It is not a big secret that entertainment demands have been the predominant driving force in computer hardware development. Until late nineties the clock rate of a central processing unit (CPU) and amount of installed random access memory (RAM) influenced the in-game performance of a system to some extent.
Everything changed with the arrival of Glide application programming interface (API) and Voodoo branded add-in graphics acceleration cards. The brain child of 3dfx Interactive changed the way game developers and designers look at video games. Since then, every new generation of API and subsequently, supporting graphics cards by 3dfx, tried to deliver better, faster and crucially, more photorealistic graphics to the PC gaming community.
Microsoft realized the significance of the market and launched its own DirectX API in the mid-nineties. Although DirectX and Glide co-existed for some time, the latter was overshadowed by the former eventually. DirectX 9.0 is still one of the major favorites for game developers, despite its Windows XP heritage.
In an effort to promote Windows Vista operating system and introduce new tools for the developer, Microsoft rewrote DirectX with its tenth reincarnation. The DirectX 10 API introduced unified vertex and pixel shaders. The most significant change was the introduction of geometry shaders.
Although allowing for a much more precise coding and more load allocation freedom for the programmable graphics chip pipeline, the DirectX 10 has not enjoyed much of a success and had to give way to a more advanced generation of API. Microsoft introduced DirectX 11 API with the release of its latest Windows 7 operating system back in July 2009. Among key features promoted by the software giant, with the support by leading graphics chips designers, was a promising hardware tessellation technology.
Now, almost a year later, DirectX 11-supporting applications are still rather scarce. On the other hand, both ATI and Nvidia have introduced solutions with full DirectX 11 support, so eventually things may pick up. With more titles being developed with the latest API in mind, the more often we are going to wonder what hardware tessellation actually is and what this technology is about. In this article we will not only explain what tessellation is, but will also investigate how much of an impact, both visual and 'horsepower' demand, is it going to make.