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Microsoft launches DirectX 12 Ultimate to support next-gen graphics

Microsoft has lifted the lid on DirectX 12 Ultimate, and claims the next iteration of its gaming API will forge an “unprecedented alignment between PC and Xbox Series X” by supporting a range of next-gen graphics features.

In a lengthy blog post, the company said DX12 Ultimate will help devs push visuals forward in a big way, giving them access to advanced features like DirectX Raytracing, Variable Rate Shading, Mesh Shaders, and Sampler Feedback. 

Those devs who do switch to DX12 Ultimate won’t find themselves locked out of certain hardware either, with Microsoft adding that any next-gen games using DX12 Ultimate features will continue to run on non-DX 12 Ultimate hardware — although said hardware won’t provide the same visual benefits. 

Outlining the specific benefits of DX12 Ultimate in a ‘deep dive,’ Microsoft was keen to talk up the possibilities presented by DirectX Raytracing (DXR) 1.1 and other new features. 

“DXR 1.1 is an incremental addition over the top of DXR 1.0, adding three major new capabilities including GPU Work Creation [that] enables shaders on the GPU to invoke raytracing without an intervening round-trip back to the CPU,” reads the blog. 

“This ability is useful for adaptive raytracing scenarios like shader-based culling / sorting / classification / refinement.  Basically, scenarios that prepare raytracing work on the GPU and then immediately spawn it.

“[Meanwhile,] Variable Rate Shading allows developers to selectively vary a game’s shading rate. This lets them ‘dial up’ the GPU power in more importance parts of the game for better visuals and ‘dial back’ the GPU power in less important areas of a game for better speed. Variable Rate Shading also has the advantage of being relatively low cost to implement for developers.”

If those technical tidbits tickle your fancy, you can find plenty more over on the Microsoft Developer Blog.