DirectXWindows Vista ships with DirectX 10 (DX10) which is something a lot of gamers look forward to getting their hands on. Unfortunately for XP users DX10 is only available on the Vista operating system because of changes made in the graphics API as well as the drivers. DirectX 10 does provide some noticeable benefits that will make the upgrade worth it for gamers, and some of these benefits according to IGN are:

  • Standardized hardware requirements: Microsoft made the hardware requirements for a DX10 compatible graphics card pretty strict, which means there will be fewer differences between GPU manufacturers. The result should be less GPU hardware crashes!
  • Less bottlenecks in game execution: The API for DX10 has been made a lot less computationally intensive. This opens a lot of doors for developers because they can use the CPU for other things, such as adding more objects (trees, cars, etc…), make more realistic animations, or improve the artificial intelligence used. 
  • Better shader effects: DX10 has a Geometry shader that is capable of adding more advanced visual effects including real-time Displacement Mapping, Motion Blur, Point-Sprite generation from points, and Stencil Shadow Extrusion.
  • Unified GPU architecture : DirectX 9 graphics cards have separate pixel and vertex processors, which cannot be processed simultaneously. For example, you could have the computer caught up on processing vertex units while the pixel unit processors in the video card are idle, which needlessly bottlenecks performance. However, in DX10 graphics cards the GPU will be able to handle vertex, geometry and pixel shaders all at once without having to wait for the others to complete.

DirectX Flight SimulatorAre the graphics that much better in DirectX 10? IGN also had a graphical comparison of DirectX 9 and 10 for the Microsoft Flight Simulator X game that is supposed to be released later this year. You’ll see the comparison of the two pictured to the left (click on it to see a fullsize version). The DirectX 10 obviously does a much better job providing the little details that make the scenery look more real, such as the sun rays and textured water. Of course you will also have to get their hands on a DirectX 10 graphics card in order to enjoy all of the graphical goodness that is promised.

While some of you might be upset the Microsoft didn’t make a DirectX 10 for XP, you have to look at both sides of the story. Sure it would have benefited all of the current XP users, but Microsoft would have probably put so much time into making DX10 compatible that they would have had to charge for the upgrade anyway. Not only that, but every time there is a new operating system that is released there has to be plenty of benefits for users to upgrade, and this is a big benefit for gamers.

Wikipedia currently has a list of games that are going to be released with DirectX 10 support, and many will still support DirectX 9 for those not wanting to make the upgrade to Vista. In time I’m sure game developers will begin phasing out the support for DX 9 because games do need to stay on the bleeding edge of graphics in order to catch the attention of gamers.

There is one “DirectX 10” solution available for XP users that “Mr. Defeatable” pointed out in a tip, but it isn’t developed by Microsoft. It’s called the Alky Project and there is currently a preview version available for those that want to give it a shot. Here is what the developer says about the project:

As a fitting start to this blog, I’m proud to release a preview of our Alky compatibility libraries for Microsoft DirectX 10 enabled games. These libraries allow the use of DirectX 10 games on platforms other than Windows Vista, and increase hardware compatibility even on Vista, by compiling Geometry Shaders down to native machine code for execution where hardware isn’t capable of running it. No longer will you have to upgrade your OS and video card(s) to play the latest games.

I’m a little skeptical at what these libraries can actually do, and very curious as to whether this adds a lot of extra processing to the CPU. It will also be interesting to watch the progress of the project to see if Microsoft tries to shut it down.