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Microsoft announces DirectX 11 at GameFest

Microsoft announces DirectX 11 at GameFest

Microsoft has unveiled DirectX 11, the company's next-generation graphics pipeline, at its annual XNA GameFest developer conference in Seattle.

Microsoft has unveiled DirectX 11, the company's next-generation graphics pipeline, at its annual XNA GameFest developer conference in Seattle, Washington.

Details of the new API are fairly scant at the moment, as presentations from the developer-only conference aren't available to the public yet. However, Microsoft says that D3D11 "extends and enhances" the D3D10 pipeline with new hardware and API calls.

As a result of this, you can expect DirectX 11 not to be supported on operating systems preceding Windows Vista, which will no doubt upset those that believe Vista is a hunk o' junk. On another note, hardware vendors will need to support both DirectX 10 and DirectX 10.1 in order to support for DirectX 11, so the boys in green will have to support D3D10.1 at some point down the line.

With that out of the way, it's worth looking at what has been discussed, as a couple of new features have been outlined in a bit more detail. The first of those is Tessellation and Microsoft describes it as an "incredible step in the evolution of graphics."

ATI was the first to introduce a dedicated tessellation unit in its ill-fated R600 graphics processor, and it too said that it was a major evolution in graphics fidelity. I believe that it will be, but sadly with R600 (and RV670) it was only usable in D3D9 programming environments.

As a result, we're yet to see any games make heavy use of tessellation and it wasn't until the release of the RV770 graphics processor (we'll have our belated architecture analysis finished soon) that the unit was addressable in DirectX 10/10.1 environments. Even then, it's not a part of the current graphics pipeline so developers have to access it with unconventional calls; therefore, the move to include it as a part of the API is a big step forwards in my opinion, as all hardware vendors will have to support the feature and it'll be easily accessible for through conventional API calls.

The second major feature that has been talked about, and the one that excites me the most, is the Compute Shader. Past Direct3D APIs have had some constraints put on developers in order to achieve optimal rendering performance, but with the Compute Shader, Microsoft says that developers will be able to "access this computational capability without so many constraints."

The track outline continues by saying that " It opens the door to operations on more general data-structures than just arrays, and to new classes of algorithms as well. Key features include: communication of data between threads, and a rich set of primitives for random access and streaming I/O operations. These features enable faster and simpler implementations of techniques already in use, such as imaging and post-processing effects, and also open up new techniques that become feasible on Direct3D 11-class hardware."

Given the way DirectX 10 was received when it was first released—where hardware just wasn't fast enough to benefit from the potential graphical improvements offered by the new API—we're equally sceptical about how DirectX 11 will be received when it comes to market. Developers are starting to make headway with DirectX 10, but even so the differences in image quality between D3D9 and D3D10 aren't as massive as some would have you believe. You can expect the same when DirectX 11 is released in 2009 (although there's no official confirmation from Microsoft), as developers should be pretty good at writing highly optimised DirectX 10 code at that point.

What DirectX 11 does represent though is a good step forwards for the development community, as more functionality and complexity is being exposed for those that want and need it.

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18 Comments

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BlackMage23 23rd July 2008, 11:24 Quote
I didn't think this was comming out until windows 7 was ready
M4RTIN 23rd July 2008, 11:40 Quote
sounds like it should just be called DX10.5 if its not a massive change
Flibblebot 23rd July 2008, 11:41 Quote
Well, since it took a long time before there were any (affordable) DX10 cards available, it's probably going to be 2010 before we see any DX11 capable hardware.

I'm certainly not going to hold my breath for that long.
Kúsař 23rd July 2008, 11:58 Quote
If D3D11 was able to utilize multiple GPU's without specific driver support then it would be really big step ahead.
bowman 23rd July 2008, 12:02 Quote
'I didn't think this was comming out until windows 7 was ready'

It's not but it's announced now, doesn't mean it's coming next week.
Tim S 23rd July 2008, 12:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by M4RTIN
sounds like it should just be called DX10.5 if its not a massive change

It's quite a big change... Tessellation and Compute Shaders (especially the latter) are Good Steps Forward.
chicorasia 23rd July 2008, 13:31 Quote
So... what will be the next move by intel?

Will it claim that Larrabee will support DX11? Or that Larrabee will render DX11 obsolete?

XD
Tim S 23rd July 2008, 13:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by chicorasia
So... what will be the next move by intel?

Will it claim that Larrabee will support DX11? Or that Larrabee will render DX11 obsolete?

XD

Larrabee will support DirectX and OpenGL on some level and since DX10 it's been an all or nothing thing, so I'd imagine it'll have full compliance with whatever the latest DX version is when it's released (that's looking like DX11 FWIW).
p3ri0d 23rd July 2008, 14:15 Quote
Don't know what to think on that one :S

Well, i guess we should just wait and see?
Omnituens 23rd July 2008, 15:20 Quote
**** you vista.
p3n 23rd July 2008, 16:31 Quote
M$ should really concede apple are better at OS and get it wokring with OSX - rejoice etc
Flibblebot 23rd July 2008, 16:52 Quote
Well, thanks for the insightful comments, chaps.

Back on topic, could Compute Shaders make it easier to use the GPU for non-graphical tasks - like physics or folding at home? It certainly seems that way from the article.
wuyanxu 23rd July 2008, 17:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flibblebot
Well, thanks for the insightful comments, chaps.

Back on topic, could Compute Shaders make it easier to use the GPU for non-graphical tasks - like physics or folding at home? It certainly seems that way from the article.
yes, seems like MS is stepping up to standarise this GP-GPU business
TreeDude 23rd July 2008, 18:15 Quote
Geez. DX11 already? Things are moving way too fast for me. Well, too fast for my wallet I should say.
Tim S 23rd July 2008, 20:17 Quote
@Flibblebot, nah it's for graphics tasks and will give developers more freedom when it comes to implementing certain effects :-)
p3ri0d 24th July 2008, 00:22 Quote
Well, I heard it's possible to make computer faster at certain tasks with CUDA supported GPU's from nVidia. Like password cracking
Zurechial 24th July 2008, 01:39 Quote
I suspect that DX11 will receive a warmer reception than DX10 for two reasons..

Firstly, by the time DX11 is out, the takeup of Vista will probably be much higher than it was at the release of DX10.
Secondly, the differences between DX10 and DX11 should be *much* more apparent to the end-user than those between DX9 and DX10.
A side-by-side comparison of some in-game geometry with and without Tesselation will probably do the trick, there..

DX10 just wasn't enough to sway most of us to adopting a performance deficit by switching to Vista on our current hardware, but I think it'll be a much tougher call to make with DX11.
Even if we don't all switch over to Vista entirely, there will surely be a lot more people dual-booting XP/Vista at the least.
mrdoogso 24th July 2008, 10:44 Quote
Please advise: I'm in the market for a new graphics card.. if i buy one now (AMD or Nividia) will i need to upgrade again when DX11 arrives, or will the cards be updated by means of a driver update?

I'm a noob - so maybe that isn't even possible... any ideas?
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