The Kronos Group has officially released Vulkan 1.0 to the world. The original release date was planned for end of 2015, but February 2016 isn’t too much of a delay. It has been widely speculated that Apple would support Vulkan, but they are absent from any press releases regarding Vulkan for the past several months. As of now, Vulkan is not supported in OS X. This situation may change over time with future OS X versions.
Vulkan - What’s the Big Deal?
Many readers are probably wondering what’s the big deal with Vulkan. Vulkan 1.0, on its own, doesn’t mark any massive advancement in gaming technologies. However, Vulkan 1.0 marks the beginning of a massive new potential for cross platform games and cross platform performance.
In other words: if Vulkan is successful we will see the majority of games being created using Vulkan and not DirectX. This means that games will be able to be released on all platforms that support Vulkan, instead of just Windows (since DirectX is locked to Windows). Further, since games are created using Vulkan first, and do not have to be ported from DirectX, games will all experience the same performance across different platforms. When games have to be ported from DirectX to OpenGL, or another API, there is almost always a performance hit.
For more reading on this visit our Graphics API article, which talks about Vulkan, Metal, OpenGL and DirectX.
OS X is absent from the list of platforms supported by Vulkan 1.0. The following is the full list of platforms that are able to utilize Vulkan 1.0:
- Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10
- Intel (Linux driver)
- Nvidia (Windows and Linux driver)
- Qualcomm (Android)
- AMD (beta driver for Windows)
The following games/developers have pledged support for Vulkan:
- Valve: bringing Vulkan support to their Source Engine 2, which means that all modern Valve games will support Vulkan (DotA 2, CS:GO, etc.)
- Dice: bringing Vulkan support to their Frostbite engine, which is used for games such as Battlefield and Battlefront
- Unity: bringing Vulkan support to their Unity Engine, meaning that future games created with Unity will be able to support Vulkan
- Epic: bringing Vulkan support to Unreal Engine 4, one of the most popular game engines.
Mac gamers, like myself, who read the press releases about Vulkan are likely disappointed with the lack of support from Apple. Vulkan support is not out of the question for OS X, and I’m hoping to see it in future OS X versions, but as of now there is zero news about official support from Apple.
There is one interesting technology that may make running Vulkan games using Metal possible. A company by the name of Molten is bringing a technology called MetalVK to market whose goal is to provide a means for running Vulkan applications in OS X using Metal. Here is their summary of their product:
“MetalVK is an implementation of Vulkan that runs on Apple's Metal graphics framework. With MetalVK, you get the performance benefits and added debugging and performance tuning capabilities of the Metal framework on iOS and OS X, while maintaining compliance with an open, industry-standard, next-generation, high-performance graphics API.”
What this technology will do is allow for developers to easily port their Vulkan games to Metal. Unfortunately it will require developers to manually do that, so do not expect widespread support. It remains to be seen what kind of performance impact this will have versus running a game natively using Metal.