NVIDIA’s latest GeForce Game Ready Driver 451.48 WHQL which is now available for download promises support for a slew of new API level features for GeForce Gamers. While DirectX12 Ultimate is still the key focus, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Other core additions include Vulkan 1.2 API, Hardware-Accelerated GPU Scheduling and CUDA 11.0.
As already explained earlier, DirectX12 Ultimate is an incremental upgrade over the existing DirectX 12 (tier 1.1), but its primary advantage is cross-platform support: Both the next-gen Xbox Series X as well as the latest PC games will leverage it. This not only simplifies cross-platform porting but also makes it easier for developers to optimize their games for the latest hardware.
By the time, the Xbox Series X arrives later this year, game developers will have already had enough time with hardware using the same graphics API (NVIDIA’s Turing), simplifying the porting and optimization process. At the same time, this will also improve utilization on the latest PC hardware, improving the overall performance. All in all, it’s another step by Microsoft to unify the Xbox and PC gaming platforms.
Other than that, it also incorporates pipeline optimizations earlier introduced by DX12 and NVIDIA’s Turing GPUs such as Mesh Shaders, Variable Rate Shading and Sampler Feedback. We’ve already explained the first two in out DX12 deep-dive, you can read that here:
As for Sampler Feedback, it basically allows the game engine to reduce the overall shading with respect to the LOD, sampling, and filtering by recycling existing data. There is certain shading that can be reused either across frames or spatially to reduce GPU load while maintaining the same graphics quality.
This is especially important in VR where every frame counts. You can reproject the frame displayed on one eye on the other, essentially doubling the performance without having any apparent impact on quality.
This can be done across frames as well (temporally). In a relatively static image, objects in the distance can reuse shading over multiple frames, for example, over each two to four frames and even more. The graphics performance saved can be used to increase the quality of nearby objects or places that have a more apparent impact on quality.
As far as DXR 1.1 itself is concerned, it’s a minor upgrade over the existing 1.0 version:
- Raytracing is now fully GPU controlled and doesn’t require draw calls from the CPU, reducing the CPU overhead and improving performance.
- New raytracing shaders can be loaded as and when needed, depending upon the player’s location in the game world.
- Inline raytracing is one of the core additions to DirectX 12 Ultimate. It gives developers more control over the raytracing process. It’s available in any stage of the rendering pipeline and is feasible in cases where the shading complexity is minimal.
The second most important feature introduced by today’s Game Ready driver is hardware-accelerated scheduling. Keep in mind that it’ll only be available on Windows 10, and allow a GPU to directly manage its video memory, which in turn results in significantly better latency, meaning better lows as well as averages in games. It works across all APIs including DirectX, Vulkan, and OpenGL.
Today’s update further marks NVIDIA’s leadership in driver and API support. As of now, the competition (AMD) has not provided support for DirectX12 Ultimate or Vulkan 1.2 APIs. While both these features are still in infancy, NVIDIA can still brag about it, as with RTX (DXR Ray-tracing). I reckon that AMD will be bringing support for both these APIs with the launch of its Navi 2x and Big Navi GPUs later this year.