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Microsoft announces that it will openly support GL  - 12/12/97

In relation to article 0006: Top Game Developers Call on Microsoft to Actively Support OpenGL - 06/12/97

In a joint announcement, Microsoft and Silicon Graphics revealed that the two companies plan to work closely to provide better OpenGL support for Windows platforms.

Created by Silicon Graphics, OpenGL is a graphical API, used for communication between graphics hardware and the operating system of the PC in which the hardware is installed. In the past, its use has been mainly for professional graphics design applications such as CAD, but recently it's also been used to provide 3D hardware acceleration for games such as Quake.

When used in games and other consumer oriented applications, OpenGL is a direct competitor to Microsoft's Direct3D, which could be the reason that the consumer applications of OpenGL were downplayed in the press release from Microsoft and SGI.

Kevin Dallas, group product manager for graphics and multimedia at Microsoft, said in the press release that the announcement "reiterates our commitment to OpenGL as the API for professional applications like CAD and to Direct3D for consumer applications like games."

The new support will come in the form of a new DDK (which stands for Device Driver Kit), which the companies will develop in partnership for Microsoft Windows operating systems, including the current Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 as well as the upcoming Windows 98 and Windows NT 5.0. The DDK will cover both OpenGL and Direct3D APIs.

Microsoft plans to distribute an improved OpenGL ICD (Installable Client Driver) for the Windows operating systems. It will also begin certification testing for OpenGL drivers for various graphics cards, similar to the current certification testing of Direct3D drivers for current crop of graphics accelerators.

Hopefully, this new initiative will eliminate the need for graphics card makers to supply their own, separate OpenGL drivers to support OpenGL accelerated games such as GLQuake, Quake II and Hexen II.

Brian Hook, programmer for id Software, testifies to the need for that. "The current 'mini-GL' or 'QuakeGL' driver model we have been using is running out of steam," he said, in a brief interview. "We want ANY game developer that wants to use OpenGL to be able to use OpenGL. We know that if we are the only developers that use OpenGL that it will die due to lack of critical mass and broad developer support, and this is something that the DDK goes a long way towards solving. "By providing a robust DDK to any IHV [Independent Hardware Vendor] that wants it, Microsoft is enabling these IHVs -- companies that may have not have extensive resources -- to create high quality OpenGL drivers. Because these drivers are going to be robust and fast, other game developers will be free to take advantage of them."

The new 3D DDK is expected to be finished and ready for distribution in the spring of 1998. Microsoft will distribute it and Silicon Graphics and Microsoft will jointly support it.

Hook feels that the move may prompt more game developers to use OpenGL for 3D acceleration. "Game developers have been cautious when it comes to adopting OpenGL because they feel it's not officially blessed by Microsoft, and the announcement from Microsoft/SGI shows that Microsoft believes OpenGL is viable and necessary in the PC space."

What this means to gamers: Direct3D has taken its knocks as a 3D acceleration API. Some programmers feel that it's harder to program for, or just generally inferior to OpenGL. By providing better OpenGL support in its Windows platforms, Microsoft is making it easier for game programmers to choose whichever API they feel is appropriate for their project.

Until the new DDK is released, graphics card makers or game programmers will have to build specific "mini-drivers" for their each GL game, for each 3D accelerator card; a daunting task at best. If you've played games with Direct3D acceleration, you know that using it is as simple as setting up that option within the game's video setup applet. OpenGL games require you to download a special driver from the graphics card or chipset maker before you can experience the graphical splendor they have to offer.

Theoretically, when the new DDK is released, OpenGL accelerated games will be just as easy to use as Direct3D games.

Joel Durham
Imagine Publishing

taken from www.pcgamer.com


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