Shortly after unveiling detailed specifications for the Xbox Series X, Microsoft unveiled DirectX 12 Ultimate. While it may sound like a big deal, DirectX 12 Ultimate is really just marketingspeak for the DirectX 12_2 featureset.
Why does this matter? The Xbox Series X is set to make full use of the new features in DirectX 12_2. These include variable rate shading, mesh shaders, DirectX Ray Tracing, conservative rasterization, and more. DirectX 12 Ultimate certification essentially guarantees that a PC graphics card has feature parity with the Xbox Series X. This is important for several reasons. A number of these features, such as mesh shaders and variable rate shading were innovations in the PC space when they first arrived on Nvidia Turing cards.
However, barely any games in the here and now support them. For example, when it comes to variable rate shading, Wolfenstein Youngblood is literally the only title to make use of the feature. Mesh shaders, which have the potential to radically enhance on-scene geometric complexity, have yet to be implemented in any game. By announcing the DirectX 12 Ultimate program, Microsoft is making it clear that the new features will not be edge-cases in future games. Rather, we expect the Xbox Series X to make full use of DirectX ray tracing, mesh shading, variable rate shading, conservative rasterization, and other supported features. The console-first orientation means that these will likely become standard.
As far as the average consumer is concerned, nothing much changes. In the here and now, we expect Nvidia Turing cards to start shipping with a DirectX 12 Ultimate logo or sticker, making it clear that they support the 12_2 featureset. When AMD gets around to launching its RDNA2 cards, they’ll also feature this. In the years to come, we expect games to make extensive use of the new hardware features, opening the door to greater performance and enhanced visuals.