Microsoft Ships Beta Release of DirectX 6.0

Microsoft Ships Beta Release of DirectX 6.0

LONG BEACH, Calif., May 5, 1998 — At the Computer Game Developers Conference (CGDC) today, Microsoft Corp. announced release of the beta version of its DirectX® 6.0 Software Development Kit, available in time for developers to utilize its features for the 1998 holiday season. The next generation of Microsoft’s set of multimedia application programming interfaces (APIs), DirectX 6.0 provides significant enhancements to existing APIs, optimizes hardware performance and delivers unparalleled multimedia functionality on Microsoft® Windows® 95, Windows 98 and Windows NT® 5.0 operating systems. Microsoft expects to release the final version of DirectX 6.0 in July.

New features in DirectX 6.0 speed development by delivering greater stability, reliability and consistency across all APIs, enabling increased innovation in 3-D hardware and software. In addition, Microsoft’s development agreements with leading chip manufacturers and other hardware developers bring DirectX 6.0-based applications compatibility across multiple hardware platforms.

“Today’s multimedia developers are under tremendous pressure to both innovate and shrink development cycles, and we’re committed to helping them reach those goals,”
said Kevin Bachus, product manager of DirectX at Microsoft.
“With DirectX 6.0 we’re pleased to deliver the features developers have told us they need, and in time to see the improved results in the upcoming holiday season.”

“Our research indicates the installed base of 3-D hardware accelerators now exceeds 50 million PCs. With the release of DirectX 6.0, Microsoft brings a mature set of multimedia system services for Windows to these systems – with significant improvements that will enable developers to raise the bar on features while increasing productivity,”
said Jon Peddie, president of Tiburon, Calif.-based Jon Peddie Associates, a leading multimedia consulting firm.
“Having advanced its multimedia hardware relationships, and by including DirectX in its next-generation operating systems, Microsoft is delivering on its commitment to make Windows platforms the vehicle of choice for multimedia applications.”

DirectX Multimedia Performance for Windows Platforms

Now integrated into the upcoming Windows 98 and Windows NT 5.0 operating systems, DirectX offers end users better graphics, faster frame rates and enhanced playability. With DirectX included in the operating system, users can enjoy a more powerful multimedia experience, as well as additional capabilities such as DVD playback, better audio capabilities, multimonitor support, and Universal Serial Bus (USB), which brings true Plug and Play to the desktop for multimedia peripherals such as joysticks, speakers, keyboards, mouse products and scanners.

For developers, there is improved consistency among the APIs, and – because of the new Win32® API Driver Model (WDM) – the DirectX APIs are now the same for both Windows 98 and Windows NT 5.0, as well as Windows 95. In addition, DirectX 6.0 is backward-compatible, so applications developed for DirectX 5.0 or even version 3.0 will run without hardware compatibility issues.

DirectX 6.0 Features

DirectX 6.0 APIs reduce development time by giving developers of games and other interactive content access to specialized hardware features without having to write hardware-specific code. Consisting of the DirectX foundation layer, for low-level hardware acceleration services, and the DirectX media layer, for high-level media integration services, DirectX 6.0 is a next-generation unified API set with advanced multimedia functionality from the chip level to high-level run-time engines on the Windows operating system.

The DirectX foundation layer provides low-level services through the Direct3D® Immediate Mode, DirectDraw® , DirectSound® , DirectMusic
™and DirectInput® APIs. DirectX 6.0 features new foundation layer capabilities, with a focus on these Direct3D enhancements:

  • Multiple textures. The ability to render multiple textures simultaneously onto a polygon in one pass; includes effectively programmable surface shaders

  • New rasterizers. Complete software rasterizers for nonhardware machines, reference rasterizer for driver convergence and stabilization

  • Geometry pipeline features. More geometry layouts accepted, as well as strided vertex formats; includes bounding sphere visibility acceleration checks

  • DrawPrimitives2 DDI. More efficient connection to device drivers

  • Texture memory manager. Texture memory management support

  • Flexible vertex format. Ability to specify more texture coordinates and color per vertex when lighting; eliminates the need to specify color data if none exists

