id Software may have retreated from the spotlight in recent years, but John Carmack has by no means lost his status as a games industry rock star. What does he think of the recent breed of graphics processors from AMD and Nvidia? That's precisely what he was asked by the folks at PC Gamer, and his response is rather interesting:
Let me caution this by saying that this is not necessarily a benchmarked result. We've had closer relationships with Nvidia over the years, and my systems have had Nvidia cards in them for generations. We have more personal ties with Nvidia. As I understand it, ATI/AMD cards are winning a lot of the benchmarks right now for when you straight-out make synthetic benchmarks for things like that, but our games do get more hands-on polish time on the Nvidia side of things.
Carmack goes on to praise Nvidia's developer relations program, saying he can always "drop an email for an obscure question" and get a response. Certainly, judging by the sheer number of titles bearing a "The Way It's Meant To Be Played" seal, Nvidia must have considerable resources allocated there.
That said, Carmack points out that graphics cards from both AMD and Nvidia are "insanely powerful," and that even integrated graphics are improving—a development he expects to make things "scary" for Nvidia, which has effectively been pushed out of the integrated graphics arena by AMD and Intel. The shift toward capable integrated graphics may be bittersweet for the industry as a whole, too. On the one hand, having a solid GPU in every x86 processor would really democratize PC gaming; on the other, as Carmack points out, marginalizing a key player like Nvidia so that it's "not to be able to do the continuous R&D" would be a definite downside.
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