At GDC last year, Microsoft pulled back the curtain on the graphics technologies coming with Shader Model 6.0. As it turns out, the company still had some surprises up its sleeve. Microsoft has released the DirectX Shader Compiler as an open-source project, built on the popular Clang/LLVM toolchain.
Broadly speaking, shaders are programs that modify colors and shapes to add effects to rendered images or polygon meshes. Modern games employ a large number of shaders, and they're often targeted for optimization in graphics driver releases. HLSL is a shader language that's been a part of the DirectX API since DirectX 9. Now that Microsoft has made the HLSL compiler open-source, developers not only get unfettered access to the compiler itself, but also the freedom to modify it and contribute ideas and code.
Clang was released under an open-source license in 2007, and companies including Apple, Microsoft, Google, Intel, and AMD have all contributed to it. Since the ecosystem for Clang/LLVM is large and well-established, Microsoft anticipates that developers will have the toolchain, documentation, and community they need to dig in to HLSL 6.0 rather quickly. Making this project open-source is also likely to help Microsoft push the adoption of HLSL 6.0, too.
The project can now be cloned from Github, and the team anticipates that it'll be finalized this spring.
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