• X-Plane 11: Vulkan and Metal: Testing and Bug Fighting

    X-Plane - Vulkan and Metal Update

    Vulkan and Metal: Testing and Bug Fighting

    Last week we sent out our first build of the Vulkan/Metal ready X-Plane (which will be version 11.50) to an external sight, and last night we sent out the first private beta.

    Our plan is to move to an open public beta soon once we have some feedback on how well the build is working. When that is will depend on the bug reports; I'm crossing my fingers.

    How It Works

    In X-Plane 11.50, there is a check-box in the rendering settings that enables Vulkan or Metal; you'll have to restart for the change to take effect. If the sim crashes really early (e.g. before the main menu) it will revert to OpenGL to keep you from getting "locked out" but random crashes while flying won't do this. There are also command line overrides to control the driver for people running performance testing scenarios.

    I should also mention that we've changed what the reflections slider does - it's now like X-Plane 10 and does not attempt to update the environment cubemaps in real-time. (If you really like flying at 5 fps, you can re-enable this in settings.txt - the underlying tech has not been removed.)

    What we have found over the last few years is that users will drag every slider all the way to the right, and then be surprised that the sim has poor performance. While I have in the past dismissively claimed that they are doing it wrong ("don't put every topping on your pizza") the inevitable truth is that we are violating an industry UI norm by having the highest possible settings run beyond the scope of the fastest possible computers our users can get their hands on.

    Now that we have Vulkan and Metal running, we can make some judgments about what will and won't be real-time. Full scenery shadows are still available and are helped by the Vulkan and Metal driver; a decent machine should be able to run full autogen + scenery shadows at 30 fps.

    The Vulkan and Metal back-ends change their approach to running out of VRAM. With the OpenGL driver, when VRAM is exhausted, textures are moved to system memory, and the application stutters while the driver makes this mad last-minute shuffle.

    When running with Metal and Vulkan, X-Plane will reduce the resolution of your textures while you fly, in the background, without stutters, preferring to reduce resolution on textures that are not being used right now. The result should be smoother and generally less disruptive. You can still lower the overall texture resolution to better fit your card's budget.

    This new "on the fly paging" isa€_well, it's completely new, and I suspect it will need a lot of debugging during beta. It's an area where we just need to collect use-case data to better tune the algorithm.

    X-Plane 11.50 no longer allows for uncompressed textures - if a DDS is present on disk, we will use it. I have to recommend texture compression in the strongest possible terms; while the artifacts are annoying, when we turn it off, everything looks worse due to the VRAM pressure - uncompressed just isn't a good way to use our VRAM budget. Pre-compress your textures for best results!

    Next Steps

    At this point the only thing left to do is fix bugs, some of which are still open even as the private beta goes out. We will move to public beta once we have something where we think the initial experience isn't a blue screen and tears.

    Source


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