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DirectX update adds Pentium III, MIDI support

DirectMusic MIDI API released six months late

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Microsoft has begun shipping the latest version, 6.1, of its DirectX gaming technology. The new release adds support for the Pentium III and its 3D-oriented instruction set extensions, codenamed Katmai, plus the DirectMusic API. DirectX is a series of APIs designed to make it easier to write games for Windows 9x by providing a single set interfaces to key hardware-based technologies, such as 3D graphics acceleration, 3D soundscaping and multiple input systems. DirectMusic adds MIDI hardware to that list. Originally promised for last August's DirectX 6.0, but never delivered to the public, the API contains a version of the SoundCanvas General MIDI sound set, licensed from Roland, a sound synthesiser, support for the MIDI Manufacturers Association's Downloadable Sounds (DLS) wavetable synthesis format and Waves' reverberation sound processing technology. More game-specific features include the ability to create musical palettes and rules which allow elements from those palettes to be played at certain events during the game or in response to player actions. In the same way, DirectMusic allows other attributes of the soundtrack, such as its playback volume, to be also placed under the programmers' control and modified according to the player's behaviour. This isn't new to PC gaming -- LucasArts introduced its iMuse technology some years ago when it launched its Star Wars-inspired first-person shoot-'em-up, Dark Forces. Other developers have produced similar technologies for specific titles, but DirectMusic is the first attempt to provided a generic programming framework for features like these. At the same time, DirectX 6.1 also does something similar for Pentium III, according to Microsoft. The software's Direct3D component now automatically detects the presence of a PIII, and can use the chip's new SIMD (Single Instruction, Multiple Data) instructions to accelerate 3D geometry processing work. DirectX already support's AMD's 3D Now! Technology. ®

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