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Loki, Creative launch ‘OpenGL for 3d audio’

But will OpenAL find support among DirectX users?

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Linux games publisher Loki and sound card vendor Creative Technologies have co-released an open source 3D audio equivalent of SGI's 3D graphics standard, OpenGL. Called - surprisingly enough - OpenAL, the audio API will be offered as a cross-platform technology. So while it will naturally find favour among Linux users, who have long lacked a solid 3D audio infrastructure, OpenAL will be also made available in MacOS and Windows versions. Apple's SoundSprocket audio API already supports 3D audio, as does Microsoft's DirectSound, but so far neither of these have been opened up to the other, or further platforms, for that matter. Loki's efforts should provide games developers with a single reference point for 3D audio, no matter which platform they are developing for. With Windows the prime focus of PC games development and DirectX well entrenched there, the advantage here is really for companies porting titles over to other platforms, as Loki does for Linux. OpenAL's success, then, will depend very much on its adoption by the major PC games developers. It's not hard to imagine OpenAL finding success with the likes of iD Software, whose John Carmack is a vociferous OpenGL supporter and pretty keen on open source projects period. But will other, more DirectX-focused companies pick up on it? That remains to be seen. Much, we suspect, will depend on whether Microsoft gives the API its blessing. Though as we've seen with OpenGL, that support is not unconditional. It will also be interesting to see to what extent sound card vendors support the wannabe standard, particularly given Creative's role in its foundation. Like 3dfx in the graphics space, Creative has clearly begun to think about revenue streams beyond its traditional Wintel-based gamer market. Creative began a programme to court Mac users late last year, and it's possible its work developing drivers for the MacOS and Linux led to the conception of OpenAL. But is that openness enough to convince other vendors, such as Creative's arch-rival Aureal, to come on board? Again, we'll just have to see, but games developers may not take OpenAL too seriously until they do. ® OpenAL source code can be downloaded from OpenAL.org

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