The Vulkan API is a simpler, more streamlined graphics processing driver for game developers, allowing more basic access to graphics components and cutting out the middle-man of older APIs like DirectX 11 and OpenGL.
It provides theoretically significant performance gains but it's still in its infancy in terms of in-game support from actual games that you can play right now. Today, we found out that id Software's new Doom will support Vulkan, and the extra frames it makes possible will be useful for the game's ridiculously fast twitch deathmatch multiplayer.
Exec producer Marty Stratton from id Software appeared at Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1080 announcement to show off the tech for the first time. Doom running on a GeForce GTX 1080 running Vulkan — the first time this has been demonstrated — looks fast, on the video below. Anecdotally, there's a big performance gain. This is apparently also the first time, too, that id has demonstrated official gameplay using a keyboard and mouse.
Excuse the shaky camera work; I didn't have a tripod handy. It's only a 25fps video, which means you don't get anywhere near the full benefit of Vulkan's speed boosts for graphics performance. The massive LED screen that the demo was being shown on was only 60Hz, too — so treat it more like a glimpse of how Doom plays when one of the devs sits down to do his magic with a keyboard and mouse.
The 1920x1080pixel display delivered 50-55fps results running on OpenGL, running on a id Software dev machine with a GeForce GTX 1080 handling graphics. The demo, though, ranged between 120 and 200fps once Vulkan was enabled, and remained above 120fps — a massive performance boost even within the likely carefully selected demo environment. Nvidia's graphics cards for the last few years — all Kepler, Maxwell and Pascal parts — support Vulkan.
Vulkan support should be added "not long" after the game's imminent launch, according to the devs, although OpenGL will be the only option straight out of the box. They didn't stick around for questions, though, unplugging their dev machine straight after the demo and departing for id's headquarters/mountain lair/Mars base in Richardson, Texas.