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[TechRadar] What is Vulkan and what does it mean for the future of gaming?
What is Vulkan and what does it mean for the future of gaming?

<img src="" alt="What is Vulkan and what does it mean for the future of gaming?"/><h3>What is Vulkan?</h3><p>The battle for graphics card supremacy just got a little more interesting. <a href="">Nvidia unveiled its GTX 1080 and 1070</a>, with power rivaling that of its beastly GTX 980 Ti. AMD just revealed its <a href="">Radeon RX 480</a>, a powerful and relatively low-cost GPU that will help bring VR to the masses. </p><p>Advancements in graphical technology aren't the exclusive domain of hardware, however. While new card announcements get the lion's share of attention, it's software that ensures all that power doesn't go to waste. The fastest sports car in the world sits idle on the track until a skilled driver gets behind the wheel, after all. That's where Vulkan comes into play. </p><p><img src="" alt="What is Vulkan" width="420"></img></p><h3>What is Vulkan?</h3><p>Vulkan, first announced by non-profit tech consortium Khronos Group at the <a href="">Game Developers Conference in 2015</a>, is a cross-platform application programming interface that enhances everything today's graphics cards can do.</p><p>As a low-overhead API, Vulkan is the next step forward for AMD's <a href="">Mantle API</a>, which in of itself was a spiritual successor of the OpenGL interface. Though it is built on Mantle and AMD helped contribute, the Khronos Group is largely responsible for Vulkan's development.</p><p>AMD introduced Mantle in 2013, and with it came significant changes to the OpenGL platform. Mantle helped unify the console and PC markets under a common graphics architecture. Co-created with EA's DICE, studio behind Battlefield, Mantle adapted the multi-core advantages of consoles and brought them to the more robust hardware of PC.</p><p>According to Robert Hallock, AMD's Head of Global Technical Marketing, AMD contributed the Mantle platform to Khronos &quot;to jumpstart the process of bringing the OpenGL family over to a low overhead approach.&quot;</p><p>&quot;In its day, Mantle was the fastest adopted PC graphics API since DirectX 9,&quot; Hallock said. Vulkan takes that base and builds on it, making a next-generation, open-source platform to take gaming further than it's ever been.</p><p><img src="" alt="What is Vulkan" width="420"></img></p><h3>What does Vulkan do?</h3><p>Simply put, Vulkan is the next step in the evolution of open standards popularized by OpenGL, and is the the direct decedent of AMD's Mantle API.</p><p>According to Senior Manager of Public Relations at AMD Antal Tungler, Vulkan brings &quot;roughly the same benefits as DirectX 12&quot; does over its predecessor. </p><p>Graphics look nicer, and games run faster, on both DirectX 12 and Vulkan, however, it also has advantages over Microsoft's platform beyond performance.</p><p>For starters, <a href="">DirectX 12 is baked into Windows 10</a>, Microsoft's all-in-one platform. That's great for developers looking to move their code from, say, Xbox One to Windows Phone. It's not so great if you're developing outside the Windows ecosystem. That's where Vulkan comes in.</p><p><img src="" alt="What is Vulkan" width="420"></img></p><p>Vulkan code is platform agnostic, from console, to PC, to smartphone, regardless of operating system.</p><p>&quot;From a very high level,&quot; both DirectX 12 and Vulkan &quot;serve the same goal,&quot; Hallock, said. </p><p>Both give more control than predecessors to developers. Both offer measurable improvements in efficiency. But the cross-platform aspect of Vulkan means games will run on Windows 7, 8, or 10, and Linux, with what Hallock calls &quot;essentially the same codebase.&quot; </p><h3>Vulkan and the future of gaming</h3><p><img src="" alt="What is Vulkan" width="420"></img></p><h3>Game on</h3><p>Older standards like DirectX 11 and OpenGL automate the process of memory allocation on the GPU, but during development of Mantle, Hallock said developers &quot;really, really wanted to be in control&quot; of that process.</p><p>Vulkan gives programmers even more control over the hardware, meaning developers have even greater flexibility in interfacing with the GPU and CPU than was possible with Mantle.</p><p>That level of control lends itself to thinner drivers, but also gives developers options as to how much hardware control they want. Devs can opt use Vulkan directly, meaning they have full control of the hardware.</p><p>The level of hardware control first seen in Mantle carries over to Vulkan, allowing developers to utilize more CPU and GPU cores. </p><p><img src="" alt="What is Vulkan" width="420"></img></p><p>&quot;It's very clear there's a huge appetite for these kinds of APIs for most developers,&quot; Hallock said.