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Pixel and Vertex Shading (Page 2/9)

Posted: February 25, 2001
Written by: Tuan "Solace" Nguyen

The Coming of NVIDIA

One day, like a rainstorm out of nowhere, a company called NVIDIA walked in on 3dfx’s party and decided that they were going to be the ones to dethrone the 3D giant and break its spell. NVIDIA fought long and hard and eventually, 3dfx became the one that was left standing in the dust, wondering what to do.

With its arrival on the scene, NVIDIA introduced chips that were squarely aimed at 3dfx. Ever since its well-known competitive entry with the Riva 128 processor (NV1 was its first, but wasn't much competition), NVIDIA’s line of hardware became increasingly powerful with each generation. Unlike 3dfx’s shaky schedules and announcements, NVIDIA never missed its mark and now reigns as the number one manufacturer and developer of 3D graphics technology worldwide.

The Birth of GeForce2

That’s right, I said GeForce2 as in “Ge-Force-Two”. With its entry, NVIDIA introduced some important key features that will be on every other designer’s list of important features to include if they want to stay alive.

The GeForce2 series upped the ante on the original GeForce feature set by including what is known as the NSR or NVIDIA Shading Rasterizer. The NSR enabled game developers to add detail to their games without major performance hits.

Up to this point in time, virtually every 3D game out there has been designed on similar concept and techniques. Let’s use id Software’s latest creation as an example -- Quake 3, a prime example of cutting edge 3D done right in action. If you take a look at the marvelous graphics and then take a look at every other 3D game before it, you’ll begin (hopefully) to pick up on certain things that are missing. And virtually every game in existence right now is missing on one key feature.

The Need For Detail

A 3D game mainly consists of polygons and textures, and those textures are mapped onto polygons. Everything looks nice for a while until you begin to pay attention to detail. Suddenly the nice looking walls look flat, the floors look flat, the objects in the game look flat; just about everything in the game looks flat. There are bricks on the wall but they look flat. There are holes in the ground but there are no holes. There are grooves and bumps on the mech but the mech looks flat.

Basically it became apparent that a good-looking texture mapped onto a surface was no longer enough. Games needed more detail. Surfaces needed to look like what they were drawn to be. A brick needed to have the roughness of one. And orange needed to have its dimples and pores.

Attention to Detail

Because the questions needed to be heard and answered and no one was answering, Matrox decided that it would be the one to answer the questions. Matrox became the first company to successfully implement a method of increasing visual details on surfaces. They did it with a technology called Environment Mapped Bump Mapping. EMBM significantly added detail for textures and objects in a game while minimizing the power to do so.

Although EMBM was good, it wasn’t good enough and once again, the prowler known as NVIDIA came in.

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