What is the S7’s Vulkan API About?

A GEARVR NEWS REPORT

by VRift720


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INTRODUCTION:

      What is this “Vulkan” everyone’s raving about, made by the Khronos Group?  The Samsung S7 Unpacked Event really shone a spotlight on Vulkan’s amazing rendering capabilities for phones and brought this to the forefront of everyone’s attention. And simply put, what it is … is an entirely new graphics-rendering interface for running games or apps on almost any system, from a tablet to a phone, to Linux, to someone still running Windows Vista, if necessary.  It is an API to finally replace Window‘s long-used “Direct X” API.  What is an API?

      An API is a programming language interface, and the Vulkan API will be the new standard going forward. It will be compatible across multiple platforms and allows nVidia and ATI to both have an equal footing in the industry, breaking nVidia’s monopolized strangehold over the gaming industry by allowing ATI a return seat at the gaming table. 

      It’s also like a reset switch for Developers who can now create one game and be relatively sure it will work across numerous platforms such as phones, tablets, older PC’s, and especially the current nVidia & ATI cards … all simultaneously.  This API also allows Devs more money-making opportunities with a minimum of conversion work.  And it gives gamers the best possible experience across all of their devices.  It’s a win win for everyone.

      “So why is Vulkan coming out now?” you ask?

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A SINKING … BLOAT:

      Direct X has long been the standard in gaming.  But that API is over 25 years old now, older than most of the programmers now working on games in the industry (haha).  And some of the early design decisions that made it into the code base from that long ago are still there, creating problems for the current way things need to get done.

      There is simply too much bloat in the code that can no longer be worked around.  To overcome the challenges thus far and allow Direct X to continue to advance gaming, clever hacks were put in place to sidestep Direct X’s growing issues.  This, because there would have been too much work to excise these issues out and still have a functioning API.  Since the past few years, that’s begun making trouble for developers by not letting them get the most out of GPU’s.  In other words, Direct X was beginning to get … in its own way!  Ouch!

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      The decision was finally made that, for the good of the industry, a new API needed to be built from the ground up, with all new design decisions being made for how these systems work now.  And especially to take better use of multi-core and multi-threaded processors (image above) since Direct X games were still only using one core.  That’s bad because almost every CPU on the market is multi-core now, and to not make use of those extras cores is a really bad design flaw. 

      It was actually AMD that started Vulkan (first called “Mantle“) but later ended up sharing their technology with the Khronos Group, who announced Vulkan at 2015’s GDC (Game-Developers’ Conference) to a stunned community of Developers.

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S7 Event Spotlight 

      Since then, Vulkan has been the buzz of the industry.   The talk of the town.  But it was really Samsung’s S7 Event yesterday which focused a tight beam across the bow of Vulkan’s ship, to the delight of the gaming world.  (Since we can now see how close Vulkan finally is to being released!)

      The graphics shown were being rendered live on a phone and were nothing short of amazing.  They even looked capable of possibly contending with consoles like Xbox One or the Playstation 4

VULKAN_CrossPlatform

      Vulkan works across the entire industry, too, including nVidia GPU’s, Intel GPU’s, AMD GPU’s, Samsung GPU’s … even Apple products now, since it was recently announced Vulkan would merge with Apple’s new proprietary “Metal” API as MetalVK, or “Metal” Vulkan.  However, it remains to be seen if Apple’s version will be as robust as Android’s, since Khronos has had more time to work on Android’s engine … and Apple’s Metal API is fairly new.


HERE ARE THE MAJOR BENEFITS OF VULKAN:

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  • Close to Metal Control of GPU’s:  Required by Complex Game Engines & Media.
  • Reduced Driver Overhead and CPU Usage: Enabling Faster Performance.
  • Increased Image Quality Derived Through Better Coding Strategies.
  • Superior Usage of Multi-Core Processors.
  • Works Across Multiple Operating Systems: Unifying the Industry.
  • PC Games Can Now Run On Windows and Linux with Equal Performance.
  • Apple Portability of Android Games Now Possible Thanks to MetalVK.

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FINAL THOUGHTS:

      Vulkan version 1.0 is almost ready now and will be released sometime in mid 2016.  Prepare for some amazing games to hit your favorite tablets and phones!  But I think the biggest use of Vulkan will be for VR games, since these stereoscopic titles need every ounce of power they can get to draw the most out of them. 

      I really hope we’ll all get to see some GearVR games built using Vulkan in 2016!  One can only hope they are already hard at work preparing something amazing for release … this year.

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