Been awhile since I posted about how progress is going on this front. Everyone is very excited about HTML5, of course, but particularly with the latest H.264 news, Flash is still going to be pretty widely used. WebGL is going to be in Firefox 4, (basically, the OpenGL ES 2.0 API will be available).
And then there’s Molehill, which basically lets the 3d engines that already exist for Flash (which I have blogged about in the past) get access to hardware acceleration.
What is the 3D functionality provided by the “Molehill” APIs?Technically, “Molehill” is a set of programmable shader-based 3D APIs, exposing features like z-buffering, stencil color buffer, fragment and vertex shaders, cube textures and more. “Molehill” will enable developers to leverage the GPU where possible, while providing the flexibility to fallback to a CPU software rasterizer if the hardware is incompatible.
Molehill is going to be part of Flash Player 11, and won’t be in public beta until “the first half of 2011.” Here’s some videos showing it off, though. At a glance I see environment mapping, specular, shaders, a few sorts of shadows, and pretty darn good fill rate. These were all put together for the AdobeMAX conference a few months ago.
Silverlight, which I had identified as a contender back in ’08 when I last wrote much about this, has a new version coming next year, and there was some confusion recently as to whether Microsoft was continuing to push it. But I have no cool videos to show there. [Edit: actually, there is one in this post now, thanks to commenter Ezra below.]
Right around now is when someone says “But Unity…” Unity is really popular among game developers because of the fantastic toolchain. It’s still not a widely adopted plugin, compared to the sheer volume that browser adoption or Flash have, but it is gaining. But I still think this is a battle won not by quality but by “good enough” married to really strong distribution.