The Media Room
Dang, school's not supposed to start yet
Despite two TVs and a projection screen up front and Nokia flat panel displays on each desk, the conference room had a classroom-like feel to it at first. No big round or elliptical shaped table - just a few rows of small tables that sat four people abreast, not unlike a classroom. Of course, part of that feel was our own fault - We were the only ones nerdy enough to actually carry in notebooks and pens to jot down notes. Not everything felt like being in school though. Opposite to what we'd do in a real classroom (sit in the back corner and fall asleep), we took chairs up front and center so as not to miss out on anything. Also, Jeremy Allford's (AGN3D) **cough**unobtrusive**cough** camera crew helped break that class room feel as well. Just joking around, Jeremy!
What's under the hood
Two computer systems were hooked up in the room. One was running a Voodoo 3 as a sort of "control" or point of reference for comparison. The other system had four Obsidian Voodoo 2s hooked together (that's a whopping EIGHT Voodoo 2 cards, kids) to help emulate what we should expect in the next board from 3dfx. Those two systems outputted to the two TVs up front, and also to our desktop LCD displays. During the presentation we got to see Need For Speed 3 running, and a 3dfx technology demo on our flat screens. We didn't get to see any new board at the conference though. Interestingly enough, at no point during the briefing was the phrase "Voodoo 4" ever mentioned by 3dfx staff. This was a technology demonstration, nothing more, nothing less.
Hollywood on your desktop
Before 3dfx CTO Scott Sellers came on to describe the T-buffer technology, Michael Howse went up share 3dfx's strategy when it comes to technological implementation. The overall goal, according to 3dfx, is to bring Hollywood quality animation to a real time environment on consumer desktop computers. Throughout the presentation, 3dfx staff showed clips from Pixar's "A Bug's Life" in order to demonstrate the kind of features that 3dfx wants to arm developers with. 3dfx wants 3D games to more closely resemble what you see in a good movie, and they're prepared to go out and evangelize game developers (as they have in the past) to get them to include the new features in upcoming games.
"Frame Rate is still king"
3dfx critics might be scratching their heads at this point, saying that image quality never seemed to be 3dfx's primary goal. Indeed, the Voodoo 3 seemed to be leapfrogged by the TNT in this regard due to the fact that 3dfx's boards were limited to 16 bit color and texture sizes of 256x256. Before the question could be asked, Michael was quick to mention that "Frame rate is still king." Basically, 3dfx believes it's not worth it to roll out new advances in visual technology unless those advances can come without sacrificing a good frame rate. So what is a good framerate? The magic numbers are 60 frames per second and 1024 x 768. According to 3dfx, unless you can get your feature set to run at least 60fps at a resolution of 1024x768, the viewer is not going to become immersed into the digital environment.