I received word from numerous sources over the weekend that the beta program for DirectX 8.0, the next version of Microsoft's gaming and multimedia library for programmers, has begun. DirectX 8.0 Beta 1 is a major upgrade with new features in each of its major components, including long-anticipated native support for Visual Basic. And it will run on Windows 9x and Windows 2000, providing developers with access to a consistent API (Application Programming Interface) across Microsoft's mainstream desktop operating systems. The DirectX suite of APIs includes a variety of components, including DirectDraw for 2D graphics, Direct3D for 3D graphics, DirectX Audio for music and sound effects playback, and DirectPlay for enabling scalable multiplayer environments.
The improvements in DirectX 8.0 are impressive. In DirectX 8.0, DirectDraw has been fully integrated into the Direct3D engine for drastically simplified application initialization, improved data allocation and management performance, and reduced memory footprint. New graphics features include a variety of hardware-enable shading and morphing techniques, per-pixel light and bump mapping, full-scene anti-aliasing, and new compatibilities with major 3D authoring tools.
In DirectX Audio for DirectX 8.0, Microsoft has combined the previously separate DirectMusic and DirectSound into a cohesive unit. Moving forward, the DirectMusic APIs will form the basis for interactive sound effects, and the DirectMusic synthesizer will be the main sound generator for DirectX Audio. This new architecture includes a number of audio effects and support for audio scripting, which is designed to decrease the amount of work required by the game programmer to implement sound and music in games. DirectPlay 8.0 includes a number of new features as well, including DirectPlay Voice, which allows voice communication to be transmitted to people during gaming sessions. DirectPlay Voice provides for multiple topologies - peer to peer, client/server, and client/mixing server.
But the most exciting change to DirectX 8.0 is probably the inclusion of extensive, native Visual Basic support. Accessing 3D devices from Visual Basic is now much simpler, requiring only a few lines of code. And because of optimizations in the DirectX class libraries for Visual Basic, performance will be extremely close to what programmers can achieve in optimized C/C++ code. DirectX 8.0 Beta 1 includes only core DirectX functionality for Visual Basic users, but the final product will provide access for VB users to most of the features in DirectX 8.0.
DirectX 8.0 Beta 1 is available only to technical beta testers, though a future release will likely be made available to the public. Stayed tuned to WinInfo for more information about DirectX 8.0 as it becomes available