Vulkan Is The Right Way Forward, Not Much Reason To Create DX12 Backend, Says Valve’s Ginsburg

Alessio Palumbo
Posted 1 year ago

During SIGGRAPH 2015, many developers took the stage to talk about Vulkan, the next generation version of OpenGL by Khronos Group; you can check all the presentations below.

Dan Ginsburg, who has taken care of porting the Source 2 engine to Vulkan, didn’t tiptoe around the elephant in the room, Microsoft’s DirectX 12. In fact, he openly said that Vulkan is the right way forward and there is not much reason to create a DX12 backend when developers can use Khronos Group’s API right away; here’s a transcription of the most relevant parts, and you can jump to 1:41:00 in the video to hear the man himself.

Since hosting the first Vulkan face-to-face meeting last year, we’ve been really pleased with the progress of the API and we think it’s the right way forward for powering the next generation of high performance games.

Here’s why we think Vulkan is the future. Unless you are aggressive enough to be shipping a DX12 game this year, I would argue that there is really not much reason to ever create a DX12 back end for your game. And the reason for that is that Vulkan will cover you on Windows 10 on the same class of hardware and so much more from all these other platforms and IHVs that we’ve heard from. Metal is single platform, single vendor, and Vulkan; we are gonna have support for not only Windows 10 but Windows 7, Windows 8, we’re gonna have it on Android and all of the IHVs are making great progress on drivers, I think we’re going to see super rapid adoption. If you’re developing a game for next generation APIs, I think it’s clear that Vulkan is the best choice and we’re very pleased with the progress and the state of the API. We think it’s gonna power the next generation of games for years to come.

Of course, this argument isn’t exactly new. We know that Vulkan is fully cross-platform and that’s the main draw of the API, as exemplified in Ginsburg’s slide; it could be even ported to Sony’s PlayStation 4 at some point.

Khronos Group Is Not Fighting Microsoft; DirectX 12 Is the "Right Commercial Choice" for Some Developers

However, right now the only game officially coming to Vulkan is Dota 2 Reborn while there are many more DirectX 12 games already scheduled. With the free upgrade to Windows 10, support for earlier versions of Windows isn’t as important as it could have been otherwise, and DirectX 12 has at least another major advantage that Ginsburg forgot to mention. Building a game on Microsoft’s latest API enables developers to create quick ports to Xbox One, thus significantly increasing the exposure and potential player base for their games; cross-play between Windows 10 PC and Xbox One is also being encouraged and facilitated by Microsoft.

Presently, there is no reason to believe Vulkan will suddenly turn the tide

Moreover, we all know that Valve as a company has been trying to push OpenGL & Linux support in the last few years, in an effort to oppose Microsoft’s near monopoly on Windows; however, they haven’t had any real success so far and presently there is no reason to believe Vulkan will suddenly turn the tide.

Finally, Ginsburg himself is a self-professed “big fan of cross-platform development and open standards” according to his LinkedIn profile. As such, the presentation is hardly surprising.

Of course, the battle for the leading next generation API has just begun, but we can see who’s already in pole position and it’s not Vulkan right now. Still, what gamers really care for is to get the promised performance boost and both APIs can deliver that.

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