I attended Gamefest 2008 last week. Gamefest (formerly called Meltdown) is a Microsoft-run Windows and Xbox 360 game development conference. This year there were two notable announcements: XNA Community games (discussed in a previous blog post) and the first public disclosure of Direct3D 11.
Direct3D is, of course, the API used by most Windows games, but its importance extends beyond Windows. Direct3D features guide the development of graphics hardware in general, so these features are bound to show up in future consoles, as well as in OpenGL.
The announcement that Direct3D 11 would not be tied to the next version of Windows (as many had feared), and would be available on Windows Vista was very significant to Windows developers, many of whom complained about the tying of Direct3D 10 to Windows Vista. Direct3D 11 will also be available on Direct3D 9, 10, and 10.1 level graphics hardware (although the new features will not be available there, with the exception of some multithreading enhancements).
The fact that the Direct3D 11 API is a strict superset of the 10/10.1 API is also cause for relief among game developers. From Direct3D 9 to 10, the API went through extensive changes. These changes were mostly long-overdue cleanups and improvements, but they left developers supporting two very different APIs if they wanted to support the many customers using Windows XP and also expose the new Direct3D 10 hardware features.
This is the first part of a multi-part post which will summarize the essential facts about Direct3D 11, as known from the Gamefest slides. Eventually, the slides should show up on the XNA Presentations page.
Full disclosure of Direct3D 11 should occur later this year – the November 2008 DirectX SDK release will feature a preview version of the API, including full documentation and code samples.