What’s New: DirectX 12 Ultimate Features

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From the team that’s been bringing the latest graphics innovations to PC and console gamers for nearly 25 years, we’re pleased to bring DirectX 12 Ultimate gamers the culmination of the best graphics technology we’ve ever presented in an unprecedented match between PC and Xbox Series X.

When gamers purchase PC graphics hardware bearing the DX12 Ultimate logo or an Xbox Series X, they can rest assured that their hardware is guaranteed to support ALL next-generation graphics features, including DirectX ray tracing, variable rate shading, mesh shader and sampler feedback. This label guarantees excellent “future-proof” support for next-generation gaming features!

The PC package is led by Microsoft this week with the announcement of DirectX 12 Ultimate. DirectX 12 Ultimate is designed as a new standardized DirectX 12 feature set that incorporates the latest GPU technology and is intended to serve as a common foundation for PC game development and the development of the Xbox X series. Not only does it combine features such as ray tracing and variable rate shading in a single package, but it also branding the package so that developers and the general public can more easily see whether games take advantage of these innovative features and whether their hardware supports them. And, of course, it allows Microsoft to maximize the synergy between PC games and their future consoles by providing developers with a unique set of features on which to build their projects, while promoting the fact that the latest Xbox supports the latest GPU features.

Certainly what is being announced today is not a new API – even the features being discussed today are not technically new – but rather a redefined feature set that brings together several features that Microsoft and its partners have been working on over the past few years. These include Raytracing DirectX, Variable Rate Shading, Mesh Shader and Sampler Feedback. Most of these features have been available in one form or another in DirectX 12 for some time now, but the creation of DirectX 12 Ultimate marks its official transition from being a developer or first adapter to being a mass-market product.

For Microsoft, DirectX 12 Ultimate has a double meaning. First of all, DirectX has accumulated a lot of new features since its last feature set, Feature Level 12_1, was defined more than half a decade ago. So DirectX is lagging behind in incorporating features introduced by things like NVIDIA’s GPU architecture at Turing and AMD’s upcoming RDNA2 architecture. The end result of this process is the new level 12_2 feature, or as it is called, DirectX 12 Ultimate.

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DirectX Raytracing 1.1

Online ray tracing is an alternative API that allows developers to access the ray tracing pipeline at a lower level than dynamic ray tracing based on the DXR1.0 shaders. Rather than replacing ray tracing with dynamic shaders, inline ray tracing is an alternative model that allows developers to make low-cost ray tracing calls that do not carry the full weight of a dynamic shader call. Examples include calculating restricted shadows, requesting shaders that do not support dynamic shader beams, or simple recursive beams.

There is no simple answer to the question of when online shading is more appropriate than dynamic shading; developers must experiment to find the best balance between using the two sets of tools.

Variable Rate Shading

Developers can now optionally vary the shading rate of a game. They can use the power of the GPU to improve graphics or speed. For example, if there is a fast-action scene, developers can tell the GPU to use speed and ask it to work with better graphics for a cinematic experience. The overall result is a higher frame rate.

Mesh Shadows

This feature offers players greater programmability. They can now build more detailed and dynamic worlds, thanks to the availability of the full GPU computing power of the Geometry Pipeline. Instead of a simple shading function, mesh shaders run on an entire group of compute threads.

Sampler Feedback

It allows developers to load textures on demand. This way, when the camera shoots quickly through scenes, some objects can be seen from their position. Sampler feedback provides better visual quality, faster loading time, and fewer stuttering.

DirectX 12 Ultimate at the top of the video cards

Now that DirectX 12 Ultimate is official, we’ll be seeing announcements from NVIDIA – and possibly AMD – regarding graphics cards that take advantage of all the new features on offer. Microsoft claims that graphics cards already on the market with ray tracing and variable shading can be called DirectX 12 Ultimate graphics cards. Therefore, if you have purchased an RTX 20 series graphics card, you can take advantage of all the new features of DirectX 12 Ultimate.

Most of the features of DirectX 12 Ultimate are already available, and by bringing them together in a unified suite, Microsoft is making it easier for game developers to take advantage of the latest technology. The beauty of this system is that DirectX 12 Ultimate works the same way on both PCs and Xbox Series X, which means that next-generation titles will have the same great graphics in both ecosystems. And that’s a fantastic step.


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