Microsoft's DirectX 12 Ultimate brings ray tracing effects to more games

Both AMD and NVIDIA are onboard.

More efforts are underway to bring ray traced visuals to more of your games. Microsoft has introduced a DirectX 12 Ultimate framework that makes ray tracing and other visual effects both more efficient and more flexible. A new inline ray tracing technique gives more control over the lighting effects that make more sense for certain games, GPU shaders can invoke ray tracing without talking to the CPU and streaming engines can more efficiently load ray tracing shaders as you roam around. Your games won't demand as much from your system as they did before.

Other tricks might not be as conspicuous, but could go a long way toward boosting performance in your games. Variable Rate Shading can tweak the use of visual effects shaders to use them more or less depending on the game, while mesh shaders should allow for more detail in large game worlds. Sampler feedback, meanwhile, helps games load textures only when needed and boost performance as a result.

Microsoft is adamant that compatibility shouldn't take a hit. A game written for DirectX 12 Ultimate will still run on other hardware -- you just won't get all the visual pizazz. Both AMD and NVIDIA are throwing their weight behind the framework.

Ultimate should give game studios more incentives to try effects like ray tracing, not to mention a common tool for making Windows and Xbox Series X games -- write for one platform and it'll be easier to make it available elsewhere. It won't directly help outside of those platforms, but it might encourage your favorite developer to add more visual flair to their games.

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