X-Plane 11 in Vulkan & Metal: First Images From Inside the Simulator

Alex John
Saturday, April 27, 2019

Laminar Research has announced that the X-Plane 11 world now runs in the Vulkan and Metal environments. This comes after their last update about a month ago, where the team confirmed the main simulator ran up to the main menu, and that Plane Maker and Airfoil maker run well in the Vulkan and Metal APIs.

Today's post on their developer blog sees X-Plane 11 visibly running in the Vulkan and Metal environments. These differ from the current rendering engine, OpenGL, by running more efficiently and requiring less resources, thereby theoretically improving performance. Vulkan is designed to run on Windows, whilst Metal will only run on Mac devices.

It is important to note that the previews show numerous bugs and problems, some of which are caused intentionally by turning things off, whilst others need to be fixed. Nonetheless, it shows Laminar Research are progressing with the upgrade to the new rendering APIs. The screenshots below show the main menu in various states:

Ben Supnik provided a list of things that are currently working:

  • Plugins are bypassed right now. We have not yet written the plugin-OpenGL-interop layer.
  • VR only works when using OpenGL as the driver; we need to write some new VR code to pass Metal and Vulkan frames directly to the OVR and Rift APIs.
  • Screenshots/Movie capture are a work in progress – that’s what I’ve been working on this week.

... And went on to state:

"We still have a number of visual bugs, so screenshots are an important feature so we can run our automated test system. The test system takes hundreds of screenshots of the sim in many configurations and compares them to 11.30 to catch bugs introduced by the new Vulkan and Metal back-ends. Clearly I’ll have to fix my color problems first.

"One fun aspect of this port: Metal and Vulkan copy Direct3D’s convention where the viewport Y axis points down and not up. This resulted in a whole series of weird “it’s upside-down again” bugs, most of which have been fixed."

"The world is drawn correctly but the atmosphere around it is upside down."

The goal now is to fix a number of bugs, primarily those "that bring the whole machine down." Supnik also posted a couple of other screenshots of "things that have gone wrong during development":

Again, these are some early images of X-Plane running in Vulkan and Metal and are (extremely) unlikely to represent the final result, and performance numbers are expected next week.

All of Laminar Research's development and shenanigans are documented through their official blog, which dates back as far as 2005. Find out what the team is doing behind the scenes here.

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