March 21, 2006 4:00 AM PST

An inside look at Windows Vista

(continued from previous page)

Windows Vista and DirectX 10

It's been called DirectX 10, Windows Graphics Foundation 2.0, and most recently, Direct3D10. The naming situation will clear up as we get closer to the official Windows Vista release, but all you have to know is that DirectX 10 and Direct3D10 in particular will introduce a new era in PC gaming.

Microsoft's DirectX APIs are a collection of interfaces that standardize how game developers talk to PC system hardware. It's a lot easier for programmers to write for a single DirectSound or Direct3D API, instead of writing for every single video card and sound card in existence. Microsoft rebuilt its Direct3D API from scratch for Windows Vista, and Direct3D10 will serve as the base for all future Direct3D innovations throughout the life span of the Windows Vista operating system.

Because the Direct3D10 foundation has to serve game developers through the next decade, Windows Vista will streamline and open up Direct3D with several forward-looking features that will help programmers create better games and get more performance out of PC hardware.

All hail the graphics processing unit
Direct3D10 finally completes the break from the legacy fixed-function pipeline. Developers will use the programmable pipeline to emulate the older, fixed-function steps. Additionally, Microsoft had to rethink its display driver model now that the entire desktop is going 3D. The video card isn't just for games anymore. When you have a 3D desktop and give each application its own 3D window, the display driver has to be flexible and stable enough to handle the video card's increased role in the system. Microsoft split up the display driver to increase stability, to ensure that the 3D desktop stays up in the event that a game or another application crashes due to a graphics error. This change also means that Microsoft will not release DirectX 10 for Windows XP, because many of the Direct3D10 improvements will need the new Windows Vista Display Driver Model.

Opening up the video card to more applications will require Vista to give the GPU more system resources and allow applications to share the hardware. The biggest change for game developers will be virtualized memory for the GPU. The video card will now have its own space in system RAM to store information that can't fit on local video card memory. High-end video cards ship with 256MB or 512MB of memory, but games can still use the extra space in system memory to store large chunks of information, like textures.

Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney explains, "Virtual texturing eliminates the video memory bottleneck on texture size; whereas in DirectX 9 the size of textures we can use with full performance is limited by the amount of video memory, in DirectX 10 it is only limited by total system memory." Furthermore, Tim predicts that virtual memory will enable a "2X-4X increase in texture usage in games, which will be great for Unreal Engine 3 games, where textures are often authored at very high resolutions like 2048x2048, and then scaled down on lower-end systems to improve performance."

Setting standards and improving performance
Video cards will now have strict feature-set requirements for Direct3D10. A video card must have the full feature set to be DirectX 10 approved. This isn't a whole lot different from the existing model, in which a card has to have certain features to be DirectX 9.0c or Shader Model 2.0 compliant, but Microsoft has made the specification much more detailed to remove any chance of hardware variation. Differences in how Nvidia and ATI cards handled floating-point precision created extra work for developers in the past, but tighter Direct3D10 specifications will help remove ambiguous areas in hardware design. Having consistent hardware means programmers can avoid spending development time on customizing games for cards that don't have all the necessary features or have odd implementations.

Microsoft plans to accelerate its Direct3D release schedule to keep up as the graphics manufacturers release new GPUs with advanced features. If everything goes as planned, the game developer will have to learn only Direct3D11, instead of figuring out the quirks for two different GPUs when Nvidia and ATI release a new technology round. However, this change might not mean the end of writing code for specific GPUs. While developers can count on DX10 to define card features sets, the Microsoft DirectX team admits that "we may see [hardware vendors] putting in additional differentiating features, which developers may want to natively support."

DirectX 10 will increase game performance by as much as six to eight times. Much of that will be accomplished with smarter resource management, improving API and driver efficiencies, and moving more work from the CPU to the GPU. "The entire API and pipeline have been redesigned from the ground up to maximize performance and minimize CPU and bandwidth overhead," according to Microsoft. Furthermore, "the idea behind D3D10 is to maximize what the GPU can do without CPU interaction, and when the CPU is needed it's a fast, streamlined, pipeline-able operation." Giving the GPU more efficient ways to write and access data will reduce CPU overhead costs by keeping more of the work on the video card.

