Windows games have mostly been defined by DirectX 12 tools, but a competitive API is coming to PCs running on Intel chips.
Intel is releasing graphics drivers that support the Vulkan 1.0 API for chips running Windows 7, 8 and 10 PCs. The drivers, specifically, add "new beta support for the Vulkan 1.0 API for 6th Generation Intel Core and related processors," the Intel driver page says.
Most games for Windows are written using Microsoft's DirectX 12 programming tools. The Vulkan 1.0 API, however, provides an alternative set of game development tools.
Vulkan 1.0 was introduced last month by industry consortium Khronos Group and replaces the aging OpenGL, which was first introduced in 1991 by Silicon Graphics. It improves graphics on PCs, mobile devices, VR headsets, robots and other devices.
Vulkan is tuned to exploit the latest features on modern hardware, like powerful GPUs and multicore CPUs, so games have more life-like images and higher frame rates.
With the new drivers, developers will be able to exploit features on Intel GPUs, like the Iris Pro, that are integrated in chips alongside CPUs. Intel's rival AMD has already released Vulkan drivers for Radeon graphics processors.
Much like DirectX 12, Vulkan 1.0 provides close access to hardware, which reduces the processing and power overhead in drawing up images. Developers can define, with better access to specific hardware features, how they want graphics rendered. That's an improvement over OpenGL, which had abstraction layers that made hardware virtually invisible.
Graphics quality would also degrade when trying to port games from Windows to the OpenGL standard -- unlike DirectX, OpenGL runs on Linux machines. But with Vulkan, quality of games remains mostly intact when porting from DirectX, said Jason Ekstrand, a developer at Intel, during a talk.
Vulkan 1.0 APIs will also work with Linux-based PCs like Steam Machines. Intel has made available open-source Vulkan drivers for Linux PCs running on chips code-named Broadwell and Skylake.