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Tuesday, August 14, 2001

ATI Announces Radeon 8500 for Mac
6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

After much speculation, ATI has finally announced the successor to their powerful 3D Radeon graphics cards, the Radeon 8500. Looking to answer the challenge posed earlier this year by NVIDIA's GeForce 3, the 8500 packs 64MB of RAM, their SmartShader and Truform technologies, as well as a similar $399 price tag. The card is expected out for both Mac and PC next month in AGP form.

While the company also announced two other cards, the 7500 and 8800, there is no indication yet that either will be available on the Mac. Here is an excerpt from the press release:

RADEON(TM) 8500: The Ultimate Gaming Graphics Card The RADEON 8500 is powered by the most advanced graphics technology in the world, and features 64MB of DDR (double data rate) memory, digital flat panel (DVI) support as well as dual monitor and video output, and DVD (digital versatile disc) video playback. The first gaming card with complete hardware support for DirectX 8.1, the RADEON 8500 will be available in late September and has an MSRP of (US) $399.

"The RADEON 8500 clearly positions ATI as the technology and performance leader in the enthusiast segment of the PC desktop market, providing an unequalled visual experience for games," said Rick Bergman, Senior Vice President of Marketing & General Manager, Desktop Business, ATI Technologies Inc. "The RADEON 8500 moves our industry's objective of bringing full visual reality to the PC and Mac platforms a quantum step forward."

"Beyond what ATI's RADEON 8500 will do in the way of offering a great 3D platform for next-generation games is what it will do for current games through its innovative TRUFORM technology," said Mark Dochtermann, Technical Director, MumboJumbo. "When playing Myth III on TRUFORM-enabled 3D hardware, the Myrkridia, Trow and other units look much more natural and realistic than ever before, bringing gamers one giant step closer to experiencing full visual reality with this graphics chip."

The power in the Radeon 8500 looks like it might be able to top even the much-praised GeForce 3, though keep in mind that at this point few games will be able to truly take advantage of the features of either. For much more information on the Radeon 8500, read through IMG's look at the card posted today. And stay tuned as more info on the 8500 becomes available as it nears release next month.

Radeon 8500 Press Release
ATI Web Site

More Radeon 8500 Previews
12:57 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

As you might expect the game and hardware sites on the 'net were quite eager to bring their own perspective to ATI's launch of the Radeon 8500 next-generation chipset. Many of the PC previews of the 8500 and 7500 cards are based upon actual hands-on experience with the cards and include benchmarks, though these are of course from pre-production cards and drivers.

Just to clarify an issue mentioned in our preview of this new chipset, the 7500 and FireGL versions of ATIs lineup do not have Mac OS versions planned, though a future version of the 7500 does seem a natural choice for ATI to make in the future. In our discussions with ATI they did leave the door open to such a possibility.

In any case if you just can't get enough 8500 data and details, here's a quick roundup:

Anandtech has the most impressive preview we've seen, with detailed explanations and actual screen shots of Truform and Smoothvision in action. While the technical language may prove a challenge to those who don't follow the hardware market, their assessment of the card and its feature set seems fair and balanced. While the preview does include numerous benchmarks, they caution that this comparison isn't entirely valid -- after all, they are comparing a card which is four to six weeks from release with cards that have drivers with six or more months of refinement in the marketplace. In any case, this one is worth checking out for the comparison screen shots alone.

Other good PC previews have been posted at Tom's Hardware and GameSpot. VoodooExtreme\ is also collecting developer comments about the new cards and listing them on their news page.

Our fellow Mac sites haven't been slackers either; MacGamer and MacCentral both have previews of the 8500 series to offer. Be sure to check out these numerous resources, and then present your own opinion of ATI's frontal assault on the high-end gaming market in our Hardware forums.

MacGamer's Radeon 8500 Preview
IMG Hardware Forum
Inside ATI's New Radeon 8500 at MacCentral
Tom's Hardware Radeon 8500/7500 Preview
GameSpot Radeon 8500 Preview
Anandtech's Radeon 8500, 7500 Preview

Mac Developers React to ATI Announcements
11:40 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

With the big news today being ATI's newly announced Radeon 8500,
IMG contacted Brian Greenstone and Mark Adams, two big names in Mac game
developement, to get their take on the situation. While it's very early yet,
and a very precious few developers have actually seen this hardware up close, we
were curious about their gut reactions.