Here's a list of several new Direct3D 10 performance improvements GameSpot was able to wrestle out of the DirectX 10 team:

• New constant buffers maximize efficiency of sending shader constant data (light positions, material information, etc.) to the GPU by eliminating redundancy and massively reducing the number of calls to the runtime and driver.

• New state objects significantly reduce the amount of API calls and bandwidth, tracking, mapping, and validation overhead needed in the runtime and driver to change GPU device state.

• Texture arrays enable the GPU to swap materials on-the-fly without having to swap those textures from the CPU.

• Resource views enable super-fast binding of resources to the pipeline by informing the system early-on about its intended use. This also vastly reduces the cost of hazard-tracking and validation.

• Predicated rendering allows draw calls to be automatically deactivated based on the results of previous rendering--without any CPU interaction. This enables rapid occlusion culling to avoid rendering objects that aren't visible. Shader Model 4.0 provides a more robust instruction set with capabilities like integer and bitwise instructions, enabling more work to be transferred to the GPU.

• The D3D runtime itself has been completely refactored to maximize performance and configurability by the application.

It remains to be seen just how well actual DX10 graphics hardware will be able to handle the additional work, but we've seen in the past that ATI and Nvidia have been able to deliver whenever games have shifted work from the CPU to the GPU.

Sarju Shah and James Yu report for GameSpot.

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61 comments

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Add your comment
MS should stick to games only with (Asta-la) Vista
At least then the poor quality of MS products won't kill people, harm busineeses, etc. in mission critical applications?

Does anyone want to be having a heart attack, only to find the MS powered heart monitor is being rebooted...give it a minute...

No Mr Jones, you can't withdrawl money from your account while the main systems are down with today's MS virus...
Posted by booboo1243 (328 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And NASA...
...needs to release the sound stage footage of the moon landings!
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Link Flag
Don't feed the trolls, kids
Do all you anti-MS (that's the same as "M$" if you don't recognize it) ever get any new material or are you just going to keep spouting the same tired (and entirely irrelevant, for that matter) arguments until you're blue in the face?

You're angry. We get it.
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
Link Flag
MS should stick to games only with (Asta-la) Vista
At least then the poor quality of MS products won't kill people, harm busineeses, etc. in mission critical applications?

Does anyone want to be having a heart attack, only to find the MS powered heart monitor is being rebooted...give it a minute...

No Mr Jones, you can't withdrawl money from your account while the main systems are down with today's MS virus...
Posted by booboo1243 (328 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And NASA...
...needs to release the sound stage footage of the moon landings!
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Link Flag
Don't feed the trolls, kids
Do all you anti-MS (that's the same as "M$" if you don't recognize it) ever get any new material or are you just going to keep spouting the same tired (and entirely irrelevant, for that matter) arguments until you're blue in the face?

You're angry. We get it.
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
Link Flag
No thanks!
Not looking forward to Vista in any way. I read this article because
it mentioned that it would talk about Vista in relation to heavy
gaming, but it seemed more like a paid article from M$. It didn't
mention at -all- the fact that having DirectX as a primary backbone
for the system is going to further decrease the usage of OGL,
making it harder and less cost effective for any devs to try to write
for OSX at the same time. I think I'll keep my XP box.... I'd go back
to 2k if I could.
Posted by Mori-neko (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It'll be some time before you see a game
that uses DirectX10. There's a simple reason for that, since DX10 won't be ported back to XP any game written to use DX10 automatically cuts off that portion of the market. Only when Vista and it's successors have a sizable portion of the market will DX10 games show up in anything other than "demonstrators" from MS.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
No thanks!
Not looking forward to Vista in any way. I read this article because
it mentioned that it would talk about Vista in relation to heavy
gaming, but it seemed more like a paid article from M$. It didn't
mention at -all- the fact that having DirectX as a primary backbone
for the system is going to further decrease the usage of OGL,
making it harder and less cost effective for any devs to try to write
for OSX at the same time. I think I'll keep my XP box.... I'd go back
to 2k if I could.
Posted by Mori-neko (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It'll be some time before you see a game
that uses DirectX10. There's a simple reason for that, since DX10 won't be ported back to XP any game written to use DX10 automatically cuts off that portion of the market. Only when Vista and it's successors have a sizable portion of the market will DX10 games show up in anything other than "demonstrators" from MS.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Nifty Visual Features
... are pretty much the first thing to turn off after a fresh install of WinXP, aren't they?
Sure it looks neat the first couple of times but gets old rather fast.
In my opinion they should spent less time working on those visual effects but instead on Windows Vista SP1
Posted by MaxRock17 (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nifty Visual Features
... are pretty much the first thing to turn off after a fresh install of WinXP, aren't they?
Sure it looks neat the first couple of times but gets old rather fast.
In my opinion they should spent less time working on those visual effects but instead on Windows Vista SP1
Posted by MaxRock17 (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Has Windows Bought into Strong DRM
I have been told Vista has very strong DRM. DRM is a problem for my clients now and I cannot recomend a switch fron XP pro if Microsoft has bought into these Hollywood intervention's into fair use of copywrited materals. Microsoft has been very coy on this subject. DRM can make a computer very user unfriendly. My clients are leaning to open source. I think Microsoft will have a hard sell if the DRM restrictions are strong.
Posted by bigjtk (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is one area...
That I am worried about as well. I am afraid that Vista is going to be a Police OS and try to arrest anything it deames in appropriate.

