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Release the Vulkans! Laminar Research are pushing forwards with their plan to upgrade X-Plane 11 with Vulkan support.

This detailed flight simulator is now going through a private beta for X-Plane 11.50, with a plan to go into a public beta once they have enough feedback on how it's running. There's no set date for it to be public, as they said it depends on the types of bugs that get reported.

Once it is live for everyone, to change between OpenGL and Vulkan it will have a simple checkbox in the rendering settings which then requires you to restart. If it detects a problem, it will revert back to OpenGL so you hopefully won't get locked out of the game.

Sounds like the upgrade to Vulkan is coming with all sorts of enhancements to better the gameplay experience. Like how they will be handling running out of VRAM. Instead of sticking textures into system memory which causes stuttering, the Vulkan renderer will automatically reduce the texture resolution in the background to prevent such stuttering resulting in an improved experience.

Laminar sound quite happy with their work on it, mentioning how when they find a stutter in the performance they can pull it apart to really find out why.

One of the great things about running with the Vulkan/Metal back-end is that there isn’t any dark matter in the rendering path – everything that takes time takes that time when we say so. This means that when we have a stutter we can take the frame apart and figure out exactly why that happens.

Ben Supnik, Laminar Research

This is due to Vulkan being more low-level compared with OpenGL, there's supposed to be less driver weirdness. They've already been tearing into some issues, improving performance as they go. You can see their full blog post update here.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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8 comments

voyageur 28 December 2019 at 10:12 am UTC
Reading the details, it does sound quite promising! Easier debugging and "on the fly paging" texture memory handling should get bettter performance+prettier results+easier configuration, nice combo

Also, this reminds again of how much Laminar Research continues improving a release with new features, like adding Vulkan support more than 3 years after initial 11 release
rustybroomhandle 29 December 2019 at 11:34 am UTC
I am eager to get back to my X-Plane-ing. Unfortunately my GPU is a bit broken. All 3 fans have stopped working and I have to keep it cool with a large floor fan.
iiari 29 December 2019 at 5:33 pm UTC
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voyageurAlso, this reminds again of how much Laminar Research continues improving a release with new features, like adding Vulkan support more than 3 years after initial 11 release

As a huge XP fan, I'm of very mixed mind regarding Laminar Research. While they've spent over a decade refining their product, one that is widely admired for having the best flight engine, and while they're always doing upgrades, XP has some serious issues they've taken their time addressing. It is a decade plus old code base that will suck up every drop of memory and manages it poorly, runs on only one CPU core, and barely utilizes the GPU. More than one flight sim fan has spent a lot upgrading their GPU only to see their XP FPS barely budge. One XP fan on Reddit calls its a "frame rate simulator" and I've had some airport approaches where I was much more nervous about watching the FPS counter than the dynamics of the landing...

And OOTB XP really is lacking in some areas. The sim can rock once you've loaded up on 6-10 mods and ortho (with a big performance penalty). The weather, autogen, the scenery draw distance, ATC, AI traffic, etc all need serious upgrades. And Vulcan is only going to get us 10% FPS boost (on NVIDIA) from what we already get, again because it doesn't really use the GPU. So my 25 FPS flying in NYC goes up to... 27? I actually wonder if, with Vulcan, XP might become one of those titles that runs better with Proton than with native. And LR, BTW, as a Mac based developer, HAD to go to Vulcan and Metal, since OpenGL is going away on the Mac as a supported platform.

I'm glad MS is coming out with their new sim as I think it'll give LR a real kick in their complacency.
Mountain Man 29 December 2019 at 10:33 pm UTC
iiari
voyageurAlso, this reminds again of how much Laminar Research continues improving a release with new features, like adding Vulkan support more than 3 years after initial 11 release

As a huge XP fan, I'm of very mixed mind regarding Laminar Research. While they've spent over a decade refining their product, one that is widely admired for having the best flight engine, and while they're always doing upgrades, XP has some serious issues they've taken their time addressing. It is a decade plus old code base that will suck up every drop of memory and manages it poorly, runs on only one CPU core, and barely utilizes the GPU. More than one flight sim fan has spent a lot upgrading their GPU only to see their XP FPS barely budge. One XP fan on Reddit calls its a "frame rate simulator" and I've had some airport approaches where I was much more nervous about watching the FPS counter than the dynamics of the landing...

