Valve: With The Rise Of Vulkan, Why Bother With DirectX 12?

Valve: With The Rise Of Vulkan, Why Bother With DirectX 12?
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The next few years are going to be interesting for 3D graphics APIs. With Microsoft’s DirectX 12 (or more accurately, Direct3D 12) and Khronos’ Vulkan on the horizon, both offering lower driver overhead and “to the metal” access to hardware, developers will have more headroom than ever to build resplendent (and hopefully fun) games. Which API will prove the most popular? Valve reckons Vulkan is the way to go, if only because it’s multi-platform.

Speaking at SIGGRAPH 2015 — pretty much the event when it comes to advances in 3D — Valve’s Dan Ginsburg put forward some compelling reasons for Vulkan’s superiority over Direct3D 12. You might recall that Vulkan is essentially the reincarnated form of AMD’s Mantle, which originally beat Microsoft to the punch when it came to giving realtime 3D a kick in the arse.

The crux of Ginsburg’s talk is that if you want to create an engine that supports a new API, are you going to go with the one that’s Windows 10 / Xbox One only, or the one that will work everywhere, including older versions of Windows?

Here’s his specific comments (courtesy of DSOGaming’s John Papadopoulos):

“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 and Linux.”

In recent times, Microsoft has started sharing its code base, with the biggest example being Roslyn, an attempt by the company to open source a chunk of its .NET technology. Will it toy with the idea of allowing Direct3D 12 to spread beyond its own hardware?

Even answering that question with a hypothetical (and impossibly unlikely) “yes”, it’d be light years behind where Vulkan is now with vendors and developers.

Yet, despite the strong pros of Vulkan, I can’t help but think of the “Direct3D vs OpenGL” war of yesteryear. OpenGL offered what Vulkan does now — a multi-platform 3D API — yet, DirectX prevailed and with it, Windows as a gaming platform. Don’t get me wrong, outside of Microsoft’s garden, it’s basically OpenGL everywhere (with the exception of the PS4 and recent versions of iOS, which have their own APIs), so Khronos obviously did something right.

But can it unseat DirectX 12 on Windows 10? A difficult task to be sure.

If you want to listen to the SIGGRAPH 2015 presentation in full — all two hours of it, you’ll find it below.

And the clip up top? It’s GFXBench’s Vulkan benchmark, which also made an appearance during the talk.

SIGGRAPH 2015: 3D Graphics API State of the Union [YouTube, via DSOGaming]


  • I want Vulkan to be the successful platform for graphics. But Microsoft rules the roost with Windows 10 and the Xbox One. If Mac OS X, the various Sony platforms, Nintendo and Valve’s Linux ambitions all work well with Vulkan and Windows 10/Xbox One, then developers might go for it. But when it comes to fighting D3D, it’s all or nothing.

    • Windows 10 hardly rules any roost at the moment. There is still very much a large push back against it due to its very invasive “security” measures.

          • Does my decision to not use win10 offend you in some way? You are right, it isn’t hard to disable it, but its far easier to just not install it in the first place while at the same time not supporting the stupid choices they make

          • So, put your support behind something you blatantly disagree with whilst brushing these aspects under the rug. Software wouldn’t progress in a positive manner if everyone behaved in this manner. It’s good to be aware of every opinion on a matter.

          • Unfortunately in Windows 7 and 8 and even vista I think if you have the latest security updates Microsoft is already tracking everything you do. Granted it’s more invasive in 10 but you’re still being tracked in 7, if you truly don’t want to be tracked you can only use windows for gaming and dual boot your computer with linux and use linux for everything else, that’s what I do. However I hoping that most devs switch to vulkan/port to vulkan so I can ditch windows entirely.

  • So basically the Vulcan guy is trying to appeal to pirates. Not good from the developers perspective. Dx12 offers superior theft protection. Better control of security means better games and content.

  • Will NVidia support Vulkan? At the end of the day, if NVidia gives more support to DirectX, they’re in more hands than AMD, and it’s going to heavily sway the war. Plus Valve WOULD say they want the multiplatform to win, they’ve been heavily anti windows since windows 8.

  • Does no-one remember the call years ago? “OpenGL will be the dominant graphics API because it is cross-platform!” OpenGL is only losing ground now.

    DirectX12 will be the dominant API on Windows and Xbox One. Because it is out there, fully supported and usable right now.

    Metal for iOS and OS X. Because why would Apple support an API that directly competes with their home-grown Metal API?

    Vulkan for Android. Because Google don’t have access to DirectX12 or Metal.

    • For what is supposed to be an “open platform”, i don’t think rooting for a concept like “go upgrade”, as if people should be forced to upgrade, is positive for the platform in the first place

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