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A developer from Epic Games adds an offscreen video driver to SDL 2

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Something that came across the desk this morning is a note about Epic Games contributing to the cross-platform development library SDL 2.

What's interesting is that the added code from developer Brandon Schaefer, previously a Canonical (Ubuntu) developer, is for offscreen rendering. From what Schaefer said in the submitted code it's "intended to be used for headless rendering as well as allows for multiple GPUs to be used for headless rendering".

This could have been for Stadia, which streams games to you from Google's powerful Linux servers but possibly not. Stadia uses Vulkan but this SDL 2 code currently works with EGL for OpenGL / ES.

You can see the new code here, currently disabled by default.

Any thoughts as to what they might be up to?

Hat tip to Ben.

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mphuZ 25 Sep, 2019
QuoteAny thoughts as to what they might be up to?

Nothing for a regular Linux user..
Hopfenmeister 25 Sep, 2019
Anybody else being a bit dismayed that playing remotely on Linux is as difficult as it is right now?

Of course I am aware of Steam Play, but I want to be able to log in to my main workstation from my couch and play while my SO is using that machine.
mcphail 25 Sep, 2019
This is cool. bschaefer wrote the Mir SDL driver which allowed us to play games on the Ubuntu Phone, so he is a coding hero of mine.

My guess is that Valve are behind this, but we'll see in time I'm sure.

Edit: should've read that he's working for Epic! The best advice is never to take my tips to the bookmaker :)

Last edited by mcphail on 25 September 2019 at 9:54 am UTC
Mohandevir 25 Sep, 2019
Epic working on a streaming service for mobiles? OpenGL/ES... This is quite weird. Is the Android version of Fortnite built with OpenGL?
Nanobang 25 Sep, 2019
I don't really understand the rest of it, but what I do know is that if Epic's for it, I'm aginnit. :P
RCL 25 Sep, 2019
The offscreen backend has existed in the SDL2 lib bundled with Unreal Engine since 2016 (see here, although you need a github account that is associated with an Epic account or you'll get a 404). Throughout the years, we have been upstreaming our SDL2 changes (e.g. this, this, or this fix) to improve SDL2 and minimize the differences with the bundled lib.

(P.S. I work for Epic, although here I'm just another Linux gamer speaking privately).
Eike 25 Sep, 2019
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Quoting: RCL(P.S. I work for Epic, although here I'm just another Linux gamer speaking privately).

I'm sure you're already aware of some improvements we would like, so I'll just say "Thank you!" here. Can you comment on the reasons for the implementation the article talks about? (Or even any of said possible improvements?)
RCL 25 Sep, 2019
Thank you for the "thank you" :) As for the question, the commit message says it all - it helps folks who use UE4 on headless setups (usually without X11 as well), like e.g. this case. As for other changes to SDL2, they mostly stem from the fact that UE4 uses SDL to open and manage multiple windows and as such sometimes runs into edge cases / bugs which a typical game (that only opens a single window, often a fullscreen one) doesn't hit.
Linas 25 Sep, 2019
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Quoting: RCL(P.S. I work for Epic, although here I'm just another Linux gamer speaking privately).
If you meet Tim next to the coffee machine, I have this idea I'd like to share with him.

cprn 26 Sep, 2019
I wish Steam did headless rendering for streaming. It's what stopped me from using the Remote Play. Last time I tried, it opened Big Picture and rendered the game window to my PC's main monitor, only then (literally) shared that screen surface with my tablet. Hopefully with this off-screen driver Valve will make it possible to render straight to your other device.
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