Vulkan graphics are going to be the next big thing in gaming. They’re a next generation of graphics APIs which allow for better threading and GPU control while keeping everything is a standard, cross-platform API. There are already a handful of really cool demos, but when can we start using it in games?
There are two barriers: devices and games. Devices need to support the Vulkan APIs, which is now part of Android Nougat. Although the NVIDIA Shield TV is not running Nougat yet, it also has support for the Vulkan APIs as part of a separate update. This means both the Nexus Player and Shield should be able to render much better graphics.
The other barrier is that game developers need to support it. This can be tough as transitioning to an entirely new graphics package could take a lot of work for integration and often the benefits are unclear. You’ll get better game performance, but your game may already be running at 60 FPS thanks to your optimizations. Removing these optimizations ruins the game for players on older devices, and it may not be allowed by the game engine. Using Vulkan may mean you can improve your graphics, but it could be time not spent well.
Game engines like Unity have used OpenGL, although Unity will now be supporting rendering in Vulkan. It was just added to beta version 5.5, Beta 4. When selecting the graphics to use, Vulkan can be put at the top of the list. Then the device will try to use Vulkan first and if it doesn’t exist it’ll move to the next graphics package. By making it that easy to support Vulkan, it will be easy for more developers to try it out.
There are still a handful of issues, and Vulkan still isn’t adopted everywhere. However, it has become the new state-of-the-art for rendering graphics and that means the next game you get should look better than ever.