What is DirectX 12 Ultimate and what does it mean for PC gamers

(Pocket-lint) – DirectX has been making noise for years, enabling developers to create games that can get the most out of your gaming PC’s components.

The first version of DirectX was launched in 1995 and has seen several updates since then, with each iteration helping PC gamers to fully enjoy all kinds of fantastic PC games. But what does DirectX do and what is so special about DirectX 12 Ultimate?

Keep reading to find out.

DirectX, what is it?

Microsoft DirectX is a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow games to “talk” to various components of your gaming machine, including your graphics card, RAM, etc. It was developed to make it easier for games to access these critical components while maintaining the security and integrity of your machine.

DirectX is useful for many reasons, not the least of which is that it thus acts as a bridge to gaming computers around the world which naturally contain a variety of different components. After all, every gaming PC is different and certainly not as internally universal as something like the Xbox Series X console.

DirectX has quickly become an essential part of gaming on Windows. Doom was the first game released with DirectX. Prior to this, Doom ran through MS-DOS and needed to be ported to work with Windows. It was Valve President Gabe Newell (then working for Microsoft) who spearheaded the project to port Doom to DirectX and so began the future of PC gaming.

Since then, DirectX has gone through several iterations with upgrades to improve its operation:

  • 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 DirectX upgrade that was only available in the unfortunate Windows Vista. It was a significant upgrade though.
  • DirectX 11 was released in 2008 and bought improved multi-threading support so developers could get the most out of multi-core processors. A version of it was also used on the Xbox One.
  • DirectX 12 was released with Windows 10 in 2015. The most significant update here enabled more efficient use of resources, the goal of which was to achieve “console-level efficiency on phone, tablet and PC “. It also performed well 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 probably the biggest upgrade yet

Why DirectX 12 Ultimate Matters

DirectX 12 Ultimate represents a significant system upgrade and the future of PC gaming. It introduced a number of new features including DirectX Raytracing, Variable rate shading, Sampler comments and more.

Variable rate shading

VRS itself is interesting because it gives game developers more control over the level of detail in terms of shading and things like Mesh Shaders.

It also means that your graphics card can be used more efficiently and do things like prioritize rendering of elements that come into focus first. It works by evaluating each pixel’s colors, brightness, contrast and more, but focusing on shading the most essential parts of those visuals first, before anything else. So important parts are seen in full resolution while others have lower priority and use less GPU processing power. This improves frame rates and your gaming experience.

DirectX Raytracing (DXR)

You may already be familiar with ray tracing. Nvidia has been pushing ray tracing for quite some time with its line of RTX graphics cards.

DirectX Raytracing is designed to allow games to simulate how lighting works in real life, but rather in the game world. DXR essentially determines how light should bounce and reflect around the environment, bouncing off your surroundings and the game environment in general.

DirectX Raytracing should make it easier for game developers to integrate ray tracing into their games in the future.

The most important feature of DirectX 12 Ultimate

Perhaps the most significant thing about DirectX 12 Ultimate is how it has unified code with the Xbox Series X. This means that games developed for the console will now run more smoothly on PC as well.

All of this means gamers can expect more immersive gaming on Xbox and 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 in DirectX 12 Ultimate are dependent on developers to implement them and so it might be a while before we see the fruits of that labor, but in time there should be even better looking PC games to look forward to.

Pocket-lintWhat is DirectX 12 Ultimate photo 1

DirectX 12 Ultimate Hardware

To get the most out 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 support DirectX 12 Ultimate. AMD Radeon RX 6800 Series and RX 6900 XT graphics cards also support the new version.

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 DirectX 12 Ultimate support using Xbox Game Bar:

  1. Press Windows key + G
  2. Click the settings cog (top right)
  3. Click on “game features”
  4. There you should see if your system is ready for DX 12 Ultimate
Pocket-lintWhat is DirectX 12 Ultimate photo 2

Testing with the DirectX Diagnostic Tool

There are otherwise do it too.

  1. Press the start button and type dxdiag
  2. Click on the dxdiag run command
  3. Wait for the tool to run
  4. Check the results
  5. Click “display 1” and search for DirectX 12 Ultimate there

Which games support DirectX 12 Ultimate?

The number of games supporting DirectX 12 Ultimate is short at the moment but is expected to increase in the future. The current list includes:

  • far cry 6
  • World of Warcraft: Shadow Lands
  • Godfall
  • Dirt 5
  • The Riftbreaker

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Written by Adrian Willings.

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