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Johann Dowa

iPhone OpenGL ES Resources – 18 That You Must Know!


OpenGL ES is the graphics API used for programming the iPhone.  If want to create your own game engine, design a game from scratch, or create some other graphically intensive app that requires you to go beyond Core Animation and Quartz, then you will need to have a good understanding of OpenGL ES.  I updated this list previously upon the release of the OpenGL ES 2.0 capable iPhone 3GS, and since then I’ve received a few messages about some of the resources being updated, and found a couple new resources that i have listed below.  If you want to have an understanding, or just want to see if learning OpenGL ES is your cup of tea then you will want to check out these resources.

Math Resources

If you don’t have a basic understanding of 2D and 3D math for computer graphics your head will probably explode once you try learning OpenGL.  To prevent that from happening you should at least understand the terminology, and the reasons why this math is needed.  No need to grind through math problems like in college.. that’s what computers are for.

1. The Black Art of 3D Game Programming Chapter 10 This is a great introduction to graphics math, and really tells you what you need to know about 3D math without getting into what doesn’t really matter.  What I really love about this book is that unlike most similar books this is not a textbook, but rather designed for personal learning which makes a huge difference.The whole book can be found here for free.  It is an old book, but the math still holds true.

2. Vector & Matrix Math Tutorial If you feel that everything in the resource above is flying above your head then you probably will want to take a look at this.  I normally wouldn’t reccomend a resource that brags about being “book sized”, but it is very good.

iPhone Specific OpenGL ES 2.0 Resources

3. The OpenGL ES Shading Language This is a free pdf book from Khronos, and actually a really good read, and will teach you what you need to know, again don’t try this until you at least have some OpenGL understanding or your head may explode. Thanks to Bill Dudney one of the authors of iPhone SDK Development for pointing this out.

4. Hello Triangle: An OpenGL ES 2.0 Example – This is a sample chapter from the OpenGL ES 2.0 Programming Guide.  If you’re thinking of getting this book you will probably want to check this out to see if the book is for you as it is, how should I say this… rather academic.

5. The OpenGL ES Programming Book This code from this book has been updated to run on the iPhone and can be found here, and you’ll probably want it if you go through the chapter listed above.  Make sure you have a solid understanding of OpenGL (or OpenGL ES 1.x) before starting this book.  Now it might seem odd to put a paper book here, but you can learn alot from the sample code, and what’s given from the book.

6. The Oolong Engine An Open source 3D OpenGL ES Game Engine for Iphone, MIT licensed. Written by Wolfgang Engel former Rockstar Games programmer, and author of some intense DirectX books.  Great to see the libraries in here for handling memory, loading 3d models, performing math, and now code is rapidly being added for support of OpenGL ES 2.0 features.

7. Getting Started with OpenGL ES 2.0 on iPhone 3GS A getting started with OpenGL ES 2.0 tutorial that explains some of the most basic differences between OpenGL ES 1.1 and 2.0.

iPhone Specific OpenGL ES 1.1 Resources

8. iPhone OpenGL ES Tutorial Series (link currently dead – hopefully a new repository for these tutorials will crop up soon.)  I don’t know if Maurice Simon is the smartest person alive, but this is the smartest set of OpenGL ES tutorials I’ve seen.  A terrific resource.

9.  Jeff LaMarche’s iPhone Blog Blog from one of the authors of the excellent Beginning iPhone Development book with many articles on OpenGL ES, and an ongoing OpenGL ES from The Ground Up series.

10. SIO2 Engine this is an excellent Open Source 3D OpenGL ES engine, look at the code, understand, and maybe even use the engine rather than write your own from the ground up (nothing wrong with that).

11. Cocos2D Iphone This is an excellent Open Source 2D OpenGL ES Game Framework for iPhone you can learn alot from going in and looking around the code.  As far as Open Source frameworks go this extremely easy to use, well documented, and has an active community.

12. SDL for iPhone (SDL Version 1.3) The SDL library has been a popular open source library for probably over a decade, and has been used in many games. This is the iPhone port, and a great resource.

Non-iPhone OpenGL ES 1.x Resources

If you use these resources you’ll need to put in some time to get things running on the iPhone, but they are still excellent.

13. Nehe Tutorials Converted To OpenGL ES Michael Gorchak creator of the GluES library has put together this collection of tutorials converted from their original Nehe form.  In case you haven’t heard of them the Nehe tutorials were the definitive free tutorials for learning OpenGL.  Michael has done an excellent job of writing comments for these tutorials.  These tutorials have been updated as of late, and more has been added so be sure to check it out.

14. Khronos OpenGL ES Page This is the OpenGL ES “homepage” on which you will find the reference manual, and lots of examples.  Not specifically IPhone, but there are some great examples here and even a complete racing game BSD licensed.

15. Khronos OpenGL ES 1.x Step-By-Step Tutorials This page is from Imagination Technologies makers of the Iphone GPU, and it contains the Khronos tutorials converted to OpenGL ES and created for the PowerVR technology.  Good to lean from especially as to how they load Pod files.

16. Zeus CMD OpenGL ES Tutorials This site contains 25 Great OpenGL ES Tutorials and they are extremely well paced, this was a site I learned alot from.

17. Typhoon Labs OpenGL ES Tutorials Another excellent set of OpenGL ES tutorials if you’re addicted to tutorials you might want to check these out too.

Interesting OpenGL ES Related Sites

18. GLBenchmark This is a just an interesting site that compares the different mobile devices available that utilize OpenGL ES.  At this point it’s only showing OpenGL 1.1, but you can see how much faster a 3GS is than a 3G even at this stage.

This is just a quick video on an approach to getting started with iPhone OpenGL ES, emphasizing that it’s helpful to start with learning 3D math:

That’s the latest version of the list, be sure to post below if you find out about any other useful OpenGL ES resources.


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