And OOTB XP really is lacking in some areas. The sim can rock once you've loaded up on 6-10 mods and ortho (with a big performance penalty). The weather, autogen, the scenery draw distance, ATC, AI traffic, etc all need serious upgrades. And Vulcan is only going to get us 10% FPS boost (on NVIDIA) from what we already get, again because it doesn't really use the GPU. So my 25 FPS flying in NYC goes up to... 27? I actually wonder if, with Vulcan, XP might become one of those titles that runs better with Proton than with native. And LR, BTW, as a Mac based developer, HAD to go to Vulcan and Metal, since OpenGL is going away on the Mac as a supported platform.

I'm glad MS is coming out with their new sim as I think it'll give LR a real kick in their complacency.

Ah, the Microsoft shill is back to spread FUD about X-Plane.

In fact, X-Plane uses system resources very efficiently. I just booted up X-Plane 11 for a quick test flight, and all 12 of my CPU cores were kicking, so your claim that it "runs on only one CPU core" is false. Furthermore, I did a test flight over New York City, one of the more demanding scenery dense areas of X-Plane 11, and the simulator took up no more than 10GB of RAM of the 40GB available on my machine, so your claim that it "will suck up every drop of memory and manages it poorly" is false. Finally, I checked my GPU usage, and it never fell below 90%, so your claim that X-Plane 11 "barely utilizes the GPU" is false.

In its current state, X-Plane 11 is very well optimized and makes full use of whatever hardware it has access to, so anybody expecting miracles from Vulkan needs a reality check. Vulkan will simply allow Laminar to add some extra polish to an already well-running machine.
iiari 31 December 2019 at 7:25 am UTC
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Mountain ManAh, the Microsoft shill is back to spread FUD about X-Plane
Dude, don't know what your problem is, but again, I'm a big XP fan and have spent a lot on add-ons and extras over the years and have been active in that community. I don't think it does XP or LR any good, though, to pretend it's a perfect product without flaws. And I only see good things in MS waking up and coming back to the sim party as everyone will get better.

Mountain Man....all 12 of my CPU cores were kicking, so your claim that it "runs on only one CPU core" is false.
I looked into this (the single core thing has been said as a frustration by a lot of devs online) and apparently in the past year optimization has gotten better, but it depends a lot on what hardware combo you're running. One comprehensive testing online shows that 3 cores seems to be the max utilization as far as performance is concerned. That said, most games don't optimize for multicore, so they're now somewhat ahead of the game there...

Mountain ManFurthermore, I did a test flight over New York City, one of the more demanding scenery dense areas of X-Plane 11, and the simulator took up no more than 10GB of RAM of the 40GB available on my machine, so your claim that it "will suck up every drop of memory and manages it poorly" is false.
Again, depends how you have NYC configured. It's my main flight area, and I'm using ortho, DD NYC and airports, and scenery for Newark and the port with UWXP for weather, and every drop of my 36 gigs will be taken up by XP. I've had it crash due to too little memory upon scenery transitions from New England to NYC, as XP doesn't unload scenery well in new areas. That "crash due to memory on scenery load and unload in transition" thing, BTW, is one of the big things that LR has said that Vulkan should fix....

Mountain ManFinally, I checked my GPU usage, and it never fell below 90%, so your claim that X-Plane 11 "barely utilizes the GPU" is false.
Again, YMMV tremendously based upon hardware and drivers. Most testing I found online suggested that 50% utilization of GPU is common but, again, how it's configured and what you're doing with add-ons, etc makes a difference.

