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Is It Time For an OpenGL Gaming Revolution? 496

MrSeb writes "In a twist that reinforces Valve's distaste for Windows 8, it turns out that the Source engine — the 3D engine that powers Half Life 2, Left 4 Dead, and Dota 2 — runs faster on Ubuntu 12.04 and OpenGL (315 fps) than Windows 7 and DirectX/Direct3D (270.6 fps); almost a 20% speed-up. These figures are remarkable, considering Valve has been refining the Source engine's performance under Windows for almost 10 years, while the Valve Linux team has only been working on the Linux port of Source for a few months. Valve attributes the speed-up to the 'underlying efficiency of the [Linux] kernel and OpenGL.' But here's the best bit: Using these new OpenGL optimizations to the Source engine, the OpenGL version of L4D2 on Windows is now faster than the DirectX version (303.4 fps vs. 270.6 fps). If OpenGL is faster, and it has a comparable feature set, and hardware support is excellent... why is Direct3D still the de facto API? With Windows losing its gaming crown and smartphones (OpenGL ES!) gaining in popularity, is it time for an OpenGL revolution?"
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Is It Time For an OpenGL Gaming Revolution?

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  • No.. (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:33PM (#40859887)

    Move on, nothing to see here!!!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:34PM (#40859913)

    because it makes steam obsolete.

  • It's about time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sa666_666 ( 924613 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:36PM (#40859945)

    I don't think anyone ever reasonably stated that Linux wasn't efficient, or that OpenGL wasn't adequate compared to Direct3D. Or maybe they did, but it wasn't factual. A properly configured Linux system has been faster than Windows for some time, at least for the past few years. The main problem with Linux has always been the lack of polish and presentation to the general public. The pieces have always been there, it's just been very fragile. Maybe now that someone is stepping up to the plate, Linux can receive what it's needed all along: better marketing and polishing. IMHO, it hasn't been large technical issues keeping Linux back. The technology is sound, and has been for quite some time.

  • OpenGL Support (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sanosuke001 ( 640243 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:36PM (#40859947)
    I use OpenGL at work and as much as I prefer it over DirectX, the ARB (opengl board that decides on additions/updates/changes) sometimes takes a while to introduce new features that DirectX gets much earlier and they sometimes make questionable choices on how things are supported and the OpenGL docs are sort of terrible and vague.
  • Re:It's about time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:44PM (#40860111)

    Assuming that you have the drivers you need.

  • by ZiakII ( 829432 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:45PM (#40860115)
    The only issue is that they are claiming that Open GL version runs better then the Direct X version is we really do not know if they are the same graphic detail. The reason I say this is look at the TF2 Mac port that uses Open GL, its not in any regards the same graphic quality as the Direct X windows version. I am beginning to wonder if the same thing is why the Windows version is rendering using less fps. We don't have any screenshots of the differences, just one paragraph on a blog that is quite lite in details.
  • It was never about performance or features. The issue has always been about return on investment.

    If I wrote an OpenGL engine in 2006, I could release my title on Mac, Windows and Linux. That sounds great, but how many additional sales do I get for Mac or Linux in 2006? Conversely, writing a DirectX engine in 2006 means I can release on Windows and XBox, where there is a massive return on investment.

    Now that Mac has stormed to over 14% market share, and mobile development is huge, there is a return on investment in OpenGL. That is what matters. If wonder if it is too late for Sony to capitalize on this approach for their PS4? Surely they have development hardware in the hands of key developers. If the PS4 used a standard x86_64 processor and supported OpenGL, it would make game development that much easier. Maybe the really smart move is a low-power, quiet Nvidia ARM CPU paired with a beefy NVidia GPU.

  • Re:No.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:55PM (#40860277)

    Tablet sales really don't mean much because people are not replacing desktops with tablets. They are using tablets in addition to desktops. Now, tablets COULD affect laptop sales, as they are much similar to each other as to what they can do, in some respects anyway.

    As for a linux port, so what? Xbox/PS games have been ported to PC and vice versus for years. Doesnt mean much that Valve is porting to Linux. All it means is they see a new area to make money, from sole linux users, which are a SMALL % of desktops.

