Graphics chip maker 3D Labs today began supporting the OpenGL high-level shader language extension through updated drivers for its Wildcat VP series of graphics cards.
The company claims it's the first to implement the high-level shader language. The HLSL was approved by the OpenGL Architecture Review Board, the standard's governing body, on 11 June and is likely to form the basis for OpenGL 2.0, the next major revision of the open graphics API.
The OpenGL Shader Language is a C-like language intended to make programming today's and tomorrow's graphics cores easier as they become ever more complex. Shader code can be written in OpenGL SL and then compiled into any given graphics chip's native machine code. Nvidia's entry into the field is Cg. Nvidia's arch-rival, ATI, favours OpenGL SL and is working to integrate it into its RenderMonkey graphics development suite.
3D Labs has released the front-end OpenGL SL compiler under an open source licence, permitting royalty free commercial and non-commercial use. Of course, the code it produces needs to undergo further compilation down into chip machine code, and that back-end compiler has not been made so readily available. Why release the front-end as open source? To encourage as many vendors as possible to support this open, non-proprietary standard, says 3D Labs.
The upcoming standard already has the backing of id Software's John Carmack, who has said he is "committed to supporting an OpenGL 2.0 renderer for Doom  through all the spec evolutions".
OpenGL 2.0 is being developed as a superset of OpenGL 1.4, ensuring older applications should be compatible with graphics chips using OpenGL 2.0 drivers.
The 3D Labs compiler source, the licensing terms, and new drivers for the Wildcat VP can be downloaded from 3D Labs' OpenGL 2.0 web site. ®