MinGL Basic Rendering Working

15 Nov 2009

Previously, I described my motivation for doing something as silly as writing an underfeatured software rasterizer in this day and age.

Well, I printed out the OpenGL ES 1.x specification, and I’ve been doing a little banging away. Some usual suspects that are evoking rage:

It turns out that OpenGL is not greatly suited to (non-jitting) software implementations. Even in the pared-down, less-featureful, fixed-function version that is ES 1.0, there’s an ungodly amount of insertion points where the pipeline can be reconfigured. To avoid runtime switching in the lowest level part of rasterization (i.e. drawing a scanline), there’d need to be hundreds of different “shaders” for the fixed function. For example:

This doesn’t include any vertex level operations, just the fragment level, and I’m sure I’m still missing some. That’s also only for two texture units, which is the minimum the specification allows. You’d have to do a couple more x2’s for each additional texture unit. Permuting out all the combinations, just with what’s there though is already 17,301,504 shaders! So, clearly that’s not going to work.

It’s reasonable (I guess) to make all those part of a hardware pipeline for little additional overhead, but there’s a crapload of checking, testing, and jumping going on to do that at a software level.

Another alternative would be runtime generation via JITing. This falls outside of what MinGL is going to do. The targetted platforms include x86, x64, PPC32, and PPC64 at a minimum which is way too much code to cram into a header. It’s also not possible to JIT on all platforms I want it to run on, specifically Xbox 360 and PS3.

So, I guess I’ll have to do something like picking 10-100 of these “shaders” that seem like average settings. e.g. tex0 + depth test + noblending, or colour + no depth test + one_minus_src_alpha, and so on. These will become a fast(er) path that’s hopefully used 95%+ of the time, and other settings will have to fall back on the uber-do-all-tests-at-runtime shader.


Lest it seem like all bad news, I have sorted my way through a good chunk of the vertex pipeline, and have written a few of those fast-path shaders. Here’s the always exciting gouraud + unlit in this case, doing what’s probably the 3D version of “Hello, world!”: a primary coloured rotating cube.

I also stuck the code up on code.google, on the off chance you want to trick out an SSE vector math library, or show off your mad texture mapping optimization skillZ, have at it.