People have been waiting for a very long time for this and it’s finally on the cusp of arrival – it’s the new Vulkan API for X-Plane 11 and it’s likely to make some dramatic improvements to X-Plane’s graphics rendering and consequently making for a smoother and higher performance experience. This is what I’ve been hearing so far.
11.50 beta introduces Vulkan
A lot of people are asking “what is Vulkan” and the simplest answer is that graphics API are a bit like a sandwich. The bottom piece of bread is the hardware, the top piece of bread is the software and in between you have jelly that helps glue it together.
X-Plane has been running on another API, OpenGL, for a very long time. OpenGL had some big proponents in the graphics and game world including id Software, the developers of Doom and Quake and many more titles since then. But it’s time has since past and other rendering API’s have become more popular. Many run on Microsoft’s DirectX and some are starting to use Vulkan.
Vulkan is supposed to improve performance by reducing the layers in the middle of the metaphorical sandwich so that the hardware and software talk together more quickly and thus speed things up. X-Plane struggles to get past 30fps on most systems, even the highest end systems, and so Vulkan will hopefully open things up considerably.
As you can see in this video, things are running smoothly! Much more smoothly!
People flying X-Plane on MacOS will also see some benefits because the team has also upgraded to Metal – a similar API to Vulkan.
If you’re looking for a more by the numbers update this video should help cover it:
This is a big step but not the biggest
The last X-Plane developer diary covered their efforts to bring Vulkan to X-Plane and the work being done to make that happen. It hasn’t been an easy process and there is still some OpenGL working in there to support some legacy pieces. You can read about what they are doing to make this work.
Now finally we’re at the beta stage and that means that people are starting to test it out themselves. I’ve heard reports of people going from 20-30fps to 40-60fps in most cases. Others are saying that they are seeing only 10-15fps increases or as low as 8fps increases on average, however, it will of course depend a lot on hardware and the add-ons being run.
Speaking of add-ons, another X-Plane developer diary details what works and doesn’t work right now. Some popular add-ons may not work at all right now but hopefully they will get better over time. There are also many other bugs to squash and some initial problems during startup that require some tweaking – these should be expected with a big update and also expected during a beta test.
These are all steps on the road, however, the biggest step will be when the beta period is over and these changes are rolled into the regular release. That’s what I’m waiting for and I’m really hoping to see the benefits that this update will provide.
More to come!