The Radeon 8500's Truform technology (which is explained in detail in
IMG's preview published early this morning) will help give polygonal structures in games a more
smooth and realistic look. Truform only requires a simple
patch for older games to take advantage of the feature. We were curious if
Westlake or Pangea might consider going back and adding this to their titles.
Here's what Brian had to say about using Truform in the upcoming game Otto

I think the Radeon 8500 (stupid name) is going to kick ass!

A few weeks ago I added in TruForm support for Otto Matic and it only
took about 3 minutes! Maybe [I will add it to] Cro-Mag, but I'm too busy to test a new version.

I'm also looking forward to trying out some of the new Vertex and Pixel shader

It's great to hear Truform is so easy to add to games, and hopefully companies
will take the time to add it to popular older titles.

While Mark also seemed optimistic about the Radeon 8500's capabilities, he
couldn't comment fully on their position with Truform technology yet:

I haven't seen the new hardware yet, although I've talked to people that saw
some demos and it sounds very impressive. We'll certainly be anxious to try
out the cards as soon as we can.

I have talked to ATI engineers about the Truform technology, and we are
interested in seeing whether it will fit into any current or possible older
games. We'll have to wait and see until we get some cards and are able to
play with the tech first.

Thanks go to both Mark and Brian for their continuing hard work, and we look
forward to hearing more about their experiences with the Radeon 8500. Also
read through the ATI press release for a good quote from MumboJumbo's
Mark Dochtermann about Myth III: The Wolf Age. For much more information
on the card, be sure to head over and read through IMG's excellent preview.

IMG News: ATI Announces Radeon 8500 for Mac
IMG Preview of Radeon 8500

OpenGL 1.3 Specification Released
11:35 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

While Mac users are no doubt thrilled at being included in the next great revolution in game graphics, via NVIDIA's GeForce 3 and ATI's Radeon 8500, on the PC side both of these cards brag of DirectX 8.0 or 8.1 compatibility. As there is no such API on the Mac platform, does this mean that PC users will get special graphics effects and features that we will not?

As both NVIDIA and ATI have promised, their next-generation cards will have a full feature set on Mac as well as PC, through the graphics standard OpenGL. And in an announcement which falls too close to the Radeon 8500 launch for mere coincidence, the OpenGL Architecture Review Board has announced the latest version of this open-architecture, cross-platform graphics API. Version 1.3 continues to expand this API by adding support for many of the technologies discussed in our preview article of the Radeon 8500 -- multisampling FSAA, texture apply modes and more.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

SGI (NYSE: SGI - news), a leading provider of high-performance computing and visualization solutions for technical and creative users, and the OpenGL Architecture Review Board (ARB) today announced the availability of the OpenGL® 1.3 specification. With new features and functionality designed to increase the level of graphics quality and realism, the release represents the latest enhancement to the industry's leading cross-platform 2D and 3D graphics application programming interface (API). OpenGL 1.3 implementations are expected to be available for various platforms later this year.

The OpenGL 1.3 specification evolved with input from both the OpenGL ARB, an independent consortium, and interested outside parties, reflecting predominant trends in the graphics hardware industry. The ARB's process of enhancing OpenGL includes evaluating extensions and determining which to incorporate and how they should be officially supported within the API. In OpenGL 1.3, several additional features and functions have been ratified and brought into the API's core functionality. These core features enhance OpenGL in the following ways:

  • Cube map texturing -- for higher quality environment mapping and
    lighting support
  • Multisampling -- for order-independent anti-aliased rendering of
    points, lines and polygons
  • New texture modes that provide more powerful ways of applying textures to rendered objects:

    -- Texture Add Environment mode

    -- Texture Combine Environment mode

    -- Texture Dot3 Environment mode

    -- Texture Border Filtering mode

  • Compressed texture framework -- to allow higher quality textures in
    less memory regardless of file format
It seems clear that SGI and the OpenGL ARB intend to keep feature parity between OpenGL and DirectX, which is good news for Mac gamers and future owners of either NVIDIA or ATI cards.

``Since SGI introduced the OpenGL API in 1992, it has grown into the industry's leading cross-platform 2D and 3D graphics API and its presence continues to grow every day. Applications in markets such as CAD, content creation, energy, entertainment, game development, manufacturing, medical and VRML will benefit from the breadth of platform accessibility and depth and quality of functionality of the new OpenGL 1.3 API,'' said Paul McNamara, vice president of products and platforms, SGI.
OpenGL 1.3 Press Release

Click to enlarge
New Civilization III Screenshots
10:03 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

For those that just can't get enough information on Infogrames' upcoming strategy title Sid Meier's Civilization III, GameSpy has been kind enough to post several new screen shots that reveal some of the new and improved details of this upcoming game.