I don't know, if it is heavy handed like I am sure Hollywood and the Recording Industry would like it may be a junk OS right out of the gate.

Time will tell. I also like that the article noted that it was supposed to ship at the end of the year when everything else they have done said middle of 2006. It seems things keep slipping. I just don't understand why 6 years wasn't enough to get it out on time and with ALL of the features Microsoft promised.

Robert
Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Link Flag
DRM is anti-consumer.
DRM is there to limit and restict the general public. It has no function that consumers want but yet we have to pay added on costs for its inclusion in the products that use it. MS must feel embarrassed by its inclusion in Vista. MS realise that DRM does not sell any type of product and that is why they don't want to highlight the DRM limitations of Vista
Posted by Frogfart (3 comments )
Link Flag
Has Windows Bought into Strong DRM
I have been told Vista has very strong DRM. DRM is a problem for my clients now and I cannot recomend a switch fron XP pro if Microsoft has bought into these Hollywood intervention's into fair use of copywrited materals. Microsoft has been very coy on this subject. DRM can make a computer very user unfriendly. My clients are leaning to open source. I think Microsoft will have a hard sell if the DRM restrictions are strong.
Posted by bigjtk (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is one area...
That I am worried about as well. I am afraid that Vista is going to be a Police OS and try to arrest anything it deames in appropriate.

I don't know, if it is heavy handed like I am sure Hollywood and the Recording Industry would like it may be a junk OS right out of the gate.

Time will tell. I also like that the article noted that it was supposed to ship at the end of the year when everything else they have done said middle of 2006. It seems things keep slipping. I just don't understand why 6 years wasn't enough to get it out on time and with ALL of the features Microsoft promised.

Robert
Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Link Flag
DRM is anti-consumer.
DRM is there to limit and restict the general public. It has no function that consumers want but yet we have to pay added on costs for its inclusion in the products that use it. MS must feel embarrassed by its inclusion in Vista. MS realise that DRM does not sell any type of product and that is why they don't want to highlight the DRM limitations of Vista
Posted by Frogfart (3 comments )
Link Flag
Love the features of VISTA
These features have been working great on my $500 Mac Mini for six months now. And I didn't even need to purchase a $400 video card to make them work great. VISTA is going to be awesome.
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree......
Stay put with your Mac-Mini and OSX, until you can aford a REAL operating system like VISTA...., then you can switch over and start enjoying what millions of XP users are looking forward to ...:)
Posted by sokorie (18 comments )
Link Flag
Love the features of VISTA
These features have been working great on my $500 Mac Mini for six months now. And I didn't even need to purchase a $400 video card to make them work great. VISTA is going to be awesome.
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree......
Stay put with your Mac-Mini and OSX, until you can aford a REAL operating system like VISTA...., then you can switch over and start enjoying what millions of XP users are looking forward to ...:)
Posted by sokorie (18 comments )
Link Flag
No mention of all the new DRM
Will I be able to watch DVD's? Will I be able to copy a DVD? Will I be able to play or copy MP3's?
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not if
you buy the home version ya wont....heheheh
Posted by theoscnet (36 comments )
Link Flag
No mention of all the new DRM
Will I be able to watch DVD's? Will I be able to copy a DVD? Will I be able to play or copy MP3's?
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not if
you buy the home version ya wont....heheheh
Posted by theoscnet (36 comments )
Link Flag
My concerns...
I'm not completely anti Vista. I'm not even completely anti Microsoft for that matter. But I do have legitimate questions about Vista that have yet to be answered by any of the numerous articles I've read about it.

