Microsoft Discloses DirectX 11 Features

Microsoft has disclosed some details regarding the next iteration of its gaming and graphics API, DirectX 11. Shacknews has the full scoop on what Microsoft has disclosed up to this point, which isn't much, but there is still plenty to ponder. For example, the initial DirectX features and specifications disclosed at this point include...

  • 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
Even at this early stage, we know DX11 will be coming to Vista, so unlike DX10 there won't be a need to upgrade to Windows 7 to get official support for Microsoft's latest gaming API, like Vista users had to. DirectX 11 will also expose new functionality in current DX10 and 10.1-class video cards--although we don't know just yet what that functionality is--and multi-threaded resource handling potentially means future gaming titles based on DX11 will be better equipped to take advantage of multi-core processors.

Tessellation and Displacement Mapping In Action

Support for tessellation is somewhat of a win for ATI/AMD, considering the Radeon HD series of cards are the only ones currently on the market with an integrated hardware tessellator.  The hardware tessellator used in the Radeon actually first appeared in the ATI-designed Xbox 360 Xenos GPU.

Perhaps the most interesting news is support for a new compute shader technology that lets graphics cards be "used for more than just 3D graphics". Although they haven't outright said it, the computer shader lays the foundation for not only many GPGPU applications, but a universal GPU-Physics API as well.

Another thing to keep in mind is that DX11 will likely be the foundation of Microsoft's next-gen game console; the successor to the XBox 360. As more and more news and specifications regarding DX11 hits, it's a safe bet that they'll be supported by the graphics processor used in the next Xbox, if it is in fact called an Xbox.