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GDC: DirectX 12 Announced

By NAG3LT20-03-2014

The new version of DirectX was already teased two weeks ago.  Now, after a GDC presentation there finally are some more details about the future version of the most popular graphics API on PC. Due to the push for less overhead in OpenGL, as well as the appearance of AMD’s low level Mantle API, this reaction from Microsoft was expected.

The aim of DirectX 12 is to provide a lower level access to graphics hardware, thus reducing the driver overhead and CPU bottleneck. It will also be more multithreaded, providing a considerable benefit for multi-core CPUs. Microsoft has demonstrated 50% CPU utilisation improvement 3DMark just by moving the code from DX11 to DX12 with no additional optimisations.

Unlike previous major DirectX releases, Direct3D 12 is purely a software update. So no new hardware will be required to run DX12 games, as existing DX11 hardware will work. There is a small catch, however – driver support by GPU vendors. Nvidia has promised to support it on all their DX11 capable hardware starting from Fermi (GTX 400 series). AMD are less supportive, with DX12 support only promised for Radeon HD 7000 series (GCN architecture) and newer. Intel promised support for iGPUs in Haswell CPUs, but DX 11.0 capable iGPUs in Ivy Bridge CPUs were not mentioned. Microsoft’s Xbox One with GCN AMD GPU inside will also receive DX12. Finally, Microsoft also plans to provide DX12 to all Microsoft platforms including smartphones and tablets, most of which use Qualcomm GPUs.

Another demonstration of DX 12 benefits was shown with Forza 5 demo. Ported to DX 12 in just 4 man-months, it was running at 1920x1080 at stable 60 FPS with graphics power PS4 could not match. That was no magic – game was running on a PC with GTX Titan Black inside. So, the existence of working PC version leaves an interesting question if Microsoft ever plans to release some Xbox exclusives on PC. Windows version support is another interesting question at the moment. It seems that DX 12 is currently running on Windows 8.1, however it might be released at the same time as Windows 9 and used to drive its adoption. On the other hand, MS representative mentioned that even Windows 7 support may be an option. We will have to wait and see. The planned release date for DirectX 12 is late 2015, but first SDK for developers will be released this year and there will be some Early Access even sooner. Fruits of healthy graphics API competition look very nice so far.


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I must confess, I'm both impressed and surprised. I really expected this to be another lame push at promoting their next OS. Good show Microsoft, really. You did something right for a change