Notes from NVIDIA Editor's Day 2003

Yesterday, NVIDIA held an editor's summit in San Francisco to address a number of common misconceptions regarding its GeForce FX architecture. NVIDIA was uncharacteristically open about what's going on under the hood of its latest GPUs, and five senior engineers were on hand to answer questions about the FX chips, their drivers, and DirectX 9 and benchmarking in general. NVIDIA also rounded up half a dozen game developers, including representatives from Epic, Gearbox, and id, to sing the praises of not only NVIDIA's GeForce FX cards, but also the company's efforts to work closely with developers to optimize game code without having to resort to questionable driver optimizations.

Much of what NVIDIA and its partners had to say will make its way into our next wave of graphics chip reviews, but to tide you over until then, here are a couple of interesting technical revelations to ponder.

  • The GeForce FX has hardware support for floating point texture formats, but thus far, NVIDIA hasn't exposed that functionality in its Detonator FX drivers. According to NVIDIA, floating point texture formats will get full support eventually, but adding support to the driver isn't currently a priority.

  • 16-bit floating point precision should be good enough for High Dynamic Range lighting. OpenEXR, a HDR file format developed by Industrial Light and Magic and used in movies like Harry Potter and Men in Black II, gets by just fine with 16-bit floating point precision.

  • According to id Software President Todd Hollenshead, id is now using GeForce FX cards on its development systems for Doom 3. The Doom 3 engine also has a hard-coded frame rate ceiling of 60 frames per second, though it's probably safe to assume that some serious graphics hardware will be needed to achieve that level of performance.

  • Because I'm sure they just couldn't resist, NVIDIA demonstrated a handful of examples of ATI cards producing incorrect output in games and benchmarks. Since NVIDIA put together the presentation, I'm going to hold off on getting into any more detail until I've had a chance to verify NVIDIA's claims with my own test systems. Unfortunately, there's not much I can to do check Radeon 9800 XT image quality from my laptop.
That's all for now, folks. Look for more juicy GeForce FX details in our next wave of graphics chip reviews.
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