DirectX 12 is set to supercharge PC gaming
Microsoft has taken the wraps off its latest graphics API and it’s all about performance and unifying graphics across all devices.It will be compatible with most recent graphics cards and it makes AMD’s Mantle API look a bit pointless.
Instead of the usual spiel about fancy visual effects we’ve had with previous iterations of Direct X, the pitch for DirectX 12 at a launch event at GDC 2014 focused on performance and multi-platform support.
The PC market remains the biggest market, however. In October last year SuperData released a report (PDF) showing PC accounts for 51% of the gaming market; with consoles at 30%, and mobile at 13%. Many games, especially from independent developers, will release solely on PC for this reason.
Unity already supports DirectX 11, but a future addition of DirectX 12 would mean the perfect environment to deploy across both PC and Xbox One due to their shared low-level APIs and improved memory management. Currently, drivers mostly “guess” how to allocate resources which are not always optimal and can cause bottlenecks leading to frame drops. DirectX 12 allows for smarter control of these resources so games can be optimised in scenes that are expected to cause problems.
Needless to say, porting from Xbox One to a high-end PC is easier than vice-versa. A game designed solely for high-end PCs will still run into problems on Xbox One (or PS4, or Wii…) without heavy modifications to textures and effects. Most games however are built with mid-range PC support in mind which the Xbox One can handle in its stride. Again, if you want optimum power, you’ll need to fork out for a PC. But the shared APIs and resource control which DirectX 12 presents means porting most PC games to Xbox One in the future should present little issue.
The ability to develop DirectX 12 games which can get such vastly better performance out of Intel, Qualcomm, Nvidia, and AMD-based hardware, and port from PC to Xbox easily is a hugely enticing prospect for game developers. Expect to see less PC or Xbox exclusives, and more indie games being ported, because the two platforms have begun to form the perfect unity.