3dfx: T-Buffer Technology
by Bubba "Masterfung" Wolford
Over the past year 3dfx and Nvidia have been locked in battle for the best 3D hardware accelerator title. While 3dfx pursued their goal of being the fastest contender, Nvidia fought 3dfx on the notion of 32-bit color and larger texture sizes.
Nvidia has taken the stand that 32-bit rendering is here today and can be accomplished without any real loss in frames-per-second (FPS). While the argument of how much frame-rate loss continues to escalate on the 3D front, no one could argue that eventually 3dfx would have to leave 16-bit rendering behind and enter the 32-bit 3D acceleration world. I would wager that virtually every person keeping up with the 3D wars wagered that 3dfx would announce 32-bit rendering in their next product.
Over the last few days, 3dfx invited a select few journalists to their offices in San Jose, California to inspect a new hardware technology named after 3dfx's Chief Technical Officer, Gary Tarolli.
What I discovered in the offices at 3dfx was more than a promise to do 32-bit rendering, but instead a new revolution in the the way that gamers see and play their games. Never again will Nvidia be able to claim that 3dfx is weak on image quality. Instead, this week, 3dfx cornered their opponent and placed him on the ropes, redefining the battle and shoving image quality down Nvidia's throat.
Gary Tarolli, architect of the 3dfx T-Buffer.
Allow me to introduce you to the new way gamers will be playing this Christmas. Although 3dfx is still mum on the specs, name and actual release date of their next generation chip, they made it clear that the next product will be capable of running any game at full 32-bit rendering, in resolutions of 1024x768 and above, with larger texture sizes than 256x256, at 4X AGP, with the new T-Buffer technology onboard at a speed of 60 FPS.
What is the T-Buffer technology? Let me show you.
3dfx T-Buffer Technology
T-Buffer is a proprietary 3D rendering technology that will bring real-time, full-motion photorealism to the PC through the use of real-time hardware acceleration of full screen spatial anti-aliasing, motion blur and depth of field. I realize that previous sentence was quite a mouthful so lets look at each of these new technologies one by one so we can understand how each of these new solutions effects what we play and do on the computer.
Real-time Full Screen Spatial Anti-Aliasing
Chances are that the majority of you have heard of anti-aliasing (AA) but really do not know what it means or exactly how it effects what we play and do on a computer. Those who have seen AA or do know what it does, probably also know that there is absolutely no way to enable AA in a game and be able to play that game with anything approaching a playable frame rate.
Aliasing is an attempt to store data in the memory and then reproduce that data on the screen. What happens to basic AA is that it suffers from under-sampling, which basically means that there is more data that needs to be stored than can be stored in the cards memory. The net result is that some of the data is lost due to memory bandwidth requirements and thus we get some image degradation and loss of image information.
What AA does to the image rendered on our computer is that it attempts to clean up and removed jagged edges and rough polygons in everything from onscreen text to full scene pictures and rendered 3D games. However, all attempts to enable AA to this point have been through software hacks and when enabled, have given us only partial AA and not total spatial AA as 3dfx is doing. The net result is that the screen is only partially cleaned and there is still a lot of "polygonal popping" and a very noticeable shimmering effect.
Another noticeable effect of bad AA is the constant appearance and disappearance of an object on the screen. One second a light pole off in the distance is a solid line and the next; it is a partially broken line that has noticeable jaggedness (or a stair-stepping look) all about. In other words, it looks extremely UGLY.
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Last Updated July 30th, 1999