Everybody’s favorite gaming geek programmer, John Carmack of id Software, has updated his .plan with information on Doom 3 and the recent video card offerings from NVIDIA and ATI, called by their codenames NV30 and R300, respectively. Here are the highlights:
- R300 can run in three modes, the NVIDIA card in five. He runs an NV30 in his workstation so he can test more modes with one piece of hardware.
- The modes correspond to increasing levels of quality, but some modes are vendor specific.
- The default mode on R300 now is ARB2, which I think is the highest quality mode. In this mode, the NV30 runs at half the speed of the R300.
- In the vendor-specific NV30 mode, however, the NV30 wins in speed, but how the quality compares to ARB2, isn’t clear to me.
- NVIDIA says it can improve ARB2 performance with improved compiler technology
- The NV30 makes enough noise to annoy the otherwise fan-noise-immune Carmack.
- NVIDIA’s drivers are still better, but ATI’s are continuing to improve
- For developers, the cards offer some choices. Slower fragment programs on the NV30, but large instruction counts. Faster on the R300, but program limits that he’s already encountered.
- For consumers, he says the choice is not clear cut at all, especially with the 2-slot requirement and loud fan on the NV30.
Carmack then goes on to discuss very technical details of programming the latest cards and some information on the Doom3 engine. As far as I can tell, it’s mostly non-game-related.
For context, keep in mind that (a) the NV30 is not out on the market yet, and will cost a lot when it does, (b) the R300 cards that are out already are performance competitive with the NV30, (c) NVIDIA will probably have Linux driver support the day that the cards are available to the public, and (d) there are currently no fully-featured, 3D drivers for the R300 under Linux. (If this situation has changed, let me know.)