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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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  • by aaron44126 ( 2631375 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:33PM (#40859905) Homepage
    Not necessarily better than OpenGL, but better than 270.6 fps.

    Valve's blog post [], near the bottom, indicates that they plan on fixing the hang-up with Direct3D, now that they know that the hardware can do better than 270 fps.
    • I think people should ask themselves when the last time Valve seriously looked into updating the Source engine on Windows.

      The last major support shift was for Mac OS X, when they pushed Steam onto that OS. Clearly, they are looking into supporting Linux now and they are tweaking code to get the most out of it.

      When was the last time that the Steam engine even needed this kind of look on Windows? 2006 or 2007? As someone pointed out in a post further down: OpenGL is beating DirectX 9. Windows 8 is about to pu

    • ...can get excellent performance out of the hardware and software. I'm actually an OpenGL partisan, but Direct3D is only part of DirectX. Input, sound, graphics, networking, all in one API - that really is a powerful argument for DirectX. OpenGL + SDL + OpenAL is far from a bad API set to develop for, but you gotta admit it could use some polish. Hopefully, greater attention to Linux gaming will catalyze that polish. Which should mean that not-so-major game companies who don't have the hardware vendors on s
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:34PM (#40859913)

    because it makes steam obsolete.

  • Dupe. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Urza9814 ( 883915 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:34PM (#40859915)
  • by js3 ( 319268 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:35PM (#40859931)

    I'm a bit skeptical about these numbers..

    • 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

      • by nwf ( 25607 )

        We use to compare running Oracle on the exact same box, both optimized, on Windows and Linux. Linux was always faster, too.

  • by medv4380 ( 1604309 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:35PM (#40859935)
    Because MS makes Windows and bundle their API with it of course.
    Besides that most, if not all, of my console games are OpenGL not DirectX.
    • by Desler ( 1608317 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:04PM (#40860423)

      Besides that most, if not all, of my console games are OpenGL not DirectX.

      Not if your console is a Wii or a PS3 since everyone uses the vendor supplied graphics API. On the PS3 this is PSGL which while smilar to OpenGL ES 1.0 is not OpenGL and is instead based on Cg created by NVIDIA. On the Wii this is another proprietary API that is similar to fixed function OpenGL but is again not OpenGL.

      • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:34PM (#40860837)

        > On the PS3 this is PSGL
        Technically the PS3 supports _2_ graphics API: CGM and PSGL. I don't know of any games that have actually shipped with PSGL. (Almost?) Everyone uses the lower level CGM for performance reasons, even though it is more work.

        > On the Wii this is another proprietary API that is similar to fixed function OpenGL but is again not OpenGL.
        Correct. The native API on the Wii is GX.

        I implemented OpenGL on the Wii a years back and shipped a couple of games with it. (We also had a shipping OpenGL implementation on the PS2!) The design of the GX is very, very, similar to OpenGL.

        The biggest PITA is that the Wii only has 1/2 pixel shaders. You have multi-texture support via TEVs and can do some pixel math but it is very tedious, say for shadow mapping.

        On the plus side the biggest hack is you can get 32-bit palettized (8-bit) textures if you burn through 2 TEVs ;-)

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by steelfood ( 895457 )

        That's part of the polish. Driver availability and stability all contributes to the OS experience. Yes, it's not trivial to write your own if it isn't provided by the manufacturer.

        But the very act of having to go search online is just as annoying whether for a driver or for a piece of software that does what you want done.

        It's all a part of the polish.

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      Too bad OpenGL doesn't support multiple threads(does on the back-end but not the front-end). This will eventually cause a huge bottleneck once games starts making use of multiple cores.

      A prime example is Civ5. DX9/10can use about 6 cores of a 12core cpu. DX11 mode can make use of a bit over 11 cores and almost doubles the FPS. Entirely because a single core can only feed so many commands to the GPU. Once your hit that limit, you will not be able to increase your FPS without ether reducing the numbers of c
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      I don't think anyone ever reasonably stated that Linux wasn't efficient

      Every time you turn around someone is saying that X11 is bloated and obsolete. This proves that incorrect. Notably, they were able to get better performance out of X11 than Windows without sacrificing network transparency. Someone should tell that to the Wayland guys.

  • 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:OpenGL Support (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sam H ( 3979 ) <> on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:01PM (#40860371) Homepage

      Sir, this is complete, utter bullshit.

      DirectX gets almost nothing “much earlier”, because it has no extension mechanism. With DirectX you are stuck with the latest version. It has obvious advantages, but early features are certainly not amongst them. Think what you want about the ARB, it does release and releases often.

