DirectX 11 Details Emerge, Adds New Features to DX10 Hardware

By Aaron Linde, Jul 22, 2008 12:03pm PDT Software giant Microsoft today revealed details concerning DirectX 11, the latest edition of its PC gaming graphics API.

Similar to DirectX 10, the software will be available only on Windows Vista and future versions of Microsoft's operating system. DirectX 11 will add new compute shader technology that Microsoft says will allow GPUs to be used "for more than just 3D graphics," allowing developers to utilize video cards as parallel processors.

DirectX 11 will support tessellation, a feature which can potentially assist developers in making models appear smoother when seen up close. Multi-threaded resource handling is also incorporated, making it easier for games to utilize multi-core processors in a user's machine.

Microsoft also disclosed that DirectX 11 will add features to existing DirectX 10-compatible hardware, though it was not immediately clear what those features may be.

A launch date for the new software was not provided, though Microsoft is expected to release more information in the near future. The bullet points, as provided by Microsoft, are listed below.

  • Full support (including all DX11 hardware features) on Windows Vista as well as future versions of Windows
  • Compatibility with DirectX 10 and 10.1 hardware, as well as support for new DirectX 11 hardware
  • New compute shader technology that lays the groundwork for the GPU to be used for more than just 3D graphics, so that developers can take advantage of the graphics card as a parallel processor
  • Multi-threaded resource handling that will allow games to better take advantage of multi-core machines
  • Support for tessellation, which blurs the line between super high quality pre-rendered scenes and scenes rendered in real-time, allowing game developers to refine models to be smoother and more attractive when seen up close

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  • Can someone with a good hardware and graphics background tell me if the coming move away from hardware assisted rendering has a chance of boosting OpenGL use and breaking DX's stranglehold?

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    • Well, I have a few comments. First, the "move away from hardware assisted rendering" is not at all certain at this point - Larrabee is definitely an interesting idea, but it is not yet reality. They have a large set of obstacles to overcome in order to prove that their approach is worth something. The jury is still out.

      OpenGL and Direct3D are simply APIs - whichever one can adapt more quickly to the changing landscape, while keeping things relatively easy for developers, will ultimately prevail. OpenGL is still held back by its extension mechanism - while it's useful for exposing new features unilaterally, it makes it harder for developers to target everything out there with one codebase. OpenGL is also still pretty bloated compared to D3D (making an OpenGL driver is still much more complex), although OpenGL ES is not bloated - and therefore witness OpenGL ES's popularity on non-PC platforms such as mobile phones. Also, when it comes to shader languages, HLSL is far superior to GLSL, although to be fair nobody uses GLSL (they use Cg instead, which is better).

      If OpenGL has a hope of existing outside of legacy CAD and visualization codebases, they should move forward with the lean, mean OpenGL ES and ditch the traditional OpenGL.