</p><p>While freeing, the technical, full Vulkan control isn't for everyone. The option to take advantage of libraries and utilities (many of which are open-source), or adopt a Vulkan-optimized game engine, are also part of the platform. </p><p>According <a href="">to Khronos,</a> applications using Vulkan-based game engines &quot;will automatically benefit from Vulkan's enhanced performance.&quot;</p><p>It also means those games will be better equipped to handle virtual reality applications going forward, as well as other hardware improvements like 4K and high-dynamic range monitors.</p><p>In other words, games are going to look even better, while taking more efficient advantage of both existing and developing hardware.</p><mediainsert caption="null" mediatype="YouTube" height="315" src="" width="420">YouTube :<p>Hallock thinks games running Vulkan could see performance boosts as high as 25%, something already seen in Ashes of the Singularity running DirectX 12.</p><p>The very first game to run Vulkan was Cronoteam's The Talos Principle. AMD worked to help port the code from its original iteration to Vulkan, and there are already more titles on the way. Unfortunately, Hallock is bound by NDA to, well, not disclose anything specific detaills.</p><p>Once developers become familiar with the tools and options available through Vulkan, performance improvements will be par for course.</p><p><img src="" alt="What is Vulkan" width="420"></img></p><h3>Does more than just Windows</h3><p>Vulkan could be a huge shot in the arm for Linux gamers, who've so far had to make due with a limited, but ever growing, library of games. It also means Valve's SteamOS, itself a Linux derivative, will be a more viable platform for gamers to hitch their horses to. </p><p>The Vulkan API framework is unified across hardware platforms. That means there's no difference between Vulkan running on your smartphone and Vulkan running on your gaming rig. Vulkan is just Vulkan, not &quot;Vulkan Portable&quot; or &quot;Vulkan PC.&quot;</p><p><img src="" alt="What is Vulkan" width="420"></img></p><h3>What it means for VR</h3><p>To make the VR experience comfortable for users, regardless of hardware or software, the graphics need to run at 90 frames per second. More than just running 90 fps, software needs to maintain 90 fps without dropping frames in order to keep gamers from losing immersion, or worse, feeling physically ill.</p><p>Vulkan helps to hit on a lower-overhead for virtual reality and faster performance features, but reduces latency. That low latency is crucial to the VR experience.</p><p>To achieve the high framerates VR applications need means VR needs fast hardware. Thanks to Moore's Law, graphics cards and CPUs are still evolving at a blistering pace, becoming more powerful and cheaper with each iteration. &quot;But you also need smarter and smarter software, all the time,&quot; Hallock said.</p><p><img src="" alt="What is Vulkan" width="420"></img></p><p>Vulkan is the best way to get this performance. Hallock said you won't be able to hit that level with OpenGL or DirectX 11. Not that there's anything wrong with either, but Hallock said there's simply &quot;no better way to minimize latency and to improve responsiveness&quot; than moving forward with the new software.</p><p>Looking forward, Hallock said the goal for VR is an absolutely insane 16,000 x 16,000 pixels per eye at 200 fps. &quot;If you can achieve that kind of pixel density at that kind of frame rate, your eyeballs actually will not be able to distinguish between what it's seeing in VR and what it could see in reality.&quot;</p><p>Getting there means &quot;making more powerful hardware and much smarter software, all the time.&quot;</p><p><img src="" alt="What is Vulkan" width="420"></img></p><p>Vulkan is part of the process toward total gaming immersion. </p><p>&quot;When you combine that with crazy pixel density and really, really great head tracking and super low latency,&quot; Hallock said, &quot;suddenly that starts to look a lot like a holodeck&quot;</p><p>If you're a gamer, there's a lot to be excited about. Your games are going to look better, run better, and run on more platforms, thanks to Vulkan. If you're a developer, Vulkan is giving you unprecedented control over hardware, while streamlining the process of porting games to other platforms. No matter how you look at it, Vulkan is meant to be a win for everyone in gaming.</p><ul><li>Vulkan could play a huge part in <a href="">Project Scorpio</a> and the <a href="">PlayStation Neo</a></li></ul><img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>

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