Game Developers Conference has shown us plenty of mouth-watering stuff when it comes to real-time graphics processing and while the news from Microsoft doesn't sound nearly as impressive, it has the potential to have an even bigger impact.
You can see one example of Variable Rate Shading on the image above. Microsoft wrote that one of the sides of the image has been rendered 14 per cent faster on the same hardware, leaving it up to us to guess which one.
If you're having difficulty telling which one exactly - don't worry as you're not alone, and even Microsoft admit to not being able to tell which is which.
That, of course, is the entire point, of Variable Rate Shading and in the crudest of terms, it allows for more intelligent utilization of GPU horsepower.
Developers using Variable Rate Shading can selectively reduce shading rates in the areas that aren't crucial to the game, such as extreme sides of the screen in first person shooters.
"VRS allows developers to selectively reduce the shading rate in areas of the frame where it won’t affect visual quality, letting them gain extra performance in their games. This is really exciting, because extra perf means increased framerates and lower-spec’d hardware being able to run better games than ever before", they wrote.
Variable Rate Shading works vice versa too, as it allows for increasing levels of detail where developers see fit, and is said to be extremely straightforward to implement. In fact, Microsoft claim that "only a few days of dev work integrating VRS support can result in large increases in performance".
Naturally, DirectX 12 is the first API to offer hardware support for Variable Rate Shading and a bunch of companies are already onboard, including Epic Games, Activision, Ubisoft, Unity, 343 Industries and more.
One has to wonder whether Variable Rate Shading can deliver the same type of performance bonus in games more demanding than Civilization VI, which would indeed be splendid, but we'll have to wait for more testing.
You can learn more about Variable Rate Shading and how it works exactly in Microsoft's post here.