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SDL: The DirectX Alternative
Pages: 1, 2, 3

Game development outside proprietary formats -- for game consoles?

The number of people contributing to the development of SDL varies. On average, Lantinga receives patches from three to a dozen people over the course of a month. There are regular participants -- like Mattias Engdegard and Darrell Walisser, who Lantinga singles out for mention -- and some who contribute every few months, as well as random contributions from people keeping up with the SDL development community.

As for the kind of talents and contributors that the SDL development team can put to use, Lantinga invites "anybody who is interested in writing and testing a multi-platform build system. That's the biggest stumbling block in starting the SDL 1.3 development. Nobody has both the time and experience to set it up and test a new build system."

Where Lantinga wants to take SDL from this point on is extensive. The SDL 1.3 API redesign has a long wish list. A few of the high priorities are including multi-head support, better hardware acceleration, custom blit support, and a redesigned sound API which would incorporate features already available separately in the SDL_mixer library.

Something that's particularly tantalizing: Now that Linux has been ported over to the Sony PlayStation 2, it's possible for SDL to have a hand in affecting game development for the next-generation game consoles -- especially if Linux also gets ported over to Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's GameCube. Having SDL available on such platforms will likely enable the making of games outside the proprietary licensing agreements that Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft impose upon officially licensed game developers.

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Lantinga recognizes the above possibility but doesn't think the game-console hardware companies have anything to worry about should SDL cross over to their platforms. "At least in the case of the PlayStation 2, commercial [game development] companies are going to continue to write directly to the hardware to wring every ounce of performance from the console," he says. "I don't know much about the Xbox and GameCube, but to get decent performance out of the PS2, you need to use its vector processing units for fast 3D calculations, and the graphics hardware [of the console] isn't well suited to the OpenGL API."

Still, although many of these "homebrew" games will probably be very simple in design, we could be in for the start of a programming scene that makes new games for current game console technology (as opposed to making games for antiquated consoles) -- spurred on by SDL because of its ease-of-use and platform ubiquity.

Howard Wen is a freelance writer who has contributed frequently to O'Reilly Network and written for,, and Wired, among others.

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