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The Direct X team also built and distributed tests that allowed the hardware industry to confirm that new hardware designs and driver releases would be compatible with Direct X.Prior to Direct X, Microsoft had included Open GL on their Windows NT platform.Since Windows 95 was itself still new and few games had been released for it, Microsoft engaged in heavy promotion of Direct X to developers who were generally distrustful of Microsoft's ability to build a gaming platform in Windows. John, the evangelist for Direct X, staged an elaborate event at the 1996 Computer Game Developers Conference which game developer Jay Barnson described as a Roman theme, including real lions, togas, and something resembling an indoor carnival.It was at this event that Microsoft first introduced Direct3D and Direct Play, and demonstrated multiplayer Mech Warrior 2 being played over the Internet.Direct3D was intended to be a Microsoft controlled alternative to Open GL, focused initially on game use.As 3D gaming grew, Open GL developed to include better support for programming techniques for interactive multimedia applications like games, giving developers choice between using Open GL or Direct3D as the 3D graphics API for their applications.Windows 95 did not launch with Direct X, but Direct X was included with Windows 95 OEM Service Release 2.Windows 98 and Windows NT 4.0 both shipped with Direct X, as has every version of Windows released since. While the runtimes are proprietary, closed-source software, source code is provided for most of the SDK samples.

Incidentally, Open GL was supported at Microsoft by the Direct X team.The game used Win G, which crashed on Compaq Presarios that came shipped with it following a partnership between Compaq and Disney, as the Cirrus Logic display drivers used by the Presarios were not thoroughly tested with the API.DOS allowed direct access to video cards, keyboards, mice, sound devices, and all other parts of the system, while Windows 95—with its protected memory model—restricted access to all of these, working on a much more standardized model.An important factor in the value consumers would place on it was the programs that would be able to run on it. John, and Eric Engstrom—were concerned because programmers tended to see Microsoft's previous operating system, MS-DOS, as a better platform for game programming, meaning few games would be developed for Windows 95 and the operating system would not be as much of a success.

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This was compounded by negative reception surrounding the Windows port of the video game The Lion King.The name Direct X was coined as a shorthand term for all of these APIs (the X standing in for the particular API names) and soon became the name of the collection.