(Pocket-lint) - DirectX has been knocking around for years and allows developers to create games that can make the most of the components of your gaming PC.
The first version of DirectX launched back in 1995 and has seen several updates since then, with each iteration helping PC gamers fully enjoy all sorts of fantastic PC games. But what does DirectX do and what's so special about DirectX 12 Ultimate?
Keep on reading to find out.
What is DirectX anyway?
Microsoft DirectX is a collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) which allow games to "talk" to various components in your gaming machine, including your graphics card, RAM and more. It was developed to make it easier for games to access these essential components while also maintaining the security and integrity of your machine.
DirectX is useful for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that it acts as a bridge in this way to gaming computers all over the world which naturally have a variety of different components in them. After all, every gaming PC is different and certainly not as universal internally as something like the Xbox Series X console.
DirectX quickly became an essential part of gaming on Windows. Doom was the first game published with DirectX. Before that Doom ran via MS-DOS and had to be ported to work with Windows. It was Valve's President Gabe Newell (who then worked for Microsoft) who led the project to port Doom into DirectX and that's how the future of PC gaming began.
Since then DirectX has been through several iterations with upgrades to improve how it worked:
- DirectX 9 was released in 2002 and worked with Windows 98 and XP. It introduced Shader Model 2.0 and Pixel Shader 2.0.
- DirectX 10 was a major upgrade to DirectX that was only available in the ill-fated Windows Vista. It was a significant upgrade though.
- DirectX 11 launched in 2008 and bought improved support for multi-threading so developers could make the most of multi-core CPUs. A version of it was also used on the Xbox One.
- DirectX 12 launched with Windows 10 in 2015. The most important update here was allowing for more efficient resource utilisation, the goal of which was to achieve "console-level efficiency on phone, tablet and PC". It also worked nicely with multi-GPU systems including AMD CrossFireX or Nvidia SLI setups.
- DirectX Raytracing (DXR) was added to Windows 10 in 2018 and introduced real-time ray tracing.
- DirectX 12 Ultimate was announced in 2020 and is likely the most significant upgrade yet.
Why DirectX 12 Ultimate matters
DirectX 12 Ultimate represents a significant upgrade to the system and the future of PC gaming. It introduced a number of new features including DirectX Raytracing, Variable Rate Shading, Sampler Feedback and more.
Variable Rate Shading
VRS on its own is interesting as it gives game developers more control over the level of detail in terms of shading and things like Mesh Shaders.
It also means your graphics card can be used more efficiently and do things like prioritising rendering things that are in focus first. This works by assessing each pixel's colours, brightness, contrast and more but focusing on shading the most essential parts of those visuals first, before anything else. So the important parts are seen at full resolution while others have lower priority and use less GPU processing power. This thereby improves frame rates and your gaming experience.
DirectX Raytracing (DXR)
You might already be aware of ray tracing. Nvidia has been pushing ray tracing for quite some time with its RTX line-up of graphics cards.
DirectX Raytracing is designed to allow games to simulate how lighting works in real life, but in the game world instead. DXR essentially works out how light should bounce around and reflect in the environment, bouncing off your surroundings and the gaming environment in general.
DirectX Raytracing should make it easier for game developers to incorporate ray tracing into their games in future.
DirectX 12 Ultimate's most important feature
Perhaps the most significant thing about DirectX 12 Ultimate is the way it has unified code with the Xbox Series X. This means that games developed for the console will now work more easily on PC too.
All this means that gamers can expect more immersive games on both Xbox and on PC. You should expect to see higher-quality textures, better in-game lighting and more. Assuming you have the hardware to support it of course.
Some of the features of DirectX 12 Ultimate rely on developers to implement them and so it may be some time before we see the fruits of these labours, but in time there should be even better-looking PC games to look forward to.
DirectX 12 Ultimate hardware
To make the most of DirectX 12 Ultimate you need the latest hardware. The good news is Nvidia's GeForce RTX 30 Series and GeForce RTX 20 series GPUs have support for DirectX 12 Ultimate. AMD's Radeon RX 6800 Series and RX 6900 XT graphics cards also support the new version as well.
How to check if your system works with DirectX 12 Ultimate
DirectX 12 Ultimate was rolled out to Windows 10 with version 2004 and is in Windows 11 as standard. Luckily it's easy to check if you have support for it.
Check with Xbox Game Bar
You can easily check for DirectX 12 Ultimate support by using the Xbox Game Bar:
- Press Windows key + G
- Click on the settings cog (top right)
- Click on "gaming features"
- There you should see if your system is DX 12 Ultimate ready
Test with the DirectX Diagnostic Tool
There's another way to do it too.
- Press the start button and type dxdiag
- Click on dxdiag run command
- Wait for the tool to run
- Check the results
- Click on "display 1" and look for DirectX 12 Ultimate there
Which games support DirectX 12 Ultimate?
The number of games that support DirectX 12 Ultimate is short at the moment but bound to increase in future. The current list includes:
- Far Cry 6
- World of Warcraft: Shadowlands
- Dirt 5
- The Riftbreaker