Again, I use XP almost every day, and just bought a big scenery package from OrbX. It's up there with Rocket League for my highest Steam hours... But there are issues. Threshold (a big fan site), did an editorial on such things recently and LR themselves made news by taking down their recent video Q&A because even they realized how weak a reply it was to the community. The Xplanereviews fan site I think has the best analysis of the state of things at the end of 2019...
peta77 31 December 2019 at 9:38 am UTC
Mountain ManIn fact, X-Plane uses system resources very efficiently. I just booted up X-Plane 11 for a quick test flight, and all 12 of my CPU cores were kicking, so your claim that it "runs on only one CPU core" is false. Furthermore, I did a test flight over New York City, one of the more demanding scenery dense areas of X-Plane 11, and the simulator took up no more than 10GB of RAM of the 40GB available on my machine, so your claim that it "will suck up every drop of memory and manages it poorly" is false. Finally, I checked my GPU usage, and it never fell below 90%, so your claim that X-Plane 11 "barely utilizes the GPU" is false.

In its current state, X-Plane 11 is very well optimized and makes full use of whatever hardware it has access to, so anybody expecting miracles from Vulkan needs a reality check. Vulkan will simply allow Laminar to add some extra polish to an already well-running machine.

Well, based on my own experience I have to object.
Regarding CPU usage: XP makes use of all when loading new terrain-tiles. But during the rest of the flight it barely uses 2 and the sim-fps stay very low; I have 8 + HT, so there could be a better and more precise simulation of flight dynamics.

Regarding GPU usage: my RTX2080Ti is usually at around 40% utilization; but my framerate never gets higher than 25 or 30fps; so the way the rendering is currently taking place isn't optimal. Hopefully Vulkan can improve that.

With memory consumption one has to consider what is being displayed / cached. Especially if you want to have a nice view of the terrain in high altitudes you need lots of data. There were in XP10 already complaints that it got extremely blurry within the view distance and they implemented the option to have more detailed drawing, which of course needs more detailed data about ground structures, etc. And if you're additionally using the (U)HD-meshes of alpilotx this of course will have a major impact on your mem-usage. But I'm fine with that part of their implementation as you can nowadays easily upgrade to very high amounts memory; but a poor CPU or GPU usage can not be that easily addressed.

iiariI'm glad MS is coming out with their new sim as I think it'll give LR a real kick in their complacency.
Well the preview look nice, but as I got it, their terrain data comes from the internet and considering how much of it you need during flight, I don't think it will look that good at home. Unless you have a GBit internet connection with a low-overhead-protocol like myrinet or something like that... So I don't expect the impact to be too high...


Last edited by peta77 on 31 December 2019 at 9:43 am UTC
Mountain Man 31 December 2019 at 2:59 pm UTC
iiari
Mountain ManAh, the Microsoft shill is back to spread FUD about X-Plane
Dude, don't know what your problem is, but again, I'm a big XP fan and have spent a lot on add-ons and extras over the years and have been active in that community. I don't think it does XP or LR any good, though, to pretend it's a perfect product without flaws. And I only see good things in MS waking up and coming back to the sim party as everyone will get better.

Mountain Man....all 12 of my CPU cores were kicking, so your claim that it "runs on only one CPU core" is false.
I looked into this (the single core thing has been said as a frustration by a lot of devs online) and apparently in the past year optimization has gotten better, but it depends a lot on what hardware combo you're running. One comprehensive testing online shows that 3 cores seems to be the max utilization as far as performance is concerned. That said, most games don't optimize for multicore, so they're now somewhat ahead of the game there...

Mountain ManFurthermore, I did a test flight over New York City, one of the more demanding scenery dense areas of X-Plane 11, and the simulator took up no more than 10GB of RAM of the 40GB available on my machine, so your claim that it "will suck up every drop of memory and manages it poorly" is false.
Again, depends how you have NYC configured. It's my main flight area, and I'm using ortho, DD NYC and airports, and scenery for Newark and the port with UWXP for weather, and every drop of my 36 gigs will be taken up by XP. I've had it crash due to too little memory upon scenery transitions from New England to NYC, as XP doesn't unload scenery well in new areas. That "crash due to memory on scenery load and unload in transition" thing, BTW, is one of the big things that LR has said that Vulkan should fix....

