Games for Windows - Live multiplayer features are free, effective today, Microsoft announced at today's GameFest 2008 conference in Seattle.

The move to free means that achievements, enhanced "truskill" matchmaking, cross-platform play with the Xbox 360, voice and text chat, friends lists, are all now free to Windows gamers. This change to free is for all Games for Windows LIVE titles, past and future.


Microsoft also announced plans to introduce Games for Windows - Live marketplace this fall, which will include free and paid downloadable game content, demos, trailers and "more." Finally, the company said they are working to streamline the interface for the PC and reduce technical requirements for developers. Too little, too late? Too early to tell, I say.

In other news from GameFest, DirectX 11 was unveiled.

The company calls DirectX 11 a "big step forward for gaming, adding features onto existing DirectX 10".

Key components of DirectX 11, will include:

o Full support (including all DX11 hardware features) on Windows Vista as well as future versions of Windows

o Compatibility with DirectX 10 and 10.1 hardware, as well as support for new DirectX 11 hardware

o New compute shader technology that lays the groundwork for the GPU to be used for more than just 3D graphics, so that developers can take advantage of the graphics card as a parallel processor

o Multi-threaded resource handling that will allow games to better take advantage of multi-core machines

o Support for tessellation, which blurs the line between super high quality pre-rendered scenes and scenes rendered in real-time, allowing game developers to refine models to be smoother and more attractive when seen up close