How bad is the DRM in this OS going to be? I know this has been asked in previous comments, but I'm just as curious to know, and it seems like all these articles about it either completely skip the issue or dodge around it. What about the obvious *and not so obvious* problems I see possibly arising from Vista's "security" features? Again, all the articles I've read about Vista glorify and detail the security of it, without even beginning to explore the ways it could be compromised. How about those of us that DON'T want our OS to use much of our system resources? This article mentioned that with the Aero theme turned off, the OS didn't seem as snappy - which gives me reason to suspect that the Aero theme never gets turned off, just skinned over. What about system stability? I'm sure I'm not the only one to experience an application crashing in XP only to take the entire system down with it, requiring a cold shut down.

So I'm just going to wait and see what the users have to say about it when Vista comes out, the hype has died down, and the nasties have had their time to play.
Posted by vixenk (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
My concerns...
I'm not completely anti Vista. I'm not even completely anti Microsoft for that matter. But I do have legitimate questions about Vista that have yet to be answered by any of the numerous articles I've read about it.

How bad is the DRM in this OS going to be? I know this has been asked in previous comments, but I'm just as curious to know, and it seems like all these articles about it either completely skip the issue or dodge around it. What about the obvious *and not so obvious* problems I see possibly arising from Vista's "security" features? Again, all the articles I've read about Vista glorify and detail the security of it, without even beginning to explore the ways it could be compromised. How about those of us that DON'T want our OS to use much of our system resources? This article mentioned that with the Aero theme turned off, the OS didn't seem as snappy - which gives me reason to suspect that the Aero theme never gets turned off, just skinned over. What about system stability? I'm sure I'm not the only one to experience an application crashing in XP only to take the entire system down with it, requiring a cold shut down.

So I'm just going to wait and see what the users have to say about it when Vista comes out, the hype has died down, and the nasties have had their time to play.
Posted by vixenk (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ever used a mac?
If you have, you would know that 98% of these features have been
avaliable for a few years now, without all of the security headaches
in OS X. How can you write a story like this and not put it into the
context of other operating systems?
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I wish...
You Mac people has saying Mac has had this or Mac has had that. When will you learn that we Windows users don't give a flying snowballs worth of spit what your Mac has or doesn't have.

Just so you know Apple is just as bad a monopoly as Microsoft. The difference is Apple doesn't have enough users for the government to fool with. You can only buy Mac's from Apple. They are constantly comeing out with programs that cause other companies to stop developing similar ones (Adobe is one such company). iTunes only works on iPods. So can the bull we don't give a flying flip.

Robert
Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Link Flag
yeah
i agree , the mac does all vista does and more and has done it
for a long time ,



g4 dualcore will finally give a comparison (with bootcamp) and
show this hopefully


rok on mac
Posted by olegnep (23 comments )
Link Flag
Ever used a mac?
If you have, you would know that 98% of these features have been
avaliable for a few years now, without all of the security headaches
in OS X. How can you write a story like this and not put it into the
context of other operating systems?
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I wish...
You Mac people has saying Mac has had this or Mac has had that. When will you learn that we Windows users don't give a flying snowballs worth of spit what your Mac has or doesn't have.

Just so you know Apple is just as bad a monopoly as Microsoft. The difference is Apple doesn't have enough users for the government to fool with. You can only buy Mac's from Apple. They are constantly comeing out with programs that cause other companies to stop developing similar ones (Adobe is one such company). iTunes only works on iPods. So can the bull we don't give a flying flip.

