The re-emergence of OpenGL and OpenGL ES

It is funny that over a decade ago Microsoft, after getting annoyed with the endless procrastination of the OpenGL working group went off and created DirectX (made up of a suite of different API’s ranging from hardware accelerated video to 3d hardware acceleration, input management etc) and thus we’ve over a decade where pretty much Microsoft has had the gaming industry by the balls. Fast forward today and the situation seems rather different especially when one considers the rise of iOS and Android (along with OS X and Steam on Linux) with the move to not only get Steam working on Linux but also the rise in gaming on mobile platforms then place on top of that the strong sales of Sony’s Playstation 4 has led to a some what OpenGL and OpenGL ES revival and golden age after  almost a decade and a half in the wilderness with all but a few niche markets holding stedfast to the technology ( link ). So whilst Microsoft ignored the mobile world game developers realised that if they were to target both desktop and mobile devices they would have to once again embrace OpenGL and OpenGL ES and thus we’ve seen an uptick.

Regarding how this relates to DirectX 12.0 and the apparently promise of an open alternative to Mantle – and reading through the comments Peter asks the question (and I’m paraphrasing), “what has OpenGL got to do with an API that attempts to be lower level than DirectX or OpenGL today” – it has everything to do with it. Microsoft is once again trying to keep itself relevant by claiming to have some sort of edge over the competition by offering something that, quite frankly, I haven’t heard many developers ask for because god knows, as some contributors in the comment section point out, we don’t want to see another episode of GLIDE where a hardware vendor claims that their vendor specific API has magical properties that no other vendor has. The inclusion of a lower level API as part of DirectX is a larger attempt by Microsoft to bring the spotlight back to themselves after having ignored the mobile platform for years and more or less snubbed the hardcore gamer community (which act, in many cases as evangelists for Microsoft to friends and family members aka “he’s good with computers”) many developers are still targeting Windows but many question the wisdom of being bound to a Windows only technology given that portability will be of greater importance as Mac sales grow along with Steam/Linux and handheld devices.

I’ll be interesting to see what happens with Mac OS X 10.10 (or what ever it’ll be called) given that OpenGL 4.4 delivers harmonisation with OpenGL ES 3.0 so maybe we’ll be lucky and see OpenGL 4.4 support appear along with OpenCL 2.0 which will make things interesting. With that being said, with Mantle it does open an interesting question as to whether it’ll mean that third party developers will be able to implement OpenGL on top of mantle thus not requiring the sorts of low level information and if so then could we see an nVidia counterpart to mantle which will make things interesting.

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