DirectX at Game Stack Live 2021

Jianye Lu

With DirectX, we help game developers build and deliver their games, by bringing in the latest and greatest features across hardware, ensuring their games will run on a large gamer base across PC and Xbox, and providing the greatest tools and support – this has been the mission of the DirectX team in the past 25 years!

At Game Stack Live 2021 today, we continue to evolve DirectX and share our latest work that helps game developers deliver the new generation of gaming graphics.

DirectStorage for PC

Originally an Xbox innovation, DirectStorage is positioned to bring wait-free gaming and bigger, more detailed game worlds to your gaming experience. Since we announced DirectStorage was coming to PC last September, Microsoft and our gaming industry partners have been working together to build and deliver this technology into PC game developers’ hands.

From a completely new programming paradigm that bridges super-fast NVMe storage devices with your GPU, to innovations in the Windows Storage stack and GPU decompression technologies, these are the foundational pieces that will bring truly next-gen gaming to PC.

In our DirectStorage talk at GSL, we dive deeper into how DirectStorage works and what you as a game developer can do to join us on the journey. Please stay tuned for the presentation video if you have missed the talk.

DirectX 12 Agility SDK

The DirectX 12 Agility SDK is an exciting new update that will accelerate DirectX innovation, expand the reach of DirectX 12 Ultimate and all our latest features. For gamers, we are talking about games supporting bleeding-edge features sooner than ever.

In a nutshell, the DirectX 12 Agility SDK is a way for developers to access the newest DirectX 12 features, features even newer than what’s on a given Windows 10 device, without requiring an OS upgrade. Best of all, close to every gamer machine today supports the Agility SDK!

For more, check out our GSL talk, our announcement blog and download page.

HLSL and Shader Model 6.6

High-level Shader Language (HLSL), the shader language for DirectX, is at the forefront of innovation in gaming on both Windows and Xbox. We have released regular updates to unlock new hardware features, enhance the language, and improve developers experience.

In the latest HLSL advancement – Shader Model 6.6, we introduce a series of new features that grant developers increased flexibility to enhance and expand existing rendering approaches and devise all new ones. New features include expanded atomic operations, dynamic resource binding, derivatives and samples in compute shaders, and more! You can find details about Shader Model 6.6 at

Shader Model 6.6 is available to all Windows game developers today via the latest DX Shader Compiler. And remember to get the updated runtime through DirectX 12 Agility SDK before running shaders compiled as 6.6.

PIX on Windows

PIX is the essential tool that helps developers debug, profile, and optimize their DX12 games on both PC and Xbox. It includes a series of tools, among which GPU capture is most commonly used: it records all the D3D12 API calls made by the game. These calls can later be replayed, which enables a range of debugging and analysis features. While game developers found very useful, they also sent us the feedback that the overhead of the previous GPU capture significantly reduced the fps of game play, making it more challenging to capture the right frame at the right time. To address this feedback, we completely rewrote the capture layer so AAA games, previously running at a single-digit FPS with GPU capture, now run at fully playable FPS.

Besides performance improvement, we also introduce other updates based on developer’s feedback about reliability and usability. Please see for more details.

High Dynamic Range and Auto HDR on Windows

High dynamic range (HDR) unlocks an entirely new range of colors versus standard displays, making your games come to life like never before. HDR support is a table stake for this generation’s most immersive and graphically rich games. We first shipped HDR for Windows in 2017, and have seen incredible progress across the ecosystem:

  • Over 130 games with native HDR support
  • Over 250 DisplayHDR-certified monitors and laptops
  • Over 9 million monthly active HDR PCs, with 3x year over year growth

But we know that building a great HDR implementation is hard, and we have been working on your top pain points.

First, we are raising the quality of the HDR display ecosystem to give you consistent display behavior that preserves your artistic intent. Microsoft co-founded industry initiatives including DisplayHDR and HDR Gaming Interest Group. DisplayHDR certified displays must have accurate color reproduction (PQ tracking) and capability reporting (ST.2086 metadata). All top PC and monitor manufacturers support DisplayHDR, and we strongly recommend shoppers look for the DisplayHDR logo.

