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Monday, September 24, 2001
The Future of OpenGL
9:55 AM | Ben Boffey | Comment on this story

As some readers may be aware, the specifications for OpenGL are governed by a group known as the OpenGL ARB (Architectural Review Board). The ARB is an independent consortium, made up of a number of key figures in the industry from companies such as 3DLabs, ATI, Nvidia, Sun, SGI and of course Apple. These consortium members meet regularly to discuss OpenGL's features and future and then agree upon changes to the open specifications. The latest of these meetings took place on September 11th-12th. and was hosted by Apple in Cupertino.

Although most of the discussion is of little immediate significance to Mac gamers, a few interesting tid-bits came to light.

Initial discussion focussed on OpenGL's use and implementation of programmable shading, an area which is considered the future of computer graphics and early versions of which have been implemented by both ATI and Nvidia in their latest hardware. From what was said it is clear that there's a long way to go especially with different vendors working on different solutions. For any new features to be added to an API, changes need to be made; these are often initially made via OpenGL "extensions." Traditionally ATI have had a very open approach, working towards extensions to OpenGL which can be used by a variety of vendors, Nvidia seem to be showing signs of following suit after initial problems with their implementation and the constraints which they imposed on use of their extensions. Basically, ATI was open with their extension and NVIDIA has not been, which put card makers (and game developers) in the uncomfortable position of having to choose one over the other, but luckily this situation is on its way to being resolved.

Next up was a presentation by 3DLabs on the subject of a major revision to OpenGL, version 2.0. 3Dlabs has offered to devote a lot of resources to get a specification ready for SIGGRAPH next year; this may seem like a long time off, but it would be a major step forwards for OpenGL and is seen by the industry to be a long-term solution to solving the race with (or against) Microsoft's closed API DirectX 9. Any new specifications will of course need a lot of input from all companies involved, and there are more short-term changes (particularly relating to shader programmability) that some parties need implemented ASAP.

It was decided that Apple would lead the short-term unification work on implementing features that companies such as ATI and Nvidia need to support their hardware, while 3DLabs will continue working on the larger goal of an initial OpenGL 2.0 specification. It is fantastic to see Apple getting so involved in the future of OpenGL and working with graphics card companies so closely. OpenGL is after all key to the future of Apple's graphics strategy, as there is no chance of a Mac OS version of DirectX. While a 2.0 revision to OpenGL may be some time off, work to unify and standardize an interface to exploit features present in the latest hardware available to Mac users is sure to be a boon to game developers and gamers alike.

After some perceived stagnation within the OpenGL API and the ARB itself, things finally seem to be moving along; It is not going to be quick or simple, but this is certainly a step in the right direction. We'll have to wait for the next ARB meeting in December to see how things progress.

For detailed information on the latest version of OpenGL and how the changes may affect the graphics in the next generation of games and graphics cards, be sure to read our article ATI Radeon 8500: In the Flesh for a detailed explanation of the concepts and terms -- as well as still images and example movies.

Feature: ATI Radeon 8500 In the Flesh
ARB Meeting Notes - 11/09/01

Other Mac Games News for Monday, September 24, 2001

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V12 is now Torque10:02 AM
• The Future of OpenGL9:55 AM
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Wolfenstein b7, Strategy Guide Available9:29 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Monday, September 24, 2001 on one page

Mac Games News for Friday, September 21, 2001

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