X-Plane’s Vulkan API finally comes to beta!

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!

13 Comments Add yours

  1. CanadaOne says:

    Vulkan is supposed to change flightsims from using (mostly?) just one CPU core to the max, and not so much the rest, to spreading the workload out and taking advantage of multi-core? I thought I heard something like that.

    Bring this to IL2 and DCS and it would be excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I’m not a programmer but I think, from what I’ve read, that Vulkan does have better multi-core support certainly on the graphics side which does free up the CPU. Proper multi-core support throughout the sim is perhaps a side effect of ripping out the entire graphics system and reprogramming it.

      I think we’ll see a lot of single core demands still placed on systems doing simulations for a while yet. I’m told multi-core programming is extremely difficult.

      Like

      1. Peter Pipkorn says:

        Yes, supports for multiple rendering threads is one of the main benefits.
        Older APIs normally did have a driver thread to offload the single rendering thread, but that was pretty much it.
        But the application has to take advantage of the capability, nothing is automatic.

        Another is more low level control over things like shader compilation, texture uploads etc, theoretically decreasing stutter. If the app does a better job than the driver did, that is… For instance, doing memory management on lower priority threads long enough in advance.

        It can also be noted that the difference is mainly on the CPU usage side, there is not much benefit when it comes to improved GPU performance in a GPU limited scenario. In fact, the opposite may actually happen.

        It can also be noted that smoothness is quite often the limiter to a good experience. After all, most people (not me though, I certainly do) don’t complain too much about the steady 24 fps a movie runs at.

        Like

  2. Mischiew Rithe says:

    I see what you’re doing here, you’re luring people into X-Plane! 😀

    Seriously though, I should dust off my X-Plane installation and take it for a spin one of these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I’ve been away from it for a while but I’m back at it right now!

      Like

  3. 1_Robert says:

    I really have no understanding of how any of this works, will it have any negative affect on my true earth?

    Like

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      In theory it should make it better performing!

      Like

      1. 1_Robert says:

        As expected and feared, no go with true earth and 11.5 on my system. Even with Vulcan unchecked in settings, I can’t load any Orbx scenery. Instant crash every time. Occasionally I’ll get a warning that there was a problem loading Orbx, then a crash.

        I’m bummed now as I can’t revert back to non True earth scenery. Just when I was getting into a XP groove I now have to wait for a fix.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ShamrockOneFive says:

        This beta test is very much a test. Really it’s meant to be so the third parties can start fixing things for the public release so definitely beware as you’ve found out.

        Surely you can revert back?

        Like

      3. 1_Robert says:

        A little digging and I found on the Xplane site that the beta still doesn’t work with *some* Orbx scenery. I had been trying it in Washington with no luck but just tried N California and it launched a flight out of San Fran no problem. Phew 🙂

        Thanks for the updates, your site is great.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. ShamrockOneFive says:

        Glad to hear that Robert! I’m sure Orbx will be doing some updates to fix any issues. That’s definitely part of that beta process.

        Like

  4. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, I would have missed it. It is indeed quite an improvement (and that’s running Ortho4XP and XEurope).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Great to hear Matthias! Vulkan sounds like a key watershed moment for the sim. Let’s hope it leads to some more good things!

      Like

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