DirectX 12 Agility SDK enables new graphics features without an OS update

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Microsoft wants to make it easier for developers to support new DirectX graphical features as they release. To that end, the company revealed the DirectX 12 Agility SDK today. This toolkit enables devs to grab new DirectX features without having to wait for a Windows update. This means that game studios can now expect the majority of Windows machines to work with all DirectX 12 features. That should give many teams the confidence to support more next-gen features on PC.

In a blog post, the DirectX team points to variable rate shading as an example of a feature that devs couldn’t use because of how Microsoft delivered updates. This is a technique that spends fewer resources rendering hard-to-see objects. The idea is to improve performance without the player noticing any degradation to visual quality. But Microsoft announced VRS in March 2019. It didn’t release the feature, however, until May 2020 because of a delay to the Windows 10 update.

The Agility SDK solves that problem. It disassociates DirectX updates from Windows updates. And since this happens on an SDK level, it means that developers can control what features they use.

One concern that players might have about shifting DirectX updates from OS releases to an SDK is security and stability. These low-level graphics APIs could introduce bugs that would get caught in Microsoft’s quality control — or that’s the thinking, at least. But developers implement the SDK on a per-app basis. And those games will still go through QA checks of their own. And even if an app does launch with instability, it’s not something that should affect the system as a whole.

What this really means is that DirectX on Windows is going to work like it does on Xbox. And that is good news for developers and players who want to get the most out of games.

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