Main differences between luminance and other famous Rust crates

luminance, glium, gfx-rs, vulkano, amethyst, spectra
Wed Mar 28 18:40:00 2018 UTC, by Dimitri Sabadie — feed

It’s been a while since I’ve been wanting to do this. Either on IRC, Reddit, GitHub Issues, IRL or other any other way of communicating, there are more and more people asking me to compare luminance to other, well known and famous, rendering-like frameworks.

I’ve made a listing with pros and cons. in the README file of luminance. I’ll just copy that section and report it below so that you’re not even a click away from the listing!

How does it compare to…

A lot of folks have asked me on IRC / Reddit / gitter / etc. how luminance compares to other famous frameworks. Here are a few comparisons:

luminance vs. glium

glium has been around for a while – way longer than luminance.

According to, glium is no longer actively developed by its original author.

  • It has more macros to generate impl, which is neat – however, this tends to be less and less true as luminance has been getting new macros lately.
  • It addresses the OpenGL concepts more directly. For instance, you find a glium::VertexBuffer type – a buffer to hold vertices – while luminance gives you a Tess type that hides that kind of complexity away for you.
  • glium doesn’t prevent you to pick a specific version of OpenGL / GLSL if you want to. For instance, the sample uses GLSL140. luminance is different on that side as it must be used with an OpenGL 3.3 Core Context – hence a GLSL330. This can be seen as a luminance drawback as it will only work with a specific version of OpenGL (GL 3.3 and GLSL 330).
  • Drawing is done by requesting a Frame object in glium and passing the whole pipeline at once. The pipeline then must be completely resolved prior to render. See this. luminance is more flexible on that side since it enables you to provide the rendering pipeline in a dynamic way, allowing for tricky structure traversal without cloning nor borrowing, for instance. glium requires a tuple of (vertices, indices, program, uniforms, render_state) while luminance works by building the AST node by node, level by level.
  • The program customization (uniforms) feature of glium is per-value while luminance is per-type. In glium, you can change the uniforms you pass to a program by using the uniform! macro when invoking the draw command on your Frame. This has the effect to lookup the uniform in the shader for every call – modulo caching – and requires you to explicitly pass the uniforms to use. luminance uses a contravariant approach here: you give the type of the uniform interface you want to use and you will be, later, handed back a reference to an object of that type so that you can alter it. All of this is done at the type level; you have nothing to do when passing values to the shader in the pipeline. Opposite approaches, then. Also, notice that luminance looks up the uniform names exactly once – at Program creation – and provides several hints about uniform utilization (inactive, type mismatch, etc.). glium seems to have runtime type checking as well, though.
  • Linear algebra seems to be handled the same way (e.g. 4×4 matrices are encoded as [[f32; 4] 4] in both crates).
  • Textures are handled a bit similarily, even though, because glium uses a fixed pipeline, the user doesn’t have to do anything special but passing references around. luminance exposes a scoped API to use opaque texture values, which adds more noise. A good point for glium there since the texture passing is just about references while luminance has a specific API for that. This is the same situation for GPU buffers.
  • About vertices, glium is more permissive about how data can be stored on the GPU. For instance, it supports deinterleaved vertices – e.g. when you have your positions in a GPU buffer and the normals or colors in another. luminance requires you to interleave your vertices. This is due to the fact that if you use all your vertex attributes in a shader – which was an assumed situation when designing the vertex API – this will provide better performances than using deinterleaved data (because of cache friendliness). However, for cases when you don’t want to use other attributes – depth peeling, shadow mapping, z-pre-pass, etc. – that might be a huge drawback as you’ll peek / load data from the buffer you won’t even use, killing the point of having a cache-friendly peek.
  • Draw state (i.e. depth test, depth buffer comparison equations, culling, etc.) is done pretty much the same way in both crates: by creating an object representing the state when calling the rendering pipeline.
  • glium supports compute shaders while luminance doesn’t (so far! ;) ).
  • Additionnally, because of the dynamic nature of its pipelines, luminance allows for better sharing of resources, especially shaders and render states. This is due to the fact that luminance represents rendering pipelines as dynamic ASTs in which you can change all the branches and leaves on the fly. See the point about the Frame of glium above.

Sources and tutorials for glium here.

luminance vs. gfx

gfx is a high-performance, bindless graphics API for the Rust programming language. It aims to be the default API for Rust graphics: for one-off applications, or higher level libraries or engines.

The current listing concerns gfx in its’ pre- low level situation. Recent gfx APIs are different.

  • The gfx’s scope is not the same as luminance’s: gfx abstracts over several graphics API. Among them, OpenGL, Metal, DirectX and will clearly attract people who want to write once, release everywhere.
  • gfx requires you to write shader sources for all possible backends. See for instance this example which uses GLSL, HLSL, Metal and even SPIR-V – it even uses several version of GLSL, running in GLSL 100, 120 and 150.
  • Vertex types are defined differently from luminance. In gfx, you use the gfx_defines! macro to easily introduce the types and make named bindings (to map to vertex attributes in shaders). A lot of boilerplate is generated thanks to that macro, which is neat. luminance has a similar scheme even though the macro support in luminance is less advanced. On a general note: luminance is less macro-driven.
  • Similarily, the uniforms are handled in the same gfx_defines! macro. They’re declared in very similar ways as in luminance. However, gfx uses the same syntax as with vertex definition, while luminance has an ad hoc approach – it’s typical Rust code with annotations. That doesn’t make a huge difference per-se. gfx calls uniforms constant, which is nice because it can abstract over the concept, while luminance doesn’t and uses the terms Uniform, Uniformable, UniformInterface, etc.
  • The pipeline system in gfx is also defined in gfx_defines! macro invokations. This is seriously cool and luminance suffers a bit from not having that – defining pipeline in luminance is a bit boring because of lambda / closures boilerplate.
  • In gfx, the GPU buffers are handled via factories and smart constructors, like create_vertex_buffer_with_slice, for instance. This is nice as it enables coping with multi-threading safety, which is something luminance doesn’t support yet (it’s planned, though).
  • gfx comes in with an application abstraction layer, which luminance doesn’t – gfx_app::Application, defined in the gfx_app crate.
  • gfx has a lot of running projects and is actively maintained and changed over time. For instance, both ggez and amethyst use gfx.

On a general note, luminance and gfx pre-ll are way too different to be compared to each other. If you want to target several backends, do not hesitate and go to gfx. If you target only one system and want simplicity, go to luminance.

luminance vs. ggez

ggez is a Rust library to create a Good Game Easily.

As ggez is primarily focused on 2D projects, it doesn’t compare directly to luminance, as it’s about graphics, sound, input, etc. Also, ggez is using gfx.

luminance vs. vulkano

vulkano is a wrapper around the Vulkan graphics API.

The scope is not really the same as vulkano only targets Vulkan and – as for today – luminance is about OpenGL.

luminance vs. amethyst

amethyst is a fast, data-oriented, and data-driven game engine suitable for rapid prototyping and iteration.

As stated in the current document, luminance is not a game engine. So if you’re looking for a tool that already has everything needed to build a game, amethyst should be your toy. Also, it’s using gfx.

luminance vs. piston

piston is a modular game engine written in Rust.

As for other game engines, nothing to compare here since luminance is not a game engine!

luminance vs. spectra

spectra is a demoscene framework / engine mainly written for demoscene purposes, even though it can now be used to some other extents (animation / video game).

spectra uses luminance as primary graphics backend, but it provides way more features than just graphics. You’ll find audio, animation, editing, resource system, custom shading language, etc.