One of the more technical DirectX conferences is Microsoft’s own Meltdown (July 16, 17 in Seattle or July 29, 30 in London) and is a premier chance to learn from the DirectX team directly. If you don’t get a chance to attend any of the other conferences and are interested in learning some hard-core DirectX programming then you really can’t beat Meltdown. Learn more about it here. Meltdown covers all aspects, from shader programming to QA’ing DirectX apps, including the test suites, where you can bring your code and run it on the latest GPUs and CPUs and talk to the engineers about how to optimize your software. If you’re just interested in graphics, however, you might want to wait till ATI & NVIDIA hold their own mini-conferences (typically in California and England). The European Meltdown is inconveniently concurrent with Siggraph this year. There’s a discount for early registration, so don’t dawdle.
Yesterday Trident Microsystems, Inc. announced that it has pulled out of the graphics chips market after less than a year and will focus on its digital TV & set-top-box business. The graphics division was sold to SIS and will be merged with SIS’s graphics subsidiary XGI (Xabre Graphics, Inc.). The details haven’t been released, but SiS said the move was to help it in notebook graphics.
This story get keeps getting more interesting. On June 2nd FutureMark retreated a bit from earlier claims, stating that they’d run across some optimizations and not cheats when testing the latest drivers from NVIDIA..
The latest twist involves further evidence of something fishy. Both Tech-Report and ExtremeTech report that by renaming the 3DMark03 executable, NVIDIA’s scores dropped when using the latest DetonatorFX drivers. Running the test with the original name produced one set of scores and pixel-perfect images from run to run, Renaming the executable produced lower scores and generated slightly different images. Hmmmm.
In a sad conclusion to one of the more interesting companies in the game business, 3DO files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California, and will try to sell off the company and/or its assets. CEO Trip Hawkins said the company is expected to continue to operate as it works through the bankruptcy process. “This filing gives us more time to complete transactions in the interest of our stockholders,” Hawkins said. “While we hope that this news will generate additional new opportunities, at this point we are focused on pursuing either the sale of the entire company or the sale of its assets.”
This must have been a particularly difficult statement for Hawkins, who left EA to found 3DO in 1993 and has repeatedly bolstered the company’s coffers with personal loans when funds ran low – to a total of about $US 12 million. You can read about 3DO’s early hardware history here. But it’s never really been smooth sailing for 3DO, a company originally founded to create its own game console and eventually forced by a harsh market (and a $US 700 price tag) to write software for other’s consoles. The company was recently in danger of getting delisted from NASDAQ but issued a 1 for 8 reverse stock split earlier this year and secured a $US 10 million credit line, but poor sales left it unable to fully use the credit and apparently even Hawkins own steadfast fidelity to 3DO reached its Rubicon. On May 8 the company warned employees that there would be a mass layoff in July. (Large companies are required by law to give at least 60 days notice when mass layoffs are impending.) May 13 3DO announced that it was exploring its options, including a merger or selling publishing rights to its games in progress, but to no avail and 3DO filed for Chapter 11 on May 29th.
No doubt you’ve all seen the fantastic NVIDIA Dawn demo – each year at GDC, E3, Siggraph, etc. we see better and better graphics card demos. If you noticed in the last few years we’ve gone from cool looking 3D things to human demos – either full bodies or facial animation. As anyone who’s attempted it will tell you, recreating a digital human is the toughest task you can attempt. Actually there’s two tough tasks – one is getting it to sound right (which we still can’t do believably) – the other is getting it to look right, which is barely possible. NVIDIA’s latest entry is Dawn (and her darker sister, Dusk). NVIDIA has a really outstanding demo in Dawn and it shows that we’re close to getting photorealistic human representations on PC’s – first probably in games, but eventually they’ll be pretty ubiquitous.
How’re you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm (after they’ve seen Paree)? When I worked on photorealistic human faces we had some research on human bodies and, yes, there was some focus on the bouncy bits (unfortunately by the art department, not development) – not only was it good clean fun, but it was our company’s goal of leading the way in eventually creating a photorealistic avatar or non-player character – and don’t think if the bit’s didn’t bounce correctly folks wouldn’t notice. ATI used our Rachel head for a demo (not rendered to our liking, see a screen capture from our demo here – much better!). As we’ve seen that pretty much any female character released into the world can go – well – less than wholesome. From a naked Lara Croft (patch here) to Final Fantasy’s Aki posing for a men’s magazine (pix).
So it was no surprise that eventually there was a Dawn patch (Dawn nekkid patch). Well, that’s no surprise except that the patch seems to be just that, apparently hacking the code to put in the nekkid bits. But more seriously Dawn’s apparently be cheating on NVIDIA with, *gasp* ATI! Yes, since most video card demos are written in OpenGL, it’s pretty easy to hack OpenGL and intercept the calls that get made. Well, a little bit twiddling had allowed Dawn’s NVIDIA extensions to get mapped to work on an ATI RADEON 9800 (find out about it here). According to the results (unconfirmed by me), Dawn may be a fast girl (er, faery), but she’s faster on a RADEON 9800 (by about 15%).