Microsoft Makes Major Improvements to UWP Games on Windows 10

Posted on May 10, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10, Xbox with 0 Comments

Microsoft Makes Major Improvements to UWP Games on Windows 10

Starting today, Windows 10 gamers will be able to take advantage of two major improvements to Universal Windows Platform (UWP) games: Support for AMD Freesync and NVIDIA G-SYNC, and unlocked frame rates. Both were key concerns of hardcore gamers, who argued that AAA titles like “Rise of the Tomb Raider” were previously too constrained in UWP form.

Well, Microsoft is listening.

“As a direct response to your feedback, we’re excited to announce the release today of new updates to Windows 10 that make gaming even better for game developers and gamers,” Microsoft’s Bryan Langley writes in a post to the DirectX Developer Blog. Once applications take advantage of these new features, you will be able to play your UWP games with unlocked frame rates. We expect Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and Forza Motorsport 6: Apex to lead the way by adding this support in the very near future.”

As you may recall, Microsoft started an onslaught of AAA Windows 10 game titles based on DirectX 12 and UWP back in January with the release of Rise of the Tomb Raider. (Well. DirectX 12 support was actually added to Rise of the Tomb Raider in a later update, but let’s not get bogged down in date-based semantics.) But hardcore gamers immediately descended on Microsoft, crawling out of their parents’ basements to complain that the UWP lacked features that were critical to them. These included, among other things, the inability to sync a game’s frame rate to the display. So the advice was to skip UWP and just get your DirectX 12 games from Steam or elsewhere.

Microsoft, to its credit, immediately responded to the charges and said it would improve the (still new) UWP over time, addressing the complaints. And at Build 2016 last month, Terry Myerson asserted that UWP would become a first class platform for gaming very quickly.

“Our goal is for Windows to be the best platform for all developers, making Windows their home and getting the best return on their investment in their code,” he said.

This week’s update addresses just one of the complaints about UWP gaming: The ability to disable vertical sync, or vsync. That means that a game will be able to render the game at a different rate than the display refreshes. “Being able to render out of sync with the monitor refresh allows the game to render as fast as the graphics card is capable,” Microsoft notes, explaining what unlocked frame rate means. “But this also means that ‘tearing’ will occur. Tearing occurs when part of two different frames are on the screen at the same time.” G-SYNC and FreeSync allow games to render as fast as the graphics card is capable without any tearing, but requires monitors which support adaptive refresh technology.

(Microsoft notes that those with hybrid graphics—like a laptop with both integrated graphics and a dGPU, such as Surface Book—will still not be able to utilize unlocked framerates. This is a known issue, Microsoft says, and a fix is coming “as quickly as possible.”)

Among the issues not fixed by this update is full screen exclusive mode, where the game can offer improved performance when played full screen (as would normally be the case with immersive AAA game titles). According to Microsoft, however, it is not particularly interested in adding full screen exclusive because it is so out of date.

And because it doesn’t have to.

“Full screen exclusive mode was created back in the original release of DirectDraw to provide games with enhanced performance when using the entire screen,” Mr,. Langley says. “The downside of full screen exclusive mode is that it makes the experience for gamers who wish to do other things on their system, such as alt-tab to another application or run the Windows GameDVR, more clunky with excessive flicker and transition time. We thought it would be cool if gamers could have the versatility of gaming in a window with the performance of full screen exclusive. So, with Windows 10, DirectX 12 games which take up the entire screen perform just as well as the old full screen exclusive mode without any of the full screen exclusive mode disadvantages.”

Done and done.