  • Re:No.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:00PM (#40860349)


    Valve has bean counters too, and it's quite apparent that the cost of porting their steam platform to Linux will give them some profit. Valve knows that the majority of desktop gamers are Windows based. That will not change ever. What _might_ change is the fact that the tablet gaming market will become even larger, but so far all evidence is that people who play tablet games aren't doing so in lieu of playing games on their desktop.

    I would bet that people who game, aren't going to be swapping platforms for a new mobile game. The games just are not the same.

  • by Captain Hook ( 923766 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:09PM (#40860519)
    As far as reason for not liking Win8 goes, making your entire business model at best second fiddle to the MS store and at worst obsolete is a pretty good reason.
  • by Cinder6 ( 894572 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:10PM (#40860535)

    Forgive me if I'm wrong, but isn't the Windows app store optional? It sure is in the consumer preview. I didn't see Valve decrying Apple for making the Mac App Store. Steam works just fine on the Mac, and it will continue to work just fine in Windows.

  • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:10PM (#40860539)

    Why would they? Using old directx 9 code that makes 270 fps is more than good enough, there's no reason to work back to optimize it for directx 11/11.1 etc.

    When you're talking about 270 FPS you're into seriously questionable scaling issues, not for reasonable performance ranges. Just because something is more efficient at 200 fps doesn't mean it's more or less efficient at 50. That's the same as saying my car can do 270 kph, and yours can do 315... well yay. But which one is more fuel efficient at 60fps? (And which card, which drivers etc. etc. etc. all of which is secondary when you're talking about performance numbers in those ranges.).

  • by Sam H ( 3979 ) <> on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:13PM (#40860575) Homepage

    A 0.5-millisecond difference in a 3.6-millisecond frame time is “hardly worth mentioning”? You know, people get paid a lot to find out how to gain those 0.5 milliseconds in a 33-millisecond frame time.

  • Re:Dupe. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nschubach ( 922175 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:13PM (#40860585) Journal

    Being the submitter of the article from this morning, I think it raises another topic of conversation. Whether or not that deserves another story, or a thread on the other submitted story, I'll leave to the crowd to decide.

  • Re:OpenGL Support (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:15PM (#40860617)

    An extensive, detailed specification does not equal good documentation. It equals an extensive, detailed specification.

  • by spineboy ( 22918 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:17PM (#40860641) Journal

    I've played a few Linux ports - America's Army Online, Diablo 2 (with Cedega), etc.

    And they've all palyed faster under Linux, than windows on my own PC.

    Also crashed a lot less, when played in Linux.

    So I'm not surprised, and think they are reasonable numbers

  • Re:No.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeng ( 926980 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:29PM (#40860791)

    My mouse moves in a space that is less than a square foot and it allows me to have absolute precision.

    My displays at work cover close to three square feet and has horrible precision if I was to use it as a touch compatible surface.

    Mouse wins.

    Go wave your arms in front of you for 8 hours and then tell me touch input is the future.

    Also, having a keyboard is non-replaceable as an input device when actually doing anything more than looking at information.

  • by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:31PM (#40860807)

    First of all, no it doesn't. Steam offers more than just a store. Aside from the obvious fact that everyone who owns games on it already will stick with it, it offers cloud support, chat and gaming with friends, etc. MS tried the same with GFWL: I know of not one single person, not even on the Internet, who liked it. Oh I'm sure there is someone out there, but it was nearly universally despised by gamers. I have little doubt the Windows 8 store will suffer the same fate, probably by actually using GFWL for the games part (MS for some reason refuses to let it die).

    And second, of course, there are anti-trust issues. Massive ones. Much much much bigger than the ones that came with IE, since very very serious money is on the line with digital stores. And it isn't just Valve, either: EA (Origin), Gamestop (Impulse), and CD Projekt Red (Good Old Games) et alia will all be after Microsoft's head if they try to use their first-party advantage to undercut them.

  • I'm flipped back and forth between Nvidia and ATI cards over the years. The reality is that games (especially new releases) will have bugs that only happen with one and not the other.

    If you own an ATI card, you likely have had an AS-specific issue and think that ATI drivers suck and assume Nvidia is better. Or vice-versa.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:41PM (#40860933)

    60fps is not "good enough" for online fps games like they are talking about. Hell there is a noticeable difference going from 60-75 and more so at 85 and even more at 120+fps.

