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DirectX 12 Ultimate Is Microsoft’s Attempt at Unified Next-Gen Graphics on PC and Console

sonomamashine

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Jun 29, 2019
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Against the assault of laughter


DirectX 12 Ultimate is the latest iteration in Microsoft's API for game programming. Announced today during “DirectX Innovation Day” (a stream on Mixer that replaced the canceled GDC 2020 talk), it promises to usher in next-generation graphics across both Windows PC and Microsoft's Xbox Series X console in a much faster way than previous API advancements, as explained by Microsoft below.

Prior to DirectX 12 Ultimate, there was limited overlap between these two cycles. Even when hardware was similar, the software interfaces were quite dissimilar, discouraging aligned adoption by developers.
By unifying the graphics platform across PC and Xbox Series X, DX12 Ultimate serves as a force multiplier for the entire gaming ecosystem. No longer do the cycles operate independently! Instead, they now combine synergistically: when Xbox Series X releases, there will already be many millions of DX12 Ultimate PC graphics cards in the world with the same feature set, catalyzing a rapid adoption of new features, and when Xbox Series X brings a wave of new console gamers, PC will likewise benefit from this vast surge of new DX12 Ultimate capable hardware!
DirectX 12 Ultimate is comprised of four main features: DirectX Raytracing, which gets updated to version 1.1; Variable Rate Shading; Mesh Shader; and Sampler Feedback.



Here's what's new in DXR 1.1:

GPU Work Creation now allows Raytracing. This enables shaders on the GPU to invoke
raytracing without an intervening round-trip back to the CPU. 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.
• Streaming engines can more efficiently load new raytracing shaders as needed when the player moves around the world and new objects become visible.
Inline raytracing is an alternative form of raytracing that gives developers the option to drive more of the raytracing process, as opposed to handling work scheduling entirely to the system (dynamic-shading). It is available in any shader stage, including compute shaders, pixel shaders, etc. Both the dynamic-shading and inline forms of raytracing use the same opaque acceleration structures.
We already discussed Variable Rate Shading at length on Wccftech. It's a technique that lets game developers dial shading rate down in those areas of a scene where it matters less, therefore saving performance, while the shading rate goes up in the most important areas.



Mesh Shaders, first demonstrated by NVIDIA in the Asteroids demo, allow geometry processing to be more programmable in a similar way to compute shaders. This will translate in developers being able to build 'more detailed and dynamic worlds than ever before'.





Last but not least, Sampler Feedback promises better visual quality, shorter load time, and less stuttering by providing detailed information to enable developers to only load in textures when needed.

On Xbox Series X, Microsoft reckons this will be a 2x/3x multiplier on both the amount of physical memory and SSD performance. On Windows PC, it may not be as significant, but it should still be very much welcome.



It's not just Microsoft who's excited about DirectX 12 Ultimate, anyway. In a briefing with the press, NVIDIA also expressed delight at the opportunity to leverage the power of a unified ecosystem in order to entice developers to make use of the aforementioned features, which are already supported by RTX GPUs. In fact, according to NVIDIA, DXR 1.1 was a collaboration with Microsoft.

NVIDIA even provided some quotes from a range of developers, highlighting the importance of DirectX 12 Ultimate for game studios, and a video showcase as well.

Marcus Wassmer, Director of Engineering, Graphics at Epic Games:
DX12 Ultimate unlocks the latest in graphics hardware technology with support for ray tracing, mesh shaders, and variable rate shading. It’s the new gold standard for the next generation of games.
Anton Yudintsev, CEO of Gaijin Entertainment:
By investing in next-gen graphics features using DirectX 12 Ultimate, we know our work will benefit gamers on PC and future consoles, and the game will look the way we dreamed.
Chris Larson, COO at Hi-Rez Studios and GM/EP of Rogue Company:
DirectX 12 Ultimate is going to accelerate the adoption of cutting edge graphics features in games because development platforms are not fragmented. With DirectX 12 Ultimate I know that I can adopt new graphics features immediately and that they will work in PC and Xbox games. We are already experimenting with DirectX Ultimate for Rogue Company, which will launch in 2020.
Koen Deetman, CEO & Game Director at KeokeN Interactive:
As a developer, a single API for PC and Xbox is a boon for my business. If my programmers know DX12 Ultimate they can code for either PC or console.
Mina Boström Nakicenovic, CTO at Paradox:
DirectX 12 Ultimate will accelerate next-gen tech adoption and shrink development cycles. The tools and samples that NVIDIA provides for DirectX Raytracing are world-class, and DirectX 12 Ultimate means they now benefit the Xbox version of my game.
Mika Vehkala, Director of Technology at Remedy Entertainment:
DirectX 12 Ultimate is going to accelerate the adoption of cutting edge graphics features in games because development platforms are less fragmented. With DirectX 12 Ultimate we are able to adopt new graphics features on multiple platforms faster than before.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvIXvF6r--A

 
Sep 29, 2011
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Hope DX12U works out better than DX12 now. As an Nvidia user, it's usually recommended to stick with 11 for most games to avoid crashes and performance issues.
 