  • Vertex buffers. Ability to cache geometry in system, video or Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) memory

  • Bump mapping. Support for several techniques for performing per-pixel bump mapping

  • Standard fixed-rate texture compression. Format that allows authoring of textures in 6x compressed format, and direct rendering of those textures

  • Opaque texture surfaces. Ability to recommend or disallow hardware-specific real-time optimization and compression of textures

  • Alpha in texture palettes. Ability to specify an alpha channel in a texture palette – an alternative to chromakey transparency

  • Luminance surfaces. Ability to create and utilize single-channel surface formats (can be used for light and dark maps, bump maps, etc.)

  • Stencil planes. Used to control drawing to some areas, simulate shadows and other effects

  • W-buffering. Alternative form of z-buffering that is more accurate in some cases

  • Range-based fog. Fog calculations improved to correct for planar viewing geometry

  • Z-buffer clearing. Ability to clear z-buffer to arbitrary value in one call

In addition, enhancements to DirectDraw include the following:

  • Full-screen-only per-channel gamma control. Allows applications to set gamma levels for each primary color channel (red, green, blue) when running in full-screen mode.

  • Motion compensation. A portion of the MPEG decoding process that most graphics adapters are now supporting in hardware; this enables software MPEG2 decoders to achieve a 20 to 40 percent frame rate increase.

  • Hardware de-interlacing support. The ability to perform high-quality temporal interpolation of video frames to seamlessly match video frame rate with monitor refresh rate

DirectX 6.0 also introduces DirectMusic, a new API that delivers superior, high-quality music to the Windows platform. Features include the following:

  • Better MIDI sequencing. DirectMusic provides a high-quality sequencer for rock-steady playback of MIDI streams.

  • Support for the downloadable sounds (DLS) standards authored by the MIDI Manufacturers Association. This feature enables developers to take advantage of the latest sound cards equipped with wavetable synthesis, by adding new, customized instruments to the set of instruments delivered by the sound card.

  • A high-quality, low-overhead software synthesizer. On systems that do not have wavetable synthesizers, the Microsoft software synthesizer can create high-quality music that is fed through the sound card’s digital audio playback system. This software synthesizer imposes little CPU overhead and supports all DirectMusic features, including DLS.

  • Interactive music composition. Composers can now add information to their musical scores that instructs DirectMusic on how it should adapt the score based on a player’s actions. Music can become more intense, more dramatic or more exciting in real-time, drawing users into the action.

DirectX media provides high-level media integration services through the Direct3D Retained Mode, DirectPlay® , DirectShow
™
and DirectAnimation
™
APIs. DirectX 6.0 updates DirectPlay with the following features:

  • Guaranteed messaging. Supports guaranteed message delivery on all networks, including IPX and head-to-head modem, and provides better performance than TCP on the Internet.

  • Asynchronous messages. The ability to send messages and receive confirmations later rather than having to wait for a message to complete.

  • Firewall support. Fixed port numbers enable configuration of firewalls to allow network gaming.

DirectX 6.0 also updates Direct3D Retained Mode with the following features:

  • External visuals. Allow developers to provide their own visuals and use them seamlessly within the Retained Mode hierarchy.

  • Extended IDirect3DRM MeshBuilder 3 interface. Provides optimized methods for manipulating meshes and support for triangle strip and fan data.

  • High-performance DirectXFile API. Delivers a standard method for reading and writing .X files.

  • Clipped visuals. Enable arbitrary plane clipping.

The beta version of DirectX 6.0 will be available free of charge to qualified developers during CGDC. After the show, all registered DirectX beta sites not represented at CGDC will receive a copy of DirectX 6.0 beta. The final version of DirectX 6.0 is scheduled to be released in July 1998.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
“MSFT”
) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

Microsoft, DirectX, Windows, Windows NT, Win 32, Direct3D, DirectDraw, DirectSound, DirectMusic, DirectInput, DirectPlay, DirectShow and DirectAnimation are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

Other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

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