    It's why a few people still cling to high quality CRT monitors, I wish I would have bought a good one because playing on 60 hz tn panels lcd feels like crap with most movement.. It directly and pretty drastically makes a difference to play fps games at high fps and refresh rates. Sure you're not going to notice it at 300 fps, and no monitor can really display that fast anyways to my knowledge, but a ~10% increase in overall fps simply by porting a game to linux isn't something to sneeze at.

  • Re:No.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by silanea ( 1241518 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:47PM (#40861005)

    Tablets are a fad that will go the way of the netbook, and faster.

    I strongly disagree:

    • A netbook is a laptop whose display is too small and of too low a resolution to do anything but the simplest tasks on, whose keyboard is too compact and cramped to comfortably type more than a few paragraphs on and whose hardware is so lacking in performance that few applications run sufficiently fast on it. Gaming is pretty much impossible due to the low graphics performance. There are only two advantages over a full-blown laptop: portability (smaller size, lighter weight) and battery time.
    • A tablet on the other hand is not a crappy underpowered shrunk laptop. It is a wholly different category of devices, with its own paradigms, goals, compromises. Clam-shell docks and keyboard folios notwithstanding, tablets are meant to be used for two things: communicating and consuming. They may well extinguish the netbook market and capture those would-be laptop owners in the low-end market who never needed a full-blown laptop in the first place for a bit of web surfing and e-mail usage, but they are no laptops. And, by extension, no desktop replacements, either. The laptop and desktop market will in all likelihood shrink considerably, losing a good part of its lower end. But it will be a cold day in Hell when it goes away entirely, and it will certainly not be replaced by anything that resembles today's tablets.

    I am just waiting for the Transformer Infinity's price to come down a bit, then I will order one, with the keyboard dock. Not as a replacement for but as a complement to my desktop and laptop. I will use it for taking notes during lectures, as a portable media player on standby duties, and - if I can get over my aversion to not having a physical book in front of my eyes - maybe for reading during commute. I will still write my thesis papers on my desktop, I will still code on my desktop, I will still game predominantly on my desktop - that is what it is designed for, after all. But that does not devalue the additional options a tablet offers me.

  • by bluescrn ( 2120492 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:51PM (#40861067)
    The difference isn't about the framerate though. Beyond 60ish, it's about latency.

    For some reason, PC games often have nasty mouse lag when locked to vsynced 60fps. This is partly the frame or two taken for the input to be processed and affect the rendered output. And it's more significantly the GPU often rendering a few frames ahead of the CPU.

    The only reason to go beyond 60fps, really, is to reduce these latencies. There should be other ways to solve them, to ensure that input is processed and the results displayed in 1-2/60ths of a second.
  • Re:No.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mikkelm ( 1000451 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @05:28PM (#40861497)

    "High performance desktop" gamers are a pretty self-selected group now days. If you're sitting in front of a ATX case with a discreet video card, you've gone out your way to avoid every computing trend over the last 10 years. Which is fine, but its not exactly a growth market.

    That's a pretty loaded statement. If you use a tool for a specific tasks, and forgo newer tools that come out in favour of revisions of the tool that you have been using because it remains the best tool for the job, then you haven't "gone out of your way to avoid every computing trend," rather, you've continued to use the best tool for the job. There are no devices more suitable for the kind of stuff these people do than desktop computers with discrete video cards.

  • Re:No.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thePowerOfGrayskull ( 905905 ) <.marc.paradise. .at.> on Thursday August 02, 2012 @05:42PM (#40861625) Homepage Journal

    A netbook is a laptop whose display is too small and of too low a resolution to do anything but the simplest tasks on, whose keyboard is too compact and cramped to comfortably type more than a few paragraphs on and whose hardware is so lacking in performance that few applications run sufficiently fast on it. Gaming is pretty much impossible due to the low graphics performance. There are only two advantages over a full-blown laptop: portability (smaller size, lighter weight) and battery time.

    netbooks are great for playing nethack.

    Coincidence? I think not.

  • Re:No.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @06:59PM (#40862435)

    So your tablet is usable (for input) when you turn it into a laptop. That's not really much of a defence of the tablet form-factor.

  • Re:OpenGL Support (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @07:13PM (#40862581)

    no, it does equal good documentation. What you seem to be wanting is a tutorial. Such things are adjunct to the documentation, and whilst they are very important, they are not the documentation itself.