Prominently featured in the majority of the shots is the new science/technology tree of Civ III. Several different ones are shown, including one for Ancient Times, the Middle Ages, the Industrial Ages, and Modern Times. The Ancient Times tree contains technologies such as Horseback Riding, The Wheel, and Warrior Code. The Middle Ages has ideas such as Theory of Gravity, Chivalry, and Music Theory. The Industrial Ages contain concepts like Advanced Flight, Radio, and Combustion. Finally, the Modern Times have familiar concepts such as Integrated Defense, Stealth, and Genetics.

Also featured is a shot displaying Civ III's new Culture feature, a rating that will affect how well-liked or admired a civilization will be to other civilizations; this will greatly affect diplomacy and possibly prompt imitators. Each major city will have its own culture rating, and various buildings such as Palaces, Temples, and Colosseums can be constructed to improve that rating.

The final screenshot shows the player in diplomatic communications with India's ruler -- Gandhi, at this point in history -- who is offering one gold per turn in exchange for iron. Also shown are what appear to be the player's current agreements, including a rite of passage contract and military alliances.

Civ III seems to be coming along quite nicely. This game is expected to be released in late 2001, and the Mac version should closely follow the PC launch, courtesy of MacSoft and Westlake Interactive.

GameSpy - New Civ III Screenshots
Firaxis Games
Civilization III
Buy Civilization III

On The Death of GodGames
9:27 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

David Laprad, editor at the prolific PC gaming site The Adrenaline Vault, has posted a lengthy editorial memorializing the fallen games publishing company Gathering of Developers. Titled "There But For the Grace of G.O.D.," the editorial takes a close look at the long, troubled history of GoD as well as the possible impact this rogue publishing company's absence will have on the industry in the immediate future.

Here's a sample from the write-up:

Aside from this, what I find most disheartening about the death of the Gathering is how a group of people who three years ago were on fire to change the industry -- people who had no money to get their venture off the ground, but who had enough hardwired drive to get several quality products on retail shelves -- are tossing up their hands and leaving PC gaming behind. True, they’re being forced out by circumstance, but their complete loss of love for this industry says more about the sad state of PC gaming than the shutdown of another publisher. Shamefully wild press junkets aside, what will be missed most is how the Gathering placed the developer on a pedestal, and the passion this brash, independent label brazenly exposed to a jaded industry.
For the full read, be sure to head over to the AVault and check it out.

The AVault - There But For the Grace of G.O.D.

Brian Burke of NVIDIA Interviewed
9:19 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

In what seems to be a response to ATI's announcement today regarding their new Radeon 8500, HomeLan has posted an interview with PR representative Brian Burke of NVIDIA, makers of the GeForce series of graphics cards.

Burke stresses both the partnerships NVIDIA is forming with other companies and events. NVIDIA was a major sponsor at the recently held QuakeCon 2001 tournament, and often asks id Software's developer John Carmack for input. According to Burke, “John has a lot of say in what goes into our graphics chips.”

When asked about the way the graphics chip market has dwindled down two just a few manufacturers, and whether or not this will result in a loss of quality, Burke is quick to point out that NVIDIA is an internally-driven company, rather than competition-driven, with realistic cinematic effects being their current goal.

Of course, when competition comes up, ATI has to be mentioned somewhere:

Today, NVIDIA’s main rival ATI officially announced its next graphics card and chip called the Radeon 8500, which in its press release was stated to have “33 percent higher performance than the nearest competitive graphics processor”. While the graphics chip was not officially announced when Burke talked to HomeLAN at QuakeCon, he almost seemed to be talking about the new ATI product when it came to NVIDIA’s own GeForce 3. “We get a lot of our competitors saying, ‘This is going to be the GeForce 3 killer’ and if you are aiming for the GeForce 3, you are aiming at the wrong target. The best thing that could happen to NVIDIA is for all of our competitors to aim for the GeForce 3.”
Burke and NVIDIA still decline to comment on any information regarding their usage of their acquired 3dfx assets. A time frame of a "year down the road" is given regarding the possible use of any 3dfx technology in NVIDIA chipsets.

For more information on NVIDIA's market strategy as well as their future plans and partnerships, the article at HomeLan is an excellent read. It's obviously a bit PR heavy, given the nature of the interviewee, but still presents some interesting information.

