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OpenGL galvanizes game graphics

The graphics library, an alternative to Microsoft's DirectX, gets new features designed to add razzle-dazzle to PC games.

The organization behind the OpenGL graphics software released specifications Thursday for a major update designed to add some razzle-dazzle to computer games.

Specifications for version 2.0 of OpenGL are available for download now from the Open GL Architecture Review Board, the industry body that oversees the open graphics standard.

OpenGL is a collection of application programming interfaces, or APIs, for creating 2D and 3D computer graphics. The standard is maintained by a body composed of representatives from major companies such as Apple Computer, Sun Microsystems and IBM. It competes with Microsoft's DirectX library of APIs for displaying graphics in Windows.

Microsoft quit the OpenGL board last year, saying the standard was progressing too slowly to keep pace with advances in technology and Microsoft's own efforts with DirectX.

While the hardware makers, including graphics chips rivals Nvidia and ATI Technologies, support both technologies, PC game makers have to make a choice. DirectX is the dominant choice for Windows games, but prominent OpenGL boosters include Id Software, creator of the smash "Doom" and "Quake" franchises, and Valve Software's "Half Life."

Enhancements in the new version of OpenGL include the addition of programmable shading functions that allow artists to add sophisticated lighting effects to their creations, an area of increasing emphasis for graphics chipmakers.

Exploitation of the new OpenGL capabilities will depend first on support from graphics chipsmakers, followed by game publishers and other software makers.