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I love Visual Studio 2012. But this is not a post about that. This is a post about tweaking one particular parameter that I’ve found a bit annoying.

Disclaimer: You will be modifying important MSBuild files. If you screw up you will break your build tools. And maybe your computer will catch fire. I’m not responsible. No warranties or guaranties of any sort. This info is provided “as is”.

By default, if you add a new vertex shader or pixel shader item to a project, it will be set to build with shader profile 4.0_level_9_3. If you need 9_3 functionality, this is all well and good. But (especially for Windows Store apps) you really want to target the lowest shader profile possible so that your game will run on as many computers as possible. So it’s a good idea to default to 9_1.

To do this you could add in new HLSL files via “Add->New Item->Visual C++->HLSL->______ Shader File (.hlsl)” and then edit the shader files’ properties to set them manually to use 9_1 via “Properties->HLSL Compiler->General->Shader Model”. This is fine unless you forget to do this once and then submit your game with 9_3 shaders instead of 9_1 shaders to the Windows Store or to some other game store. Then you’d wind up with either rejection or angry “this doesn’t work on my computer! ripoff!” messages.

There’s another option though. In “Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 11.0\Common7\IDE\ItemTemplates\VC\HLSL\1033\VertexShader” (note the path might vary slightly for you if you are using a 32-bit system or have a non-ENU version of Visual Studio 2012) you will find a “VertexShader.vstemplate” file. If you open this file in a text editor (e.g. Notepad++), then inside the CustomParameters tag within the TemplateContent tag you should see a CustomParameter tag for the ShaderType, i.e.:

<CustomParameter Name="$ShaderType$" Value="Vertex"/>

On a new line, we are going to add another CustomParameter tag to the CustomParameters tag. It will look like this:

<CustomParameter Name="$ShaderModel$" Value="4.0_level_9_1"/>

such that we now have:

      <CustomParameter Name="$ShaderType$" Value="Vertex"/>
      <CustomParameter Name="$ShaderModel$" Value="4.0_level_9_1"/>

You can then save the file (you will need to be an Administrator or have Administrator access). Back in the 1033 directory (or whatever the number is for your language), go into the “PixelShader” directory. Edit the “PixelShader.vstemplate” file and make the same change (note that this time $ShaderType$ is “Pixel” not “Vertex”; you shouldn’t be changing that line anyway, but if you were to just copy and replace the above four lines then you will wind up creating pixel shaders that the HLSL compiler would try to compile as vertex shaders, with all sort of weird errors as a result). Once you’ve added the $ShaderModel$ line to “PixelShader.vstemplate” and have saved it, everything should be done.

Since Feature Level 9_1 and 9_3 don’t support any of the other shader types, those are set to default to their appropriate minimums already (Compute and Geometry are set to “4.0” and Domain and Hull are set to “5.0”, which are their respective minimums (though not all 4.0 cards support Compute shaders; they were an optional feature added with DirectX 10.1 and only became required for DirectX 11 hardware).

In case you are wondering where these magic values come from, you can find them all in the “fxc.xml” file in the “\Program Files (x86)\MSBuild\Microsoft.CPP\v4.0\V110\1033” directory (or whatever your language number is; 1033 is ENU and various other product languages have their own respective numbers (see: ) such that Japanese is 1041 (for example), though for all I know MSBuild tasks might be 1033 for everyone).

If, like me, you installed VS 2012 to a drive other than the C:\ drive, you will find the vstemplate files in the drive to which you installed VS 2012 (D:\ in my case) but you will find the fxc.xml file on the C:\ drive. You should not edit fxc.xml. You will almost definitely break things by doing that; it’s just something you can look through to see all the other options that the FXC task takes such that you could, if needed, add further CustomParameter tags if you wanted to default to other supported options. I haven’t tried any others though so I don’t have any advice on how to set them.

Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 5:49 PM directx , C++ | Back to top

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