Connect with us

Editorial

Live Long And Prosper

Published

 on

It’s difficult to get excited by a gaming API. Many people are familiar with DirectX, Microsoft’s ubiquitous creation, which is impossible not to run into on both the PC and Xbox. The PS4 has its own in GNM and GNMX. And OpenGL is one that’s withered on the vine somewhat, but was quite popular not that long ago — especially in id games. Bonus points if you remember Glide.

A new challenger approaches though, and it’s going to be good news for everyone. It’s called Vulkan, and brings substantial changes and improvements to how game developers can address your gaming hardware.

First, a little background. Vulkan is being created by the Khronos Group, who made the original OpenGL. In fact, Vulkan was initially known as “next generation OpenGL” before being retitled. AMD donated code from their moderately successful Mantle API (from when AMD were essentially trying to create an alternative to both DirectX and OpenGL themselves), and that eventually became GLnext, which became Vulkan.

doom

Why is Vulkan so attractive? For one thing, it’s built from the ground up to allow low-level access to your hardware. This means finer control over your console or PC, with games able to both run faster and look better. For many, this is the Holy Grail of game development, since you usually have to choose between one or the other. Vulkan is also platform-agnostic, compared to DirectX (Xbox and Windows PC only) or GNMX (PS4 only). Right now, Vulkan supports Windows 7/8/10, iOS, Android, and Linux, with more planned. Companies like AMD, Intel, Nvidia, and Qualcomm are all involved in the future direction of Vulkan.

So why should you care about it? Well right now (at least on PC), Vulkan supports only three notable titles: The Talos Principle, Dota 2, and Doom. Doom‘s support was patched in only a few weeks ago, but resulted in substantial performance gains on certain hardware, particularly AMD graphics cards. As an example, Guru3D’s tests (comparing Vulkan to OpenGL) showed an increase of 23% on Doom using Ultra settings at 1920×1080 (96 FPS to 116 FPS). At 1440p, the increase was almost 20% (61 FPS to 73 FPS). This was on AMD’s new RX 480 graphics card. Not too shabby for a brand new API that developers are still learning with.

The bad news is that if you look again at the list of devices that Vulkan currently supports, nowhere there does it say”Xbox” or “PS4.” Microsoft, for now, has chosen to proceed with DirectX 12, which shares some characteristics of Vulkan (notably better use of multi-core CPUs), and Sony has been silent on its plans for supporting Vulkan. Of the two, it’s more likely that the PS4 will eventually support Vulkan, since Microsoft have seemingly thrown their lot in with DirectX 12. The PC gets the best of both worlds, receiving both Vulkan through AMD, Nvidia, and Intel, and DirectX 12 through Microsoft themselves. That’s not to say that Microsoft may not reverse course down the line and adopt Vulkan on top of DirectX 12, but I don’t see that happening in the short-term.

dota2

The good news for PC gamers, at least, is that Valve have already announced support for Vulkan in the Source engine, so all future Valve titles will natively support Vulkan. Dota 2‘s beta implementation is the first step of this. id’s addition of Vulkan support for Doom hopefully signals that the Unreal Engine (used by many games and not just Epic titles) will support Vulkan in the future, which will make it extremely prevalent in the PC universe.

What can you do if you want Vulkan on your console? For now, not much. Perhaps tweet at @PlayStation and @Xbox saying you would like Vulkan support added for your console, to allow game developers to be able to fully unleash the power of your hardware. (No doubt Microsoft would say that DirectX 12 already does this.)

For PC gamers, the future is already here. Hopefully for console gamers, that future won’t take much longer.

I write about PC games and sometimes it even makes sense. I'm a refined Englishman, but live in Texas with my two young children whom I am training in the ways of the Force.

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in May 2019

Published

 on

May

May offers no respite from the big, bold games that have released so far in 2019, bringing with it a host of games almost certain to appeal to gamers of every stripe.

Close to the Sun

Release Date: May 2, 2019
Platforms: PC, consoles later in the year

May’s first major release may also be its most intriguing. Close to the Sun has regularly attracted comparisons to BioShock for its art style and premise, though the relationship between the two titles is, at best, spiritual.

Players take the role of journalist Rose Archer as she steps aboard Nikola Tesla’s ship, the Helios in 1897. Like Andrew Ryan before him (or after him, depending on perspective), Tesla has created a microcosm in which scientific freedom is unrestricted, with disastrous outcomes. Rose’s first impression is of a quarantine sign at the entrance to a still, dead ship, but she presses on regardless in search of her lost sister.

With Close to the Sun, developer Storm in a Teacup aims to provide an intense horror experience. The Helios holds none of BioShock’s shotguns or Plasmids. Instead, players have no means to defend themselves, with gameplay focusing on hiding from and escaping the threats on board.

Check out OnlySP’s final review of the game here.

RAGE 2

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

For anyone to whom the slow, meditative approach does not appeal, Bethesda is busting out the big guns with the long-awaited, little-expected sequel, RAGE 2.

This time around, id Software has tapped Just Cause and Mad Max developer Avalanche Studios for assistance in developing an open-world game. The result, if the trailers are any indication, is a breakneck, neon-fuelled experience that focuses on insanity and ramps up all the unique aspects of the earlier game.

One focal point of development has been ensuring the interconnectedness of the game’s structure, and the teams have promised a greater focus on narrative this time around. Perhaps in keeping with that, RAGE 2 is being distanced from its predecessor, taking place 30 years later with a new protagonist and a whole new story, though some callbacks will be present.

Although id’s legendary first-person gunplay is a driving force throughout the game, it will be supplemented by some light RPG elements, robust vehicular combat, and post launch challenges and support (though the developers deny that RAGE 2 is designed with a games-as-a-service model in mind).

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Out on the same day as RAGE 2 is the vastly different A Plague Tale: Innocence. A historical adventure, the game challenges players with overcoming obstacles with brains rather than brawn.

Players become Amicia, an orphan girl struggling to survive in a plague-infested medieval France while also keeping her younger brother safe. With the landscape rife with rats and members of The Inquisition, one of the core tenets of gameplay is reportedly the need to use these threats against each other. As such, though Amicia has a sling to use, the gameplay is designed more as survival puzzles than combat ones.

Developer Asobo Studio is not a household name, though it has a lengthy history of adaptations and support on major titles, including Quantum Break and The Crew 2. Furthermore, even though A Plague Tale is yet to release, publisher Focus Home Interactive has displayed remarkable confidence in the project by extending its partnership with Asobo.

Honourable Mentions

Although RAGE 2 is the incontestable action-blockbuster of the month, gamers in search of another kind of frenetic may want to wait until May 21, when Curve Digital drops American Fugitive, which has a more than passing resemblance to the earliest Grand Theft Auto games. Alternatively, PlayStation VR owners may want to look into Blood and Truth come May 28.

Sega also shines this month, dropping Team Sonic Racing on May 21 and Total War: Three Kingdoms two days later.

Anyone looking for an RPG has indie’s answer to The Outer Worlds, Within the Cosmos, to look out for on May 30, while those looking for slower stories get the latest episode of Life is Strange 2 on May 9, Observation on May 21, and the fjord-noir Draugen at a yet unspecified date.

Have we forgotten anything that you’re excited for? Let us know down below or on our Discord server.

Continue Reading