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Ascend

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The 1.1 update is quite significant. Thankfully, AMD will also support 1.1 with RDNA2. We'll get proper competition in the space (hopefully), which will ultimately drive everything forward.
 
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mrBarrelNut

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Jan 3, 2019
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We know that XSX will have all these features as well, but will vanilla RDNA2 cards have them too or are these part of MS customization? Just wondering because Nvidia focus here...

EDIT: Yes they will.
 
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llien

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Why do slides look like they are coming from Nvidia headquarters, if it is Microsoft's initiative, chuckle?
 

Leonidas

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Why do slides look like they are coming from Nvidia headquarters, if it is Microsoft's initiative, chuckle?

Probably because they are the only GPU manufacturer who currently has full support of DX12 Ultimate on existing GPUs...
 

FeldMonster

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Nov 17, 2018
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Does this mean that games developed for Windows will be easier to port to Xbox? I.e. if there is a Windows version, an Xbox version is very little additional work? I am thinking about those Japanese games developed for every platform under the sun except for Xbox.
 

Fbh

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Sounds nice but I remember hearing a lot of hype about DX12 and how it was going to be great and how games on Xb1 were going to massively benefit from it, etc. And as far as I know nothing really came from it.

If anything I've often seen "make sure you aren't using DX12" on the troubleshooting page of a bunch of games
 

Filippos

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Mar 18, 2020
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Does this mean that games developed for Windows will be easier to port to Xbox? I.e. if there is a Windows version, an Xbox version is very little additional work? I am thinking about those Japanese games developed for every platform under the sun except for Xbox.

Yep. not sure if Japanese devs will still bother. They may not even know that Xbox exists. Lol
 
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Armorian

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Jan 17, 2018
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Sucks to be one of those 5700 series owners left out from DX12 Ultimate and the next generation of gaming features :messenger_tears_of_joy:

And 5600XT released this yearl lol, it was clearly prototype RDNA series.
 
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SenjutsuSage

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Jan 23, 2010
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God damn, look at this shit. I can't wait. Been doing some heavy reading on it.


Previously demoed by NVIDIA as texture-space shading, sampler feedback is a broader feature with a few different uses. At a very high level, the idea behind sampler feedback is to allow game engines to track how the texture samplers are being (or will be) used – thus, the samplers give feedback to the engine – allowing the engine to make more intelligent decisions about how the samplers are used and what resources are kept in VRAM.

The principle use case for this, Microsoft envisions, will be in improving texture streaming. By using sampler feedback, game engines can determine what texture tiles are actually going to be needed, and thus only loading up the necessary tiles. This keeps overall VRAM pressure down, ultimately allowing developers to use higher quality textures overall by losing less VRAM to unneeded tiles. Fittingly for the Xbox Series X, this is especially handy when your games are stored on a high speed SSD, as it means the necessary tiles can be pulled in from storage incredibly quickly (almost in a just-in-time fashion), instead of having to stage them in RAM or take measures to mitigate the long access time of a HDD.

Of much of the new features talked about in the DF reveal, this has been the one that has most made me so curious. This is going to make Series X a beast. Also from the official DirectX blog, check this out.


Sampler Feedback
Sampler Feedback enables better visual quality, shorter load time, and less stuttering by providing detailed information to enable developers to only load in textures when needed.

Sampler feedback solves this by allowing a shader to efficiently query what part of a texture would have been needed to satisfy a sampling request, without actually carrying out the sample operation. This information can then be fed back into the game’s asset streaming system, allowing it to make more intelligent, precise decisions about what data to stream in next. In conjunction with the D3D12 tiled resources feature, this allows games to render larger, more detailed textures while using less video memory.

Almost no way this won't be used in Halo Infinite.
 

SenjutsuSage

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Jan 23, 2010
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Sounds nice but I remember hearing a lot of hype about DX12 and how it was going to be great and how games on Xb1 were going to massively benefit from it, etc. And as far as I know nothing really came from it.

If anything I've often seen "make sure you aren't using DX12" on the troubleshooting page of a bunch of games

Well, the original xbox one missed proper support for some or all of the best features. That isn't the case this time. Xbox Series X supports it all. This time tiled resources (tier 2) and all that stuff that original xbox one missed, the party is now officially on. As it turns out tiled resources is the perfect combination for the new DX12 feature Sampler Feedback, the same feature Microsoft introduced for Series X in the big DF blowout on the specs.



 
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