As if to reinforce all the recent talk that there may be another way for PC gaming , open source steering group Khronos has announced the latest update to OpenGL. Release 4.3 brings the cross platform API more or less up to parity with Direct X 11.1 in terms of what it can and can't do for 3D games, and improves the ability of developers to port code from mobile and browser games to a native client.
The announcement was made yesterday at the graphics industry event SIGGRAPH, and marks 20 years of OpenGL development. At the same time, Khronos also announced updates to its API for browser based 3D games, WebGL, its mobile phone spec OpenGL ES and its GPGPU instruction set, OpenCL.
To coincide with the announcements, NVIDIA also released a new graphics driver that's compatible with OpenGL 4.2.
In terms of desktop gaming, it's fair to say that OpenGL has languished in recent years while DirectX 3D is near ubiquitous. Although the idtech 5 remains OpenGL based, it's a notable exception rather than the rule. That could yet change - Valve's recent revelations about their plans for Linux – where OpenGL is pretty much the only option – and the fact that they have got Left4Dead 2 running faster under OpenGL than Direct3D will have caught the attention of many other developers, making Khronos' announcement a little more high profile than last year's OpenGL 4.2 launch.
The new update is mainly focussed around increasing performance and bringing the flexibility of the compute shaders, bringing them into line with DirectX 11.1. For example, shader can now be writter in OpenGL that are able to read and write larger blocks of data and work with greater parallelism than before, affecting non-graphics calculations for physics, AI and global illumination.
New, more efficient formats for texture compression and manipulation have also been introduced, as well as adopting ETC compression into the standard to ease the process of porting games to and from WebGL.
More technical details and the full announcement are available at Khronos' site .