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DirectX Explained

Introduction

As you may know, when computers were designed for the first time, the architecture was not intentionally designed for a gaming platform. Different PC configurations troubled game developers. Gaming consoles like the Atari become very popular and the reason behind this is partially because of the static configuration of gaming consoles. Microsoft came up with a solution called DirectX. This article will explore what DirectX is and how it has evolved in its various versions over the years. 

What is DirectX?

When Microsoft was ready to debut Windows, it had feared thatprogrammers would still prefer MS-DOS for game programming because itallows for direct access to all the hardware devices in a system.Microsoft speculated that Windows 95 would not become successful withoutproviding a better platform for game programming. Therefore, a team ofMicrosoft developers developed the first version of DirectX, toincorporate high-performance multimedia into the Windows platform.Ultimately, it has now become one of the most-used programs in modern PCgaming. Whether you're always on Counter-Strike: Source or you just useyour PC for visiting o2.co.uk to check your bill, you'll find that a computer's graphical capability benefits from having DirectX installed.

DirectX is nothing but a collection of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) developed by Microsoft. An API is a collection of tools, data structures, guidelines and schedules. An API also has various tools to present new features and technologies, so that developers don’t have start from the scratch with their programming.

In the case of DirectX, the APIs enable the Windows platforms to support advanced multimedia applications, and enhanced gaming features. DirectX bridges the gap, or acts as a communication medium, between the hardware and software in a system. DirectX renders rich multimedia features such as audio, video, color graphics and 3D animation (etc). DirectX includes applications to enhance security and performance too.

All these APIs, which are now integrated collectively, were originally apart. The name of all the APIs began with the word Direct, for instance, Direct3D, DirectSound, DirectPlay, DirectDraw, DirectMusic etc. Later, all the APIs were combined together and the generic term DirectX came into existence. DirectX plays a very important role when it comes to multimedia apps including audio, video and graphics but it’s especially crucial to game programming.

Why Knowing DirectX is Useful?

Realistically, DirectX is updated via Microsoft updates, although updates for DirectX can be downloaded separately as well, plus new versions of DirectX are also provided as part of the installation process with games. You can go on buying games and using your PC, blindly installing new versions of DirectX as it is provided by updates and installation programs, but if you are oblivious to the differences between the versions and what is supported by your hardware and the games you play, you’re missing out on useful information. 

Currently, new games are coming out with support for DirectX 10.1. Although most of these games will also support DirectX 10 and DirectX 9, the game may require a DirectX 9 or higher compatible graphics card. It is important to always check the minimum specifications for games.

To play a DirectX 9 game you need the APIs installed and a DirectX 9 capable graphics solution. Same goes for DirectX 10 – you need the APIs as well as a DirectX 10 capable graphics solution – and in fact with DirectX 10, you must be running Vista also.

Some people with DirectX 10 capable hardware may choose not run the game with DirectX 10 settings in order to increase their frame rates, as DirectX 10 and 10.1 add extra features and eye-candy to a game which can slow down system performance. So although the APIs are more advanced in DirectX 10/10.1, it’s not necessarily faster.

Understanding the differences between DirectX versions will allow you to decide whether or not it’s worth upgrading your video card to the next level in order to be able to take advantage of a newer DirectX version game.

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Author Name:Binod Kumar
Published Date:22 July 2009
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