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I've seen this question on SO, but here i want it to focus on GFX.

So in your opinion what applications/features should every aspiring GFX programmer write/change to get better?

Community wiki since there is no "right answer".

LE: Not referring to actual games, but to graphical features for example changing something in an engine (e.g how it loads objects), making a compositor, so on and so forth.

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closed as too broad by Byte56 May 28 '14 at 14:05

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Similar to this question:… – Bryan Denny Aug 6 '10 at 17:20

My answer is always the same: if you haven't written one before, write a raytracer.

You'll have to deal with optimization structures, numerical precision, and all sorts of other issues, but you'll also work directly with the mathematics of light in a way that you rarely do when dealing with all the hacks and approximations that make up a production real-time renderer.

Strip away all the edifice of loading systems, buzzwords-of-the-week, deferred-this or forward-that, and you're left, finally, with light traveling through a medium. In the end, that's all there is to graphics.

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Interesting, I was contemplating suggesting a raytracer as well, a very nice math exercise. I do disagree with deferred being a buzzword of the week, it's, like raytracing, a fairly big shift in how you approach your rendering, which, for a graphics programmer seems to be something you should be aware of. – Kaj Aug 6 '10 at 18:29
I would say that optimization are not as important as dealing with arbitrary meshes, which is a step a lot of people never get to with raytracers. – Jonathan Fischoff Aug 6 '10 at 18:31
I'd second (third?) this suggestion, with the caveat that (as mentioned) it needs to support meshes, and not just stop at shiny-spheres-on-a-chequerboard. Bonus points for any attempt at global illumination. Even if you don't heavily optimise it into something actually useable, you should strive to understand which bits are slow and why. – JasonD Aug 6 '10 at 18:55
And one caveat with this suggestion - while light traveling trough a medium is all there is to graphics, it will give you very little training in what you need in actual (current) production environments. – Kaj Aug 6 '10 at 19:49
+1 writing a ray tracer was the most useful thing I learned in my college graphic's class – Bryan Denny Aug 7 '10 at 17:09

It may be of little practical use these days, but writing at a software renderer, at least a basic one (maybe just some spinning textured cubes), is a worthwhile exercise.

Understanding how to transform, project, clip, depth-sort, rasterize, and texture map polygons yourself will give you a much better understanding of what 3D hardware and rendering APIs are doing

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While not rendering code, I think writing a BSP compiler and accompanying traversal code is a nice exercise in vector maths.
Secondly, a deferred renderer. Not because it's the end-all answer to rendering, but it'll give you insight in another approach to rendering.

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Learn the mechanics and skills of writing good shaders. While not 100% necessary in all cases, it's a valuable skill to know.

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I agree with your answer however it's too broad and some resources and links to them wouldn't hurt for a complete answer :). – lukas.pukenis Jun 30 '14 at 13:50

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