Second, we provide system tools and guidance for optimizing your game for the diversity of HDR displays, certified or not. DirectX provides APIs that report the display’s capabilities, and we are working on a system calibration app to provide basic data. You can supplement this with your own calibration screens for enhanced user control and game integration. For more info, please see

Finally, we’re excited to bring the revolutionary Auto HDR tech from Xbox to Windows. Auto HDR automatically upgrades existing SDR games to high quality HDR (up to 1000 nits luminance and DCI-P3 gamut). It requires zero dev work and is compatible with DirectX 11 and 12 games. While its results are impressive, you’ll get maximum image quality and artistic control by implementing native HDR support in your new games. Check out our announcement at

Partners Built around DirectX

DirectX is not just a platform, but a vibrant ecosystem where partners offer their hardware and software products that enable game developers to deliver the best graphics to the broadest range of gamers. At Game Stack Live 2021, we were excited to have partners from NVIDIA and AMD to confirm their support for all new features we announced today, and to share their latest updates to DirectX support.


AMD’s RDNA™ 2 graphics architecture fully supports DirectX® 12 Ultimate and is available on a broad spectrum of hardware, including Xbox Series X|S and AMD Radeon™ RX 6000 Series graphics cards, and AMD is excited to share their support for the newly introduced DirectX 12 Agility SDK and Shader Model 6.6 with the latest AMD Radeon™ Software Adrenalin developer driver, as well as its support for DirectStorage for PC.

AMD offers software tools and technologies for developers on GPUOpen that can help simplify and accelerate DX12 Ultimate feature adoption. AMD FidelityFX is the AMD image quality toolkit that is already used in over 40 games and to support its Game Stack Live 2021 developer sessions today, AMD has released new developer content on GPUOpen, including an update to the FidelityFX Denoiser for denoising ray-traced shadows.

AMD announced that select AMD FidelityFX effects are now available for the Xbox Series X|S. This means that it will be even easier than before for developers to create cross-platform games with AMD FidelityFX now available in the latest Xbox Series X|S Game Development Kit (GDK) and to start AMD is making FidelityFX Contrast Adaptive Sharpening (CAS), Variable Shading, and the shadow Denoiser available.

More about all of AMD’s Game Stack Live 2021 announcements in can be found in its blog.


NVIDIA has been working with Microsoft to empower game developers with DirectX 12 Ultimate through the introduction of Mesh Shading, Variable Rate Shading, Sampler Feedback, and DirectX Raytracing.

DXR in particular has re-defined the look of video games, mirroring how light actually behaves. Improved shadows, accurate global illumination, and physically correct reflections combine to set a new graphics standard. Games like Minecraft, Cyberpunk 2077, and Fortnite have taken advantage of DXR, and the results are breathtaking.

Back in 2018, NVIDIA pioneered real-time ray-tracing hardware with the launch of Geforce RTX 20 Series. NVIDIA has remained at the cutting edge of this new technology, equipping developers with the tools needed to get the most out of DXR. NVIDIA is delighted with the power and flexibility that DX12 Ultimate provides, and NVIDIA has continued on their path to improve the performance and quality of real-time ray tracing SDKs for all DX12 developers.

At Game Stack Live 2021, NVIDIA shared their latest update on ray-tracing with two presentations: “Introduction to Real-Time Ray Tracing with Minecraft” by Oli Wright, and “RTXDI: Details on Achieving Real-Time Performance” by Chris Wyman.

Build Your Games with DirectX

All the platform work, tools, and hardware products are only half the picture of DirectX. The other half depends on game developers to realize the full potential of DirectX and to deliver the immersive games to all gamers. That is why we build the features you want, add platform support based on your feedback, and unify the hardware ecosystem to give you a large gamer base across PC and Xbox.

We would like to thank you for helping DirectX evolve, and please continue to tell us how you like it and how we can make it even better for you.

[Update on April 21st, 2021]: In case you missed this event, you can find session videos on YouTube and slide decks on GitHub.


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