      As for the documentation being terrible and vague, that's pretty uninformed, too. Every extension is fully documented and the vendors know precisely what needs to be implemented. There is no Direct3D equivalent of the 600-page OpenGL specification []. The DirectX documentation is a programmer’s guide, not a specification. Every single version of the GLSL standard comes with a full grammar of the language which lets you reimplement a parser or compiler. There is no such thing as a grammar for HLSL (the D3D equivalent). What Microsoft calls a “grammar” for HLSL can be found here [] and anyone not even in the field of graphics programming will immediately understand how much of a joke it is compared to this [] (pages 166 to 174).

      (Source: I work on Windows, Linux, PS3, Xbox and mobile game engines)

  • by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:40PM (#40860013)

    DirectX has the advantage of other features built in. OpenGL is just graphics. DirectX also does audio and manages controller input.

    Low, there are several Open source API's that offer these other features, and some that bundle them with OpenGL, but it isn't as standardized.

    I use LWJGL [] personally.

    • DirectX has the advantage of other features built in. OpenGL is just graphics. DirectX also does audio and manages controller input.

      I thought that DirectSound and DirectInput were both deprecated a couple years ago. I know that as of Vista, DirectSound was emulated in software and no longer lets you take over the sound output completely (you need WASAPI for that).

    • by goruka ( 1721094 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @05:25PM (#40861455)
      Not anymore! DirectInput, DirectSound, DirectPlay, etc have all become obsolete and are there only for compatibility. The only real difference is D3DX, which includes a little more functionality for loading shaders and models, but "DirectX" is pretty much obsolete, save for D3D.
  • 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.
  • No, but... (Score:4, Funny)

    by JustAnotherIdiot ( 1980292 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:49PM (#40860161)
  • 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.

    • My understanding is the state of Windows' OpenGL drivers is actually pretty poor outside of Nvidia. (Carmack has complained about this.) So in theory OpenGL gives you Windows support, in practice D3D may allow you to reach more machines.

  • by locopuyo ( 1433631 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:54PM (#40860249) Homepage
    I question what the actual image quality looks like on both. DirectX has a lot of fancy features that improve the graphics that OpenGL does not. Did they turn off all of these features that improve the graphics for DirectX or add them with their OpenGL version? I highly doubt it.
    Also when the frame rate is that high it typically isn't a good test. Create a map with enough detail that the frame rate gets dropped below 60 and compare them there for a real test.
    While it would be cool if they could get OpenGL looking as good and working as efficiently as DirectX I wont' believe it until I see proof. This article sounds more like OpenGL propaganda than reality.
  • by randallman ( 605329 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:08PM (#40860489)

    I followed a few links and found my way here: []

    It's a blog about an experience intel driver developers had working with the Valve Linux team. What I found interesting is that the Valve developers prefer working with open drivers for an obvious reason - It's hard to find out what went wrong when you're dealing with a black box. What I gathered from the discussion is that this openness was a huge boost to development of both the game and the driver. This gives me hope that there may be a bright future for open source graphics drivers and even gaming on Linux.

    From the blog:

    Haswell will have 40 execution units in it’s best bin. It’s 2,5 faster even if they not gonna change anything in shaders, which is unlikely. Plus 64 MB of on-package memory to deal with bandwidth problem.
    With that performance and official open-source driver Intel will be the best choice for gaming in Linux next year, at least in notebooks.

    A pretty good GPU + an open driver + an open kernel coupled with a working relations ship between the 3 groups should result in a super graphics and games on Linux. I'm not a gamer, but I'll buy their games just to support this. Typing this on a Sandy Bridge machine pulling from xorg-edgers.

  • DX9 (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bengie ( 1121981 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:25PM (#40860729)

    If OpenGL is faster, and it has a comparable feature set, and hardware support is excellent... why is Direct3D still the de facto API?

    Because Valve is using DX9, not DX11. Even the Gallium3D developers have stated DX11 is much cleaner, easier, and feature rich than OpenGL. There are many things DX11 can do 2x-3s faster than DX9 but breaks engine compatibility with DX9, which makes me wonder how a proper DX11 optimized engine would compare to OpenGL.

    Rule of thumb is if a graphics engine works with DX9/OpenGL, then it is not making full use of DX11 because the optimal flow of data is different and would require an entirely differently designed engine.

  • 32-bit vs 64-bit? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Thursday August 02, 2012 @04:38PM (#40860901) Homepage Journal

    On the referenced blog [], I asked whether they'd repeated the test for a 64-bit Linux distro to directly compare to the 64-bit Windows installation they used. Unfortunately, my comment there got deleted. Does anyone have any insight as to what effect switching to a 64-bit distro might have? On one hand, x86-64 has a reputation for being more compiler-friendly than x86-32, what with more explicitly-named registers and all the other goodness. On the other hand, it'd have to sling around longer pointers (and possibly waste more space on 8-byte-aligned data structures? Is that true?). What would the net result likely be?

    Put another way, I wish they'd eliminated that rather large test environment variable before publishing their numbers.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel