It's been a long and somewhat bumpy road to 1.0 release for the Vulkan API. After changing its name from GL Next and missing its initial launch window in 2015, Vulkan has arrived. The API's based around AMD's own Mantle API, designed as an open source alternative to DirectX which runs with comparatively low overheards. You can download it here on Khronos's official site.
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The chief appeal of Vulkan to developers is that it allows them more control over the game's physical hardware environment - the CPU and GPU. In the right hands, that means a massive potential performance boost. Khronos and Valve already demonstrated Dota 2 running pretty well on Intel's on-die integrated graphics last year at GDC. Who knows what's possible a year on.
And with support from both AMD and NVIDIA cards, it looks like we'll get an idea of Vulkan's real world capabilities in the near future. AMD's Vulkan beta driver for Radeon cards can be downloaded here, and NVIDIA's own Vulkan driver for GeForce cards is right here.
If you're looking to test out a game with Vulkan today, The Talos Principle already supports it.
It'll be especially interesting to see how NVIDIA and AMD's respective hardware gets on with Vulkan, given that it used AMD's own Mantle API as a foundation. Anecdotally you'd expect team red's GPUs to have a bit of an advantage, but I'm speculating there. Naughty hack.
"Vulkan is great for developers," say NVIDIA in their press release. "It reduces porting costs and opens up new market opportunities for applications across multiple platforms. Best of all, the NVIDIA drivers needed to take advantage of Vulkan are already here. On launch day we have Vulkan drivers available for Windows, Linux, and Android platforms."
Meanwhile, here's what AMD have to say on Vulkan 1.0 release day:
"We started this journey in June of 2014 when AMD submitted the XGL proposal based on our work on Mantle. Once accepted by the OpenGL Next working group, AMD helped steward it through committee via our role as spec editors.
"With this transition to public availability of the Vulkan 1.0 API specifications, AMD will be releasing a beta version of our Vulkan API-enabled Radeon Software driver. This new driver, in-concert with Radeon graphics hardware, enables PC game developers to remove historical software bottlenecks which will unleash new, rich visual gaming experiences."