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Let's say I don't want to make a game. I specifically want to mess around with a low-level 3D graphics API, because I'm bored and I want to learn something new. I want to work on programming problems with a strong visual component (something like this), because I'm a visual thinker and I like visual problems.

So I spend a few hours on Google, and what the heck? What's all this nonsense about fixed-function and programmable pipelines? Why are there so many darned API choices? What if I have an integrated Intel card that only supports OpenGL 2.1, but for some reason supports Direct3D 10, which is apparently the better "programmable" version? I like the Linux command line, but should I switch over to Windows because of D3D10? You're saying that I can do OpenGL ES graphics programming on my smartphone?

What should I use, given my circumstances of wanting to learn low-level 3D graphics and having an integrated Intel card? There are too many choices, and I honestly don't know what to research.

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Certainly a "which technology to use question". These are considered off topic for the site because they're not constructive. Essentially the only answer is "Pick one that works for you and does what you want". Which is essentially the answer you have below. –  Byte56 Jan 10 '13 at 21:49
    
Not game related == by definition OT! You can rework the question to make it on topic though, by centering it around the question you've got embedded in there ("Why are there so many darned API choices?") –  bobobobo Jan 10 '13 at 22:41
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closed as not constructive by Byte56, bobobobo, Trevor Powell, Tetrad Jan 10 '13 at 22:48

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

What should I use, given my circumstances of wanting to learn low-level 3D graphics and having an integrated Intel card? There are too many choices, and I honestly don't know what to research.

This was mentioned before but the gist of the matter is - it doesn't matter which 3D API you use, the underlying operations are mostly the same and thus they conform to a similar interface, whether it be OpenGL or Direct3D.

If you would like to learn 3D graphics programming regardless of the API, there are plenty of books that pick either OpenGL or Direct3D, and go over the concept and show how to apply it to that API.

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