FiringSquad: With GeForce3 Ti 200's $200 price tag, we're expecting a lot of gamers will pick up this board with the intent of overclocking it to GeForce3 levels or beyond. Could you describe the process NVIDIA goes through when determining frequencies for the core? Obviously you pick up the highest speed that nets you good yields, but could you elaborate a bit more on this process?
David Kirk: I think that the real motivation is for us to be able to provide a selection of products for all performance needs and budgets. We try to make the products that people want to buy.
The GeForce3 architecture scales very well with clockrate. As we manufacture GPUs, they are tested for maximum operating speed. Of course, we also need to leave some margin, to make sure that our customers get a reliable and stable experience.
FiringSquad: Historically rendering shadows has caused a huge hit in performance. What steps have you taken to minimize this and roughly what kind of performance hit should we expect to take?
David Kirk: GeForce3 has specifically optimized paths for rendering shadows. These paths are widely available to developers through DirectX and OpenGL. A well-implemented game should see very little slowdown for enabling shadows. Shadows buffers turn shadows in to a finesse feature instead of a brute force feature, because developers are able to make use of the same pipeline that is used for normal rendering. Previous shadow buffer implementations do poorly with combinations of small and objects, or nearby and faraway objects, but the GeForce3's shadow buffer technology uses higher precision arithmetic than previous techniques, making shadows much cleaner.
FiringSquad: In the shadow buffers white paper, you mention that shadow buffer technology was used in the Final Fantasy movie. How feasible is it to implement Final Fantasy-like graphics on the PC?
David Kirk: Technically it is very feasible, as witnessed by the fact we are playing back the Final Fantasy movie in real-time and allowing you to interact with the scene. With new levels of programmability and the sheer horsepower today's GPUs provide, the hardware is pretty close today. Even with Final Fantasy, you can tell that 3D graphics still has a lot of headroom. Even though the movie was a technical milestone, you never really forget you are watching animation. There are still a lot of subtle reminders.
We have a long way to go before we get to photo realistic 3D. Luxo Jr. is possible today, Final Fantasy is close, but graphics artists are already giving us new milestones to aim at, like Monsters Inc. Financially it is a different matter. It takes a powerful GPU and a pretty powerful PC to play back Final Fantasy in real time. Game developers historically have had to aim for a lowest common denominator for minimum system requirements to expand their total available market and not limit their game to only the power user crowd. Final Fantasy graphics in a game would be limited only to the power user crowd.