  • Re:No.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Snowman ( 116231 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @07:22PM (#40862627)

    Microsoft wanted to encourage game developers to embrace Windows 95 at a time when Win 3.11 had been seen as a business-application-only platform, with DOS preferred for games. DirectX was developed as a collection of APIs for games running in Windows 95 that handled input, graphics, music, sound, networking, etc.

    DOS was preferred for games because it allowed low-level hardware access. Windows 3.x required everyone to use dog-slow GDI for graphics, which was only good for stuff like solitaire and minesweeper.

    With DOS mostly invisible in Windows 95, Microsoft knew they would be completing against their own legacy OS so they had to change it. They had to create a way to play games in Windows but still allow low-level hardware access. DirectX was born.

  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @07:49PM (#40862863)

    By making you pay $116 for your computer continuing to do what it always has done? Run windows apps?

    Seriously I love Windows 7. It's the best MS operating system so far. But I don't pretend that I couldn't switch back to Windows XP tomorrow and do exactly the same things as I do today.

  • Ah another idiot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @01:22AM (#40864853) Journal

    You must be working on wall street.

    If you sell 2 tablets in 2009 and sell 4 tablets in 2010, that is what percentage of growth?

    Meanwhile, if you sell 100 million desktops in 2009 and 110 million desktops in 2010, what percentage of growth is that?

    It is the same with the so called BRIC economies. Massive growth? Yup, percentage wise. Easy when you come from nothing. I could double my speed on the mile if I actually did some excersise for once. Meanwhile olympic athletes are happy with a tenth of a second! They must SUCK!

    Calculating what is really being used out there, that is hard. For instance, mobile gaming devices. We know they are being sold but I don't see them in public. Turns out that many use them at HOME and NOT on the go. Many a laptop never leaves its desk. Meanwhile how many tablets are gathering dust like the Wii which outsold in hardware but severely undersells in software? Nintendo ain't reporting losses for nothing.

    People who claim because item X sold a lot is going to kill off item Y are the kind who just love headlines and stop to think. Like you.

    Attach a keyboard and a tablet becomes a laptop? Really? So all of a sudden it gets a HD? USB Hub? Ethernet port? Multi-channel sound output? Expansion bays? Right click? Multi screen support?

    I didn't understand how people could be reviewing Windows 8 in a positive way. And then I saw a video review on a "reputable" site and they reviewed it on a "desktop" with a resolution that would make a netbook weep. Yah... no wonder then that the slashdot sentiment differs a bit, how many here run at netbook resolutions?

    Tablets can only replace a PC for those people who barely use a PC, in the same way a bicycle or public transport can only replace a car for those who barely use the functionality of a car. I should know, I don't have a car and don't miss it and when people ask, but how do you move house with your own car then, I say "I don't!". Really who the fuck wants the hassle, I pay a company who sends a big truck and strong men and they do it faster, safer and me not getting tired which is the most important bit.

    If you use a PC without needing to easily cut and paste, have a right click menu for ease of access or for that matter, pin-point control... well... then a tablet can replace your PC. I have tried to make slashdot posts on a tablet and it is a pain in the ass for editing.

    And ergonomic. I know the kind of people that can replace a desktop with a laptop. They are the ones who will develop back problems. You are NOT SUPPOSED to work in the position that a laptop forces you to work in. Head UPRIGHT, screen at eye height!

    Sure, you can buy a dock and external monitors and you just made your laptop into an easily overheating overly expensive non-upgradable desktop. Wheee!

    But hey, if you think tablets can replace PC's, fine. I give you my tablet for free. But if you EVER even touch a PC or laptop for the rest of your live, you put a tattoo on your forehead "I am to dumb to exist, please kill me". Deal?

    Didn't think so.

    People have been crying the death of the desktop for years if not decades. By the way, what happened to smartphones replacing the desktop? That seems to have dropped away, suddenly it is the tablet that is the new king... odd that... did you ever post that the smartphone would replace the PC?

    Zero growth is normal in mature markets, it is inevitable that someday everyone will have the product and you can only sell replacements and PC's last a long a time now. High growth is normal in immature markets. Only a fool would make absolute predictions by comparing these two figures.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern