of 16 to work on it for a week, which yes would be spent resource time, but I imagine they didn't have 1 person work on it for 4 months. It could have been the DX team within MS that actually did it.

Edit

They have actually directly addressed this question : "was simply a rendering tech demo to showcase the power and ease of development for DX12. We have no plans to release Forza Motorsport 5, or any other Microsoft Studios Xbox One title on PC."

The original quote was "the conversion from Xbox One's DX11.x API to an alpha version of DX12 took four man-months to achieve"
Snips 21st March 2014, 15:30 Quote
Fantastic news and well done to Microsoft for sticking to it and keeping our gaming experiences up to date. Can't see any negatives to this as it will be adopted by all right across the board in brands and devices.
IT Troll 21st March 2014, 15:42 Quote
Q: When will I be able to get my hands on DirectX 12?
A: We are targeting Holiday 2015 games.
RedFlames 21st March 2014, 15:50 Quote
DirectX12 rumoured for 'holiday 2015',
Mainstream [new feature] support for Windows 7 ends in January 2015 [barring any extensions]

I somehow doubt they'll release DX12 for 7


*But* it'll be compatible with anything GCN or newer [AMD] and Fermi or newer [nVidia]
Corky42 21st March 2014, 17:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snips
Fantastic news and well done to Microsoft for sticking to it and keeping our gaming experiences up to date. Can't see any negatives to this as it will be adopted by all right across the board in brands and devices.

Please, i almost wet myself.

Before the first Xbox hit market DirectX received major releases almost yearly, since Microsoft released the Xbox in 2001 we have received 2 major releases, 3 if you count DirectX 12 and the XBone. When Microsoft decided to make a dedicate gaming console they turned their back on PC gaming, much in the same way as they are turning their back on tech savvy users now they have entered the tablet market.

I would go as far as to say Microsoft doesn't like PC's due to the open nature of them and that they cant exert control over what the user spends their money on, hence why they released a console and why they released Windows 8.
somidiot 21st March 2014, 22:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snips
Fantastic news and well done to Microsoft for sticking to it and keeping our gaming experiences up to date. Can't see any negatives to this as it will be adopted by all right across the board in brands and devices.

Please, i almost wet myself.

Before the first Xbox hit market DirectX received major releases almost yearly, since Microsoft released the Xbox in 2001 we have received 2 major releases, 3 if you count DirectX 12 and the XBone. When Microsoft decided to make a dedicate gaming console they turned their back on PC gaming, much in the same way as they are turning their back on tech savvy users now they have entered the tablet market.

I would go as far as to say Microsoft doesn't like PC's due to the open nature of them and that they cant exert control over what the user spends their money on, hence why they released a console and why they released Windows 8.

I think the ironic bit is that those very draw backs are exactly why the OS became popular in the first place. Apple were the ones to keep complete control over all their stuff, and look at where they are compared to Windows now. IIRC that is.
Guinevere 22nd March 2014, 00:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
they are turning their back on tech savvy users now they have entered the tablet market.

I would say it's more of a case that tech savvy users are turning their backs on Microsoft. For a long time MS didn't believe they could ever 'lose' the game. They are now playing catch up on the popular market. They've already lost a lot of the server market they once held tight.

It's not just 'noobs' who are buying non MS gear! Some of us rocking Macs, iPads, Android, Chrome devices still know their way around a windows machine... it's just that we're all rather fed up of managing their idiosyncrasies and quite like gear that just gets on and gets the job done without a lot of handholding or necessary tweaking.
damien c 22nd March 2014, 07:58 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichCreedy
I would say it will be win8.1 update 1

My dad has the Windows 8.1 Update 1 installed currently and in the DXDiag it still shows as DirectX 11.

I reckon it will come to Windows 8/8.1 but not for a fair few months yet, or it will more than likely be a Windows 9 exclusive to get people to buy it.
Corky42 22nd March 2014, 09:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Guinevere
I would say it's more of a case that tech savvy users are turning their backs on Microsoft. For a long time MS didn't believe they could ever 'lose' the game. They are now playing catch up on the popular market. They've already lost a lot of the server market they once held tight.

It's not just 'noobs' who are buying non MS gear! Some of us rocking Macs, iPads, Android, Chrome devices still know their way around a windows machine... it's just that we're all rather fed up of managing their idiosyncrasies and quite like gear that just gets on and gets the job done without a lot of handholding or necessary tweaking.

IMO that's because Microsoft seems to make either or choices, by that i mean you either buy an Xbox, or you don't play games. You either buy Windows 8, or you don't get an OS suited for servers/desktops.

And before someone says you can still play games without an Xbox, or use Windows 8 for servers/desktops, i know you can but it seems once Microsoft makes a choice, people that don't agree with that choice get put on the back burner. Such was the case with DirectX, if you didn't want to play games on a console then you best get used to only getting major version releases of DirectX when a new console comes out, rather than the previous yearly cycle.

If you want gear that just gets on and gets the job done without a lot of handholding or necessary tweaking, you best get used to not being able to configure things to best suit your needs. It's all well and good appealing to new customers and broadening your market, but if by doing that you neglect your existing customers needs they will soon jump ship when something better comes along.
will_123 24th March 2014, 09:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrs77
I'm all for OpenGL. Mantle is aswell controlled by a single company and that's just as bad as DX.

And you can be sure that DX12 won't be available for Win7.

Seconded. Is mantle lower level than OpenGL? Dont see why Nvidia and AMD cant both focus their efforts on an open source option like OpenGL. Rather than building their own secret sauce API's.
thogil 24th March 2014, 13:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by will_123
Seconded. Is mantle lower level than OpenGL?

Yes. OpenGL actually has some legacy faulty abstractions which do not well represent how modern hardware works. In fact, a lot of the OpenGL API could do with being scrapped and re-designed, similar to what D3D10 did. People have been asking for it for a while.
Corky42 24th March 2014, 19:05 Quote
It seem Microsoft may have been economical with the truth when they said DX12 wont need a new GPU
http://www.techspot.com/news/56095-some-directx-12-features-will-require-next-gen-graphics-hardware.html
Quote:
When Microsoft announced DirectX 12 yesterday, we learned that a broad swath of existing hardware—including all of Nvidia's DirectX 11 GPUs and all of AMD's GCN-based offerings—would support the new API. That wasn't the whole story, however, as Nvidia's Tony Tamasi clarified in an interview with us today.
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