OpenGL vs. DirectX: Which Should You Use for Game Development?

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OpenGL vs. DirectX: Which Should You Use for Game Development?

Graphics APIs, such as OpenGL and DirectX, serve as a link between game software and graphics hardware. These APIs standardize the presentation of 2D and 3D graphics on the screen. Over the previous several decades, they have grown essential to game creation.

Engines like Unity provide a selection of graphical APIs, but how do you know which one is best for your game? Join us as we compare OpenGL vs DirectX to help you decide which tool is best for you.

DirectX vs. OpenGL: Main Feature Overview

DirectX and OpenGL share the same graphics pipeline at their core, and have for many years. To create complicated graphical primitives, both APIs rely on points known as vertices. Each vertex maintains its own coordinates as well as other critical information. However, each library employs vertices in a unique manner.

They may perform comparable duties, but working with OpenGL and DirectX will reveal differences.

DirectX vs. OpenGL: API Scope

Before proceeding, it is crucial to realize that, although both are graphics APIs, the scopes of OpenGL and DirectX vary. OpenGL is a thoroughbred graphics API, which means it only deals with 2D and 3D graphics. DirectX, on the other hand, is a set of hardware APIs for graphics, audio, networking, and other purposes.

In certain circumstances, OpenGL will call on DirectX to accomplish tasks that it cannot handle on its own. The remainder of this essay will ignore the distinction between the two APIs, instead concentrate on the visual parts of each tool.

OpenGL vs. DirectX: Platforms

OpenGL is a free API administered by the Khronos Group, a non-profit organization, unlike DirectX is created by Microsoft. DirectX is largely used on Windows and Xbox, with other systems, such as Linux, gradually gaining support. Because OpenGL is cross-platform, it may be used for game creation on a variety of operating systems and gaming consoles.

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DirectX vs. OpenGL: Hardware Resources

DirectX delegated hardware control to the developer, allowing you to utilize resources effectively as needed. OpenGL handles hardware management, which has its own advantages in that you don’t have to worry about managing resources yourself.

DirectX vs. OpenGL: Documentation

When dealing with APIs, having access to thorough documentation may make game creation lot simpler. DirectX and OpenGL have up-to-date documentation and active development communities. Both of these APIs undergo significant annual changes to guarantee that they provide the most up-to-date capabilities.

Using OpenGL vs. DirectX for Game Development

On the present market, developers have created numerous gorgeous and well-optimized games using both OpenGL and DirectX. When selecting a 2D/3D graphics API, there are numerous factors to consider. Some developers will just use the tool with which they are most familiar.

OpenGL or DirectX: Platforms

We’ve previously discussed platforms, but this is an important concern for developers. If you want to create games on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, or Linux, you must use OpenGL or another API that supports them. DirectX is designed for Windows and Xbox, with limited interoperability with other operating systems.

OpenGL or DirectX: Engine Compatibility

Nowadays, most game developers utilize engines like Unity and Unreal to produce their games. Both of these engines, as well as other cross-platform game development engines, support OpenGL and DirectX.

OpenGL or DirectX: Ease of Use

Some say that OpenGL is simpler to use than DirectX. OpenGL, in addition to hardware resources, solely handles visuals, making it simpler by nature. It is also simpler to distribute games with this criteria since it works across more platforms.

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For game creators, the simplicity of use of graphics APIs isn’t as vital as it once was. With engines like Unity communicating with graphics APIs behind the scenes, changing the API you’re using is as simple as clicking a button. Unless you’re starting from scratch, you’re unlikely to notice a difference in the ease of use of any API.

OpenGL or DirectX: Graphics Features

Unless you are an outlier, you are unlikely to notice a significant difference in the capabilities accessible between these APIs. They both support the capabilities of your graphics card, and this will only alter if GPUs undergo substantial changes in the future.

OpenGL or DirectX: Game Performance

The performance of these APIs is a source of contention among developers. It’s difficult to foresee considerable performance differences between OpenGL and DirectX, however the assertion that OpenGL is smoother and more economical is prevalent online.

Testing is the only method to determine which of these APIs works the best. Because Unity supports both APIs, we can establish a project and test a sample game using both APIs to produce a performance benchmark.

These tests were carried out with both 2D and 3D graphics to verify that their different processes did not play a significant role. Each test lasts 120 seconds of ordinary gaming, and frame rate is assessed to determine performance. All testing was done on the same computer.

3D Performance Test: Unity Carting Microgame

The Unity Carting Microgame is a free template that includes everything you need to create a basic racing game. There are instructions included, but we’re more interested in the game itself. We created the Carting Microgame using both OpenGL and DirectX to test their performance, and the results are as follows:


In our 3D test, DirectX outperformed OpenGL, reaching consistently high frame rates. The results of OpenGL are still more than playable.

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2D Performance Test: Unity Platformer Microgame

The Unity Platformer Microgame, like the Carting Microgame, is free and filled with wonderful learning features. In our testing, the 2D game performed better than the 3D game, as predicted, but you may judge the results for yourself.


DirectX obtained a substantially higher average frame rate in our tests, as seen by the data above. While the difference seems to be significant, both outcomes are quite playable.

OpenGL or DirectX 11: Performance Conclusion

While many people believe that OpenGL outperforms DirectX, the latter API outperformed the former in both of our tests. This is far from clear, since numerous variables influence game performance, particularly as games get more complicated.

DirectX or OpenGL: Which Should You Use for Game Development?

Choosing the best graphics API is dependent on a number of things. DirectX is the most popular graphics API. Many game developers produce games for Windows and Xbox first, then convert them to OpenGL for other platforms. If you’re developing a game for platforms other than Windows and Xbox, you may want to start using OpenGL.

Performance is also an important consideration, however our experience reveals that it is quite insignificant when utilizing engine tools like Unity. In essence, the distinctions between these two graphics APIs are only relevant to individuals seeking specialized niche capabilities.

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