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One Month In: Where Is The Vulkan Graphics API Headed?

When AMD announced the Mantle API, it shook up the graphics industry because developers realized that they could have a low-level, low-overhead API. About a year ago, the Khronos group (the same group that made OpenGL) announced that it would be working on its own such graphics API, called Vulkan. Fast-forward a year, and exactly one month ago the Khronos group finally announced version 1.0. Since that day, a few developments have taken place, but nothing major just quite yet.

The idea was that on the day itself, vendors would have their drivers ready, the API would be available (in more than just a PDF spec), and developers from various parties could get straight to work implementing Vulkan in whichever project they wanted to. That did happen, but not entirely according to plan.

One week after the announcement, Nvidia sent out an update to Shield Android TV that included Vulkan Support. Following that, it took another two weeks for Nvidia to announce the desktop driver version 364.47. Unfortunately, that driver appeared to cause system instabilities among its users, so two days later it was pulled, now the 364.51 version of the driver appears to be clean. And it's available right now with WHQL certification.

On March 10, AMD posted its Crimson Edition 16.3 software, also with Vulkan support.

Two days ago, Kishonti added Vulkan support to its GFXBench 5.0 (together with VR benchmarks), and Imagination showed off the Sunset Vista demo that is based on the Vulkan API. Yesterday, that teaser was followed up with the PowerVR V4.1 graphics SDK announcement.

In the meantime, silently, Intel also outed a beta driver for Intel HD graphics with Vulkan support.

So, although we’re in the middle of GDC, we haven’t seen any games with Vulkan support. On the day that the Vulkan API was announced, you could download a version of the Talos Principle that included a Vulkan backend, but that was it.

Various game developers have already announced that they are working on game engines and SDKs with Vulkan support. However, gaming isn’t the only place where we’ll see Vulkan being implemented. Two weeks from now, we will be attending Nvidia’s GTC (GPU Technology Conference) in San Jose, where we will pay extra attention to all the other places where the graphics API will be implemented.

Think of uses such as self-driving cars, in-vehicle infotainment systems, research purposes, robotics, medicine, and more. Although on paper, Vulkan shows excellent potential for benefits in games, we believe that it will play the strongest role behind the scenes, in places where you ordinarily wouldn’t think to look for it.

Follow Niels Broekhuijsen @NBroekhuijsen. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

  • rwinches
    So we mention Mantle API but don't credit it's contribution to Vulkan API.

    From Wiki

    "Vulkan is derived from and built upon components of AMD's Mantle API, which was donated by AMD to Khronos with the intent of giving Khronos a foundation on which to begin developing a low-level API that they could standardize across the industry, much like OpenGL."
    Reply
  • I hope more game publishers support Vulcan API so they can target Linux as well so we can all switch from Windows 10 Abomination to something else when it comes to gaming.
    Reply
  • cptnjarhead
    I hope more game publishers support Vulcan API so they can target Linux as well so we can all switch from Windows 10 Abomination to something else when it comes to gaming.
    Windows 10 runs all my games better than 7, for me anyway. Once DX12 games start coming out, Win10 will be the preferred gaming platform for gamers and devs. Vulcan has legs, but nothing like DX12 in the PC world. Now they have a better chance on the mobile market, MS is trying to create their own Win10 ecosystem along with DX12, but unless i can install it on any device i want, it will not compete with Vulkan, because it is platform agnostic.
    Reply
  • Gurbo
    I hope more game publishers support Vulcan API so they can target Linux as well so we can all switch from Windows 10 Abomination to something else when it comes to gaming.
    That's the same thing I wish. Since I saw Valve in the list of partner/supporters, I started thinking they might push it HARD to try to make steamOS work, helping people wanting to game in Linux without emulators as a side effect.

    I hope more game publishers support Vulcan API so they can target Linux as well so we can all switch from Windows 10 Abomination to something else when it comes to gaming.
    Windows 10 runs all my games better than 7, for me anyway. Once DX12 games start coming out, Win10 will be the preferred gaming platform for gamers and devs. Vulcan has legs, but nothing like DX12 in the PC world. Now they have a better chance on the mobile market, MS is trying to create their own Win10 ecosystem along with DX12, but unless i can install it on any device i want, it will not compete with Vulkan, because it is platform agnostic.
    The problem is not if it works better or worse, windows 10 is pissing a lot of people off with many of it's features, and quite a few people I know, myself included, would jump (or finish the jump) if you could game in Linux without any problems.
    Reply
  • ScreaminHDD
    Well, this is great news for not only games, but for any device that uses graphical interfaces, such as those in the medical, military, and financial fields. As for games, those expect Vulcan support in any M$ published IP like "Gears of War".
    Reply
  • Alex Atkin UK
    The problem is not if it works better or worse, windows 10 is pissing a lot of people off with many of it's features, and quite a few people I know, myself included, would jump (or finish the jump) if you could game in Linux without any problems.

    Unfortunately Vulkan will not solve that problem though as the big thing about Windows is its backwards compatibility. Even if all future games are Linux compatible I will still need to boot into Windows for all my old games and Windows Store exclusives.
    Reply
  • picture_perfect
    So we mention Mantle API but don't credit it's contribution to Vulkan API.

    From Wiki

    "Vulkan is derived from and built upon components of AMD's Mantle API, which was donated by AMD to Khronos with the intent of giving Khronos a foundation on which to begin developing a low-level API that they could standardize across the industry, much like OpenGL."

    What's the difference between Mantle and Vulcan. Why does AMD care about another API.
    Reply
  • Alex Atkin UK
    17684084 said:
    What's the difference between Mantle and Vulcan. Why does AMD care about another API.

    Mantle was written only for specific AMD GPUs, Vulkan replaces it with a fully open standard that any GPU can support.

    It means AMD do not have to be the only ones spending money on developing the API and it gets more games written for it because it works on any modern GPU not just AMD.

    How does this help AMD? I have no idea, I guess it just helps everyone not being tied to a specific platform.
    Reply
  • rwinches
    The point is AMD has made contributions to the industry.
    That will benefit all.
    Mantle led to Vulkan and DirectX 12.
    And Nvidia...
    Reply
  • Alex Atkin UK
    17684644 said:
    The point is AMD has made contributions to the industry.
    That will benefit all.
    Mantle led to Vulkan and DirectX 12.
    And Nvidia...

    Unless you believe Microsoft was never going to release another DirectX after 11, then I think its giving AMD a lot of credit to claim Mantle led to DirectX 12.

    Its far more likely that DirectX 12 was well into development before Mantle was announced. AMD just beat them to the announcement as they only had to create an API for a specific GPU, not a general purpose API with extensive documentation so that third-party GPU manufacturers can write drivers for it.

    DirectX 12 is all about getting people to buy into Windows 10 and the Xbox ecosystem by making it easier to port games between Xbox One and PC than between PS4 and PC.
    Reply