Robert
Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Link Flag
yeah
i agree , the mac does all vista does and more and has done it
for a long time ,



g4 dualcore will finally give a comparison (with bootcamp) and
show this hopefully


rok on mac
Posted by olegnep (23 comments )
Link Flag
Hillarious
Wow, you need a kick-butt graphics card just to run Vista in it's normal setting?!?!? Awesome job MS!! I still have my 300MHz Mac running OS X without a fancy graphics card. I love it!! I think it's funny that in order for PeeCs to run properly you have to turn off all the eye candy or just simply UPGRADE. I think the only thing interesting in their "new" look is the 3D roladex windowing thing.
Posted by theoscnet (36 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hillarious
Wow, you need a kick-butt graphics card just to run Vista in it's normal setting?!?!? Awesome job MS!! I still have my 300MHz Mac running OS X without a fancy graphics card. I love it!! I think it's funny that in order for PeeCs to run properly you have to turn off all the eye candy or just simply UPGRADE. I think the only thing interesting in their "new" look is the 3D roladex windowing thing.
Posted by theoscnet (36 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes we've all used Macs, and we know they suck
Which is why the Aero interface is a piece of s--t. Just designed for morons who want "style" over functionality.
Posted by georgegliddy (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
? functionality ?
if by " functionality" you mean viruses

oh and if "the Aero interface is a piece of s--t" then why is vista
trying to copy it

hmmmmmm
Posted by olegnep (23 comments )
Link Flag
Yes we've all used Macs, and we know they suck
Which is why the Aero interface is a piece of s--t. Just designed for morons who want "style" over functionality.
Posted by georgegliddy (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
? functionality ?
if by " functionality" you mean viruses

oh and if "the Aero interface is a piece of s--t" then why is vista
trying to copy it

hmmmmmm
Posted by olegnep (23 comments )
Link Flag
Message has been deleted.
Posted by georgegliddy (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
re: Mac "jackasses" [sic]
re: << Look you Mac jackasses, .... >

My, such hatred and vitriol! It never ceases to amaze me how
much some of the most rabid Windoze fanbois (yes, YOU,
George) despise those Mac users. Please explain why you have
such hatred for them.

I know that some of them-- sometimes-- can be a little
annoying with their smugness, etc. But have you ever
considered that they are mostly being defensive. The reason
they are defensive is that they consider the Mac OS to be vastly
superior to any Windoze version and yet that fact is not
recognized by the general computer-buying public (both
corporate and consumer.) The reasons for this include a highly
effective marketing strategy by MS, a lack of that from Apple,
corporate commodity buying habits, and many more. Ah, but I
digress...

Yet, even given the above-- is that a cause for such bitterness?
Gee, maybe it's Windoze that has made you bitter...
Posted by keyboard55 (11 comments )
Link Flag
Ditto Windows Jackass
I was thinking about pointing out that you could see pretty much
the same silliness on a six-month-old Mac, but you'd have to
get the owner to reset it to its defaults. My mother - she'll be 90
in July - saw all that genie-effect stuff and the rotating cubes
and things and asked me if I couldn't make it go away ...
PLEASE???

There's been a lot of restraint in Windows upgrades these past
few years. Which is too bad because I understand the newer stuff
is worth the pain and cost of the upgrade. Much less of the
traditional BSoD and such. If there weren't a gazillion script
kiddies all looking for ways to zombie your systems for a DoS
attack on Fox News or to flood the nation with more spam, we
Mac types wouldn't have much to feel smug about these days.
Posted by dlmeyer (6 comments )
Link Flag
Can't Wait it looks great!!!
There are so many new and neat features that I cant wait to get my hands on and check them out.

It really is a big step forward, just a shame that it has taken this long. Cheers and congrats on a great feature set.
Posted by (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Can't Wait it looks great!!!
There are so many new and neat features that I cant wait to get my hands on and check them out.

It really is a big step forward, just a shame that it has taken this long. Cheers and congrats on a great feature set.
Posted by (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Gaming?
I noticed the article made a big deal about DX 10 and how great it would be for gaming but I've heard no mention of anyone actually trying to play a game on this power hog. With all those resources being consumed by the OS will EQ II be playable at all?
Posted by Michael Grogan (308 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Gaming?
I noticed the article made a big deal about DX 10 and how great it would be for gaming but I've heard no mention of anyone actually trying to play a game on this power hog. With all those resources being consumed by the OS will EQ II be playable at all?
Posted by Michael Grogan (308 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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