Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) was one of the early companies that announced DirectX 12 support, but the company has changed its mind on that API. Instead of using Microsoft’s DX12, Star Citizen will use Vulkan, with DirectX 11 support also being phased out.
The news comes from Ali Brown, director of graphics engineering at CIG. Here’s how he described the change:
Years ago we stated our intention to support DX12, but since the introduction of Vulkan which has the same feature set and performance advantages this seemed a much more logical rendering API to use as it doesn’t force our users to upgrade to Windows 10 and opens the door for a single graphics API that could be used on all Windows 7, 8, 10 [sic] Linux. As a result our current intention is to only support Vulkan and eventually drop support for DX11 as this shouldn’t effect [sic] any of our backers.
This does make a certain amount of sense, but only to a point. The fact is, Star Citizen is nowhere near shipping and has no launch date. The more time passes, the more gamers are switching to Windows 10 (that OS now holds 47.71 percent of the market according to the Steam Hardware Survey, compared with 31.41 percent for Windows 7). But assuming Star Citizen can get the game out within the next two years, there will be holdouts still using older operating systems in conjunction with graphics cards that can handle the game. As Brown notes, throwing their weight behind Vulkan should ensure that yes, every system can run the game on a single API. The only question is how many gamers will still be using operating systems that require Vulkan by the time the game ships.
Shifting APIs and development platforms is nothing new for Star Citizen. Some of you may remember that Star Citizen announced Mantle support in 2013, DirectX 12 support in 2015, and now, Vulkan support in 2017. It should be relatively simple to port from DX12 over to Vulkan, but these shifts always take at least some time. Feature-wise, DX12 and Vulkan are considered to be largely identical, so there’s no reason to think the game will run differently or less well by relying on Vulkan. Doom, in fact, stands as an excellent example of how that API can run beautifully on multiple hardware platforms and configurations.
This isn’t the only major shift for CIG. In the last few months, the company announced it was switching from CryEngine to Amazon’s Lumberyard as a way of tapping into Amazon’s various online services, like GameLift, which can dynamically allocate server resources based on the total number of players online. Roberts has said he doesn’t expect the shift to delay the game’s development, but it’s always possible for these kind of engine changes to cause unanticipated issues. That’s not a knock on Cloud Imperium, it’s just an inevitable fact of game development.
Hopefully this is the last low-level change CIG will need to make to Star Citizen before shipping the final game. Its API shifts and the need to essentially rewrite huge chunks of CryEngine have substantially delayed the release to date.