Mountain ManFinally, I checked my GPU usage, and it never fell below 90%, so your claim that X-Plane 11 "barely utilizes the GPU" is false.
Again, YMMV tremendously based upon hardware and drivers. Most testing I found online suggested that 50% utilization of GPU is common but, again, how it's configured and what you're doing with add-ons, etc makes a difference.

Again, I use XP almost every day, and just bought a big scenery package from OrbX. It's up there with Rocket League for my highest Steam hours... But there are issues. Threshold (a big fan site), did an editorial on such things recently and LR themselves made news by taking down their recent video Q&A because even they realized how weak a reply it was to the community. The Xplanereviews fan site I think has the best analysis of the state of things at the end of 2019...
I'm running X-Plane 11 pretty much stock with only a couple of plugins. Sounds like your problem is with third-party add-ons and not X-Plane, so you can hardly place the blame on laminar.
Mountain Man 31 December 2019 at 7:05 pm UTC
peta77
Mountain ManIn fact, X-Plane uses system resources very efficiently. I just booted up X-Plane 11 for a quick test flight, and all 12 of my CPU cores were kicking, so your claim that it "runs on only one CPU core" is false. Furthermore, I did a test flight over New York City, one of the more demanding scenery dense areas of X-Plane 11, and the simulator took up no more than 10GB of RAM of the 40GB available on my machine, so your claim that it "will suck up every drop of memory and manages it poorly" is false. Finally, I checked my GPU usage, and it never fell below 90%, so your claim that X-Plane 11 "barely utilizes the GPU" is false.

In its current state, X-Plane 11 is very well optimized and makes full use of whatever hardware it has access to, so anybody expecting miracles from Vulkan needs a reality check. Vulkan will simply allow Laminar to add some extra polish to an already well-running machine.

Well, based on my own experience I have to object.
Regarding CPU usage: XP makes use of all when loading new terrain-tiles. But during the rest of the flight it barely uses 2 and the sim-fps stay very low; I have 8 + HT, so there could be a better and more precise simulation of flight dynamics.

Regarding GPU usage: my RTX2080Ti is usually at around 40% utilization; but my framerate never gets higher than 25 or 30fps; so the way the rendering is currently taking place isn't optimal. Hopefully Vulkan can improve that.

With memory consumption one has to consider what is being displayed / cached. Especially if you want to have a nice view of the terrain in high altitudes you need lots of data. There were in XP10 already complaints that it got extremely blurry within the view distance and they implemented the option to have more detailed drawing, which of course needs more detailed data about ground structures, etc. And if you're additionally using the (U)HD-meshes of alpilotx this of course will have a major impact on your mem-usage. But I'm fine with that part of their implementation as you can nowadays easily upgrade to very high amounts memory; but a poor CPU or GPU usage can not be that easily addressed.

iiariI'm glad MS is coming out with their new sim as I think it'll give LR a real kick in their complacency.
Well the preview look nice, but as I got it, their terrain data comes from the internet and considering how much of it you need during flight, I don't think it will look that good at home. Unless you have a GBit internet connection with a low-overhead-protocol like myrinet or something like that... So I don't expect the impact to be too high...
If you're installing third-party high resolution assets then naturally memory usage will increase, but that's obviously on the user and not Laminar since they optimize for what comes "in the box" and can't really be blamed if unofficial add-ons cause problems.

As for CPU usage, I can confirm that X-Plane 11, on my system, uses all 12 cores, and it has nothing to do with loading scenery. Long after the hard drive has stopped churning, I'm still showing around 25% usage across all cores, and my frame rates range between 20 and 40 frames per second, depending on where I'm flying (the more scenery on the ground, the lower the frame rates), but since X-Plane only requires a minimum of 19FPS for accurate flight modeling, that's perfectly acceptable, and I could get faster performance by simply dialing back some of the settings if I so choose, but it's not necessary in my case.

If your performance is unsatisfactory then you might want to spend some time optimizing your settings following the recommendations in the official documentation:

https://www.x-plane.com/manuals/desktop/#settingtherenderingoptionsforbestperformance
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