MWSF: ATