Talking with ATI
When ATI first announced
its new "Next Generation 3D Graphics Technologies" in the middle of last week, we thought ATI was taking a page from 3dfx's book by announcing new graphics technologies before an actual product. That's why we were surprised when ATI informed us that there was a machine running real Rage 6 silicon in the meeting room. Of course, we had ask permission to yank out the card and take pictures for our readers.
The Rage 6
Apparently, the alpha silicon was only days old, and ATI was able to get it up and running after working three days straight to have machines ready for GDC. This is particularly impressive since last time it took ATI months to get its silicon working.
We'll brief you on the main points of the ATI presentation. We'll quote extensively from the presentation since ATI is already concise and straightforward. Like 3dfx and NVIDIA, ATI is also calling for "Hollywood on the desktop" which isn't surprising since the analogy works well with everything the PC 3D graphics industry is trying to accomplish.
In the words of ATI, to achieve "3D graphics that look as good as a big-budget Hollywood movie," we need "realistic characters that show lifelike emotions and lush, detailed environments," but all of it has to be "interactive and rendered in real time." In a sense, the big-budget CG movies have it easy since they don't have to deal with the interactive element -they just have to make sure the picture looks good in a predetermined set of frames. In games, especially FPS or adventure games, there could be an almost infinite number of possible angles and character interactions that need to be dealt with.
What ATI wants
ATI wants developers to concentrate on actual content creation instead of wasting time trying to work around hardware limitations. The hardware shouldn't be a limiting factor at all.
ATI also wants developers to be able to make games with characters that "look natural and detailed, move and bend smoothly, have a wide variety of animations, have visible emotions and lifelike facial expressions." These characters also have to be "unique and plentiful." Objects must "have complex shapes and forms, show fine details when viewed at any distance or angle, accurately reflect light and the surrounding environment, and cast dynamic shadows from all light sources." Environments must "exhibit realistic behavior for liquids, clouds and fog, and are dynamic and deformable in real time."
How is ATI going to do all this? That's where the Charisma Engine and Pixel Tapestry Architecture come into play.