iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Interview with John Spitzer, Director of Developer Technology, NVIDIA


1. In connection with a growing number of game consoles many developers have turned to this market segment. The PC sector can thus get overboard as PC games appear much later than console versions or do not appear at all. How do you think the market might develop?

In my opinion, things are not that bad. Fightings and car simulators are traditionally very popular on the console market, while flight simulators, strategies, FPS, RPG games have strong positions exactly on the PC market. There is a kind of a balance which should last long. At the same time, game markets might mutually penetrate each other. By the way, our Cg language will also foster that penetration providing cross-platforming and scalability to game developers. As a result, one will be able to play the same game on console and PC in different modes optimal for various hardware. A choice of platform and game genre remains user privilege.

2. At the moment a number of game developers wonder whether it makes sense to develop games for just another "FX", if only several millions of these are to be available following one another at a terrific rate?

The answer can be divided into two parts. The first is about presentation: you should agree that backed with a comprehensive bundle of new special effects, game should look much more attractive for users than one utilizing capabilities of Riva TNT only. Second, the current high-end hardware (for example, NV30), up to DX10, will be stepping down to the mainstream segment or even lower in about a year. Games being developed today will be selling in a year exactly, so it will look strange if they do not utilize mainstream hardware capabilities of that time. As a GPU making company we have to put forth certain efforts pushing game developers towards the real support of maximum current and even oncoming GPU features.

3. Today, when almost all game projects utilize 3D graphics, in-game monsters population has noticeably reduced. Having got used to battling crowds, today we go into face-to-face action. When is this problem going to be solved, so we see galloping hordes again?

First of all, do not expect a revolution or breakthrough to happen. This is a subject to evolutionary development. Performance of today's PCs (including graphics subsystem) and gameplay are balanced to a certain degree. It's clear that gaming component will evolve, but this will proceed bit by bit depending on hardware capabilities. Besides, if we launch the all-round best graphics card tomorrow, we'll have nothing more to do :). That's why the progress is to be gradual.

4. Speaking of enemy models I'm just bound to ask you about new character technologies. Players don't need usual stereotyped characters anymore, they want individual traits, to see their heroes interact with game environment affecting and being affected.

Surely everyone wants that. We, at NVIDIA, do our best: consult game developers, provide tools (graphics cards, Cg toolkit) along with all other support possible. But we can't make them pack all possible features into their games, as any final decisions are up to them. It's a right of game developer to sacrifice character visual quality to improve landscape accuracy. Players vote with their wallets buying games they like. So, our respected readers have every chance to influence the game industry.

5. OpenGL and Direct3D. Which one is to lead in the future?

That's a traditional question :-) In short, until DX becomes cross-platform, there's nothing to happen with OpenGL. Both APIs will coexist and be developed concurrently. I think the worst disadvantage of OpenGL is proprietary extensions. So, developers have to use additional chip-specific instructions to provide support for certain GPUs in games. If OGL community adopts a single standard to make abstract programming independent to GPU specificity, it will be a step forward. By the way, Cg will be able to offer this in the near future.

Besides, OGL already thrives in CAD/CAM and graphics design fields. As to the PC game market, no need to worry about OGL when there's iD Software.

6. Why games supporting dynamic landscape forming are so rare these days? For example, Red Faction supported GeoMod technology, but its influence was minor and hardly affected the gaming. When is terraforming going to become natural?

I guess, it should happen soon. The matter is that landscape creation techniques that do not burden CPU much are already available. As soon as these are applied, they will introduce beautiful landscapes at smooth frame rates. By the way, one of those methods - cLOD - was developed by Petr Popov, the RightMark 3D project member.

7. Will we see drivers offering advanced settings for certain games?

It's quite possible that games developed with NVIDIA Cg, on NVIDIA's hardware and bearing NVIDIA's logo will arrive soon. They will work flawlessly on systems with NVIDIA GPU-based graphics cards.

8. How are you going to promote new solutions? There are not so many people willing to pay $500 to play Unreal2 with comfort. Today, sales of high-end games are reducing on the PC market... Doesn't this resemble a crisis situation?

We, at NVIDIA, support both game developers and large retail networks. We conduct various marketing programs which include staff training and consultancy, marking games with NVIDIA's logo, etc. I wouldn't call the current situation a crisis, this is rather a result of global economy downturn.

9. What games will initially support GeForce FX key features, and what will be GeForce FX performance in current games?

I communicate with game developers much, but unfortunately I can't disclose everything. Still, Doom3 will support the volumetric stencil buffer for shadows, andthe GeForce FX family will noticeably boost visual quality. Just wait until some new games are officially announced this year making everything clearer.

10. Don't you think that today, when PC power has increased significantly, developers spend less time on global optimization believing that hardware will bear everything anyway?

Well, there is such a trend, but this is one of the reasons hardware and software evolve! :-) Applications are being developed in less time. Developers and end users have to upgrade their hardware to keep up with the progress and play and work comfortably. Our Cg may foster developers' laziness regarding manual optimization since it simplifies many processes, especially routines. On the other hand, Cg provides application scalability enabling optimal performance on any GPU type.

As you might have already noticed I like Cg very much. And so do many game developers :-)

Thank you for your answers!


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