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Meet Vulkan, the powerful, platform-agnostic gaming tech taking aim at DirectX 12

Hayden Dingman | March 4, 2015
The times are a-changing, and the graphics technologies games have used for decades are changing right along. Khronos Group is throwing out nearly 25 years of OpenGL and starting fresh with a powerful new gaming-centric API, Vulkan (previously known as glNext or the "Next Generation OpenGL Initiative") that's built for the next generation of games.

And good news for basically everyone: You probably won't need new hardware to take advantage of Vulkan. Just like DirectX 12, Khronos is hoping to extend compatibility back a few hardware generations, which means you'll potentially notice a performance increase even on your old hardware once the API is officially released and introduced in new games.

"We are setting a design goal. We have a very specific goal," says Trevett. "Any hardware capable of supporting OpenGL ES 3.1 will be capable of supporting Vulkan. That basically means any GPU that can do compute shaders."

On the PC side, that equates to OpenGL 4.3, released in August of 2012. OpenGL 4.3 support extended back to the Nvidia GeForce 400 series and the ATI Radeon HD 5000 series — a.k.a. basically any GPU purchased after late 2009/early 2010. Judging by the Steam Hardware Survey those specs also encompass quite a huge amount of the PC gaming community.

It's early days for Vulkan still, and there's no formal specification yet, but Khronos has managed to get my attention. We'll potentially have more information to share later this week, as Valve and Khronos officially co-present the API to developers at their GDC panel Thursday morning — glNext: The Future of High Performance Graphics (Presented by Valve).


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