HomeLan - Brian Burke of NVIDIA Interview

Dynamix Close Official, Loki Following?
6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Various reports are now confirming that last week's predictions of the death of PC developer Dynamix have come true, as Sierra attempts to consolidate their marketing and development efforts. Efforts are being made to reassure players of Tribes 2 that nothing will change in terms of support, but it does seem to make the chances of any Mac port of this game even more unlikely than previously.

GameSpot is reporting 97 employees were given severance, and the management of Tribes 2 will move to Sierra's offices in Bellevue, Washington. A quick Q&A with Sierra's Alex Rodberg was also posted at TribalWar, attempting to put fans' worries to rest and clear up some information on what happens next.

In other semi-related news, Linux game developer Loki is reportedly filing for bankruptcy. Loki had ported Tribes 2 to Linux, along with a number of other titles, some of which also ran on LinuxPPC. LinuxPorts reports on their financial woes:

Apparently, Loki owes Activision USD 330,000 and Prolix USD 100,000. Here is a graphic of the bankruptcy filing. (14k). Yvonne Desollar of Loki Software stated , "They have no comment at this time" when asked about the bankruptcy proceedings.
While the game isn't technically over for Loki yet, it doesn't look good for their cause. There were hopes they might work with Mac developers on future OS X projects, though any such deals seem unlikely at this point. We wish the best for employees of both companies, and hope they find new emplyment as soon as possible in this downshifting economy.

Loki Bankruptcy Article at LinuxPorts
Sierra Q&A at TribalWar
Dyanmix Closing Report at GameSpot

John Carmack Video Interview
6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

GameSpot has posted a four part video interview with id Software's John Carmack from the recent QuakeCon convention over the weekend. These talks focus on his new DOOM 3 technology, which has been displayed for the public twice. All four parts are provided in streaming format for Real Player or Windows media in a variety of differing bandwidths.

The interview discussing gaming technologies, features of the DOOM 3 engine as well as some aspects of the game itself. If you have a connection fast enough to support streamed video, this is well worth checking out.

John Carmack Video Interview

IMG Previews the Radeon 8500
6:00 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

ATI has launched themselves into the arena of high-end, "hardcore" gaming graphics, and the Radeon 8500 is their shot across NVIDIA's bow. With a buzzword-compliant feature set and astounding claims of speed, this chipset will bring both old games and new an unprecedented level of visual quality. IMG has labored long and hard and spoken to ATI firsthand to bring you an in-depth preview of this card, with analysis of the new hardware and what it might mean specifically to Mac gamers. Here is a sample:

One of the most significant events of the past year in gaming hardware was the collapse of onetime market leader 3dfx and subsequent absorption by their rival NVIDIA. With the only other rival for the high-end gaming market seemingly eliminated, NVIDIA seemed set to rule the roost – but overall market leader ATI has made a strong push to fill the void left by 3dfx. ATI’s Radeon has remained an inexpensive and feature-packed alternative to NVIDIA’s cards, and now the next generation of ATI hardware has arrived – the 8500. ATI’s answer to the GeForce 3, this card promises a superior frame rate and feature set while maintaining the stellar image quality and integrated capabilities of their previous line. With a promised performance increase of 2 to 3 times the original Radeon’s speed and a fully buzzword-compliant feature set that embraces all of the pixel and vertex shader features, this is ATI’s bold move to claim a space in the high-end gaming market for the first time. And it will ship in four to six weeks.
Read on for a detailed glimpse at ATI's future on the Mac platform.

Preview: Radeon 8500

Mac Games News for Monday, August 13, 2001

Maverick Releases Jiggy!3:51 PM
IMG Posts Neverwinter Nights Preview3:31 PM
Remedy on Max Payne, Sequel3:23 PM
Mac DS9 Mystery Deepens3:15 PM
Myth: TFL Server Solution Launched3:07 PM
Custer Depicts The Duke3:03 PM
Master of Orion III Interview with Alan Emrich11:08 AM
Mike's Marbles Updated to v1.110:46 AM
PopTop Chat Transcript10:08 AM
Weekly Kids Domain Update9:47 AM
More Free Game Authoring Tools Released9:46 AM
Dim3 Adds Curves, Removes Royalties9:12 AM
More on Quake 4, QuakeCon Events9:11 AM
Mac WWII Online Update9:07 AM
Airburst Updated8:53 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Monday, August 13, 2001 on one page

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Friday, August 10, 2001
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