Who’s ready for some hot and heavy graphics API (application programming interface) news? Great, because Microsoft has just spent the past few hours at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) taking about DirectX 12.
I almost understood some of what was said, so allow me now to relate it to you. First up, don’t expect to be playing DirectX 12 driven games any time soon. Microsoft says it expects the first of these to be showing up around late 2015. It’s said to be compatible with “all Microsoft platforms” – though not necessarily all Windows software – and higher-ish end contemporary graphics cards will be able to make use of it once it’s released.
So, if you have a pretty decent GPU right now, chances are it’ll work with DirectX 12 in future. I don’t think the specifics of what counts as a “modern” GPU have been outlined by Microsoft yet, but they do say that “over 80% of gamer PCs currently being sold” have compatible cards. If you have one that supports DirectX 11 right now, you’ll probably be fine.
Windows is another matter entirely. Since the benefits of DirectX 12 won’t even be seen until almost two years from now, it may be wise to speculate that Windows 7 support will not be forthcoming. The latest versions of DirectX 11 have already been restricted to Windows 8.1, so although Microsoft haven’t confirmed this yet, we can probably expect DirectX 12 to be exclusive to Windows 8/9.
DirectX 12 itself is sounding rather like AMD’s Mantle, but for all types of graphics hardware (rather than just AMD stuff.) Microsoft claims it can show major CPU performance increases thanks to fixed threading and altered data-structures. Whatever that means. Basically, the claim is that you’ll see decent frame-rate boosts on weaker CPUs. 50% lower CPU overhead was the statistic being chucked around.
Microsoft also made a big deal about how easy it is to port games with DirectX 12. They showed a tech demo version of Forza 5 running at 60fps on Nvidia hardware (important, as the Xbox One GPU is AMD-made) on PC. I wouldn’t get too excited for an actual Forza 5 port though, as this was probably just there to demonstrate what could be achieved in “four man months” of work with DirectX 12.
You can read more about the latest iteration of Microsoft’s graphics API at the company’s blog post about the announcement.