The purpose of a graphics library such as OpenGL

direct3dgraphicsopengl

I realize this is probably a ridiculous question, but before trying to figure out what libraries to use for which projects, I think it makes sense to really understand the purpose of such libraries first.

A lot of video games use libraries like OpenGL. All the tutorials I've seen of such libraries demonstrate how to write code that tells the computer to draw something. Thing is, in games these days everything is modeled using software such as Zbrush, Maya, or 3ds Max. The models are textured and are good to go. It seems like all you'd need to do is write an animation loop that draws the models and updates repeatedly rather than actually program the code to draw every little thing. That would be both extremely time consuming and would make the models useless. So where does OpenGL or Direct 3D come in in relation to video games and 3d art? What is so crucial about them when all the graphics are already created and just need to be loaded and drawn? Are they used mainly for shaders and effects?

This question may just prove how new I am to this, but it's one I've never heard asked. I'm just starting to learn programming and I'm understanding the code and logic fairly well, but I don't understand graphics libraries or certain frameworks at all and tutorials are not helping.

Best Solution

It seems like all you'd need to do is write an animation loop that draws the models and updates repeatedly rather than actually program the code to draw every little thing.

Everything that happens in a computer does so because a program of some form tells it exactly what to do. The letters that this message is composed of only appear because your web-browser of choice downloaded this file via TCP/IP over an HTTP protocol, decoded its UTF-8-encoded text, interpreted that text as defined by the XML, HTML, JavaScript, and so forth standards, and then displayed the visible portion as defined by the Unicode standard for text layout and in accord with HTML et al, using the displaying and windowing abilities of your OS or window manager or whatever.

Every single part of that operation, from the downloading of the file to its display, is governed by a piece of code. Every pixel you are looking at on the screen is where it is because some code put it there.

HTML alone doesn't mean anything. You cannot just take an HTML file and blast it to the screen. Some code must interpret it. You can interpret HTML as a text file, but if you do, it loses all formatting, and you get to see all of the tags. A web browsers can interpret it as proper HTML, in which case you get to see the formatting. But in every case, the meaning of the HTML file is determined by how it is used.

The "draws the model" part of your proposed algorithm must be done by someone. If you don't write that code, then you must be using a library or some other system that will cause the model to appear. And what does that library do? How does it cause the model to appear?

A model, like an HTML web page, is meaningless by itself. Or to put it another way, your algorithm can be boiled down to this:

  1. Animate the model.
  2. ????
  3. Profit!

You're missing a key component: how to actually interpret the model and cause it to appear on the screen. OpenGL/D3D/a software rasterizer/etc is vital for that task.

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