Slashdot linked a story from PC World Wednesday that details what currently amounts to a battle of vaporware between NVIDIA and ATI. The debate centers around ATI's recently announced SmartShader, which supports DirectX 8.1's Pixel Shader 1.4 standard. Meanwhile the current king of the hill, the GF3, only supports Pixel Shader 1.3.
In what was surely a glorious battle between the fanboys in the Slashdot comments, a certain developer by the name of John Carmack dropped by and delivered a healthy two cents. In this first thread, John discusses what kind of muscle it is going to take to power the DOOM engine and flattens the fizz on ATI SmartShader hype in the process.
If ATI doesn't do as good of a job with the memory interface, or doesn't get the clock rate up as high as NVidia, they will still lose.
The pixel operations are a step more flexible than Nvidia's current options, but it is still clearly not where things are going to be going soon in terms of generality.
Developers are just going to need to sweat out the diversity or go for a least common denominator for the next couple years.
In John's second post, he discusses the performance impact of the DOOM engine on hardware and the framerates he expects the hardware to provide. He also gives a unique perspective to the direction that he feels graphics hardware needs to go.
In the GLQuake days, light maps were considered an extravagance ("Render the entire screen TWICE? Are you MAD?"), and some unfortunate hardware companies just thought increased performance meant higher resolutions and more triangles instead of more complex pixel operations. Five passes sounds like a lot right now, but it will be just as quaint as dual texturing in the near future. I am quite looking forward to 100+ operations per interaction in future work.
It seems the days of "speed is king" are nearing the end. NVIDIA continues to expand and execute in all the right directions with their constant feature growth. Meanwhile, ATI follows NVIDIA's lead closely, adding slightly enhanced features in the battle for perceived technical superiority.
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