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3dfx Interview

by Bubba "Masterfung" Wolford


Our questions are in red. Our comments are in italics. Scott Sellers responses are in black and normal font. We have requested an interview with Nvidia so that we can grant "fair time." Up to now, they have chosen not to call us back. When we hear back from them, we will post an interview as quickly as possible.

These questions were sent to 3dfx last week and we sincerely appreciate Scott Sellers, founder and CTO of 3dfx, taking the time to answer them.

Q) You've stated that your next part will have 32-bit color depth output. Didn't 3dfx just earlier this year state that gamers don't need more than 16-bit color, or is this merely a continuation of your 60 FPS first policy and that we can expect to see games running in 32-bit color at such speeds?

A: We have never stated that gamers "don't need more than 16-bit color". Instead, what we've always been very consistent in saying is that maintaining 60 fps is the number one priority, and that we did not want to release a product until we could sustain that framerate with 32-bit color enabled. Our next product will certainly be able to sustain 60 fps while running at high resolutions and 32-bit color.

Well, we do seem to recall a time when 3dfx stated that we did not need more than 16-bit color because 32-bit caused too heavy a framerate hit. Now that it appears that everyone (including 3dfx) has moved to 32-bit, they are pushing that 32-bit color should be a standard. Some gamers think 32-bit color was a standard a year ago when TNT hit the shelves. Clearly, there is a framerate hit when running 32-bit color the amount however, seems to be indicative of the resolution the game is running and what each person considers an "acceptable" framerate…

Q) Since Glide has been written in 16-bit color for so many years, what process is involved in getting Glide standard to 32-bit color while remaining backwards compatible with 16-bit Glide?

A: This is actually very straightforward. With Glide 3, we have an extension mechanism which allows us to add new features while maintaining complete backwards compatibility. So, it's really not a problem to add something like 32-bit color and also keep compatibility.

This is certainly great news! Some were concerned that games might suffer from "backwards incompatibility" when the move was made to Glide in 32-bit color. It seems that 3dfx has made provisions for this issue and are not concerned by it. Of course, time will tell if this hold true.

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Q) Current memory speed and interfaces seem to be limiting fill rates from achieving their peak levels. Since rumors abound that the Next Generation Chip will be a fill rate monster, can you give us any hints at how you expect to overcome this limitation?

A: 3dfx has always been the king of fill-rate, and we expect to remain there with our next generation product. I can't get into the details right now of how we intend to do that, but maintaining fill-rate dominance was a big factor in the design of the next generation product and we believe we have succeeded in that goal.

Here we go again! Another hint toward an awesome fill-rate but no numbers! This is exactly the reason Kenn Hwang from Thresh's Firingsquad and I have labeled 3dfx, " 3TeaseFX". So what we are left with (with regards to the fillrate) is speculation about what the product might "be" and since that is not exactly fair to do without some numbers, let's not go there. We can however say that 3dfx expects to be able to reach 60 FPS at 1024x768 in 32-bit color. That alone would be outstanding not to mention the effects that T-Buffer and FXT1 will bring!

Q) Since the introduction of the GeForce 256, many have questioned how the next generation 3dfx chip will stack up. However, given the specs for the Savage 2000, it appears that S3's chipset is the one that is really leading the pack right now. You have mentioned that you believe the next 3dfx card will be better than GF256 in most games. . .do you feel the same about the Savage 2000?

A: Actually, we try not to judge a potential competitor's product simply based on spec sheets. We can only really comment on our ability to compete against the GeForce 256 because we've seen it in action and Nvidia has pretty much fully disclosed that part.

S3, on the other hand, has not demonstrated their product publicly (at least to my knowledge) and so we really don't know whether their product lives up to the hype or not. All we can go on is S3's track record of delivering products which are compelling for the OEM markets because they are feature rich, but are not particularly successful in the gaming market because of their lackluster performance in real-world games and applications.

As a result, we'll have to wait and see some early reviews on Savage 2000 before we can go in depth of how we intend to dominate that product in the gaming sector. S3 has the experience behind them, so we are keeping a close eye on them.

It is definitely ironic that S3 is riding the high life on their spec sheet. Of course, everything is speculation until we see real world performance. It is troubling, however, that even though Nvidia and S3 have announced their chipset, they have not released any actual FPS numbers. Could it be that they want to ride the hype all the way to product release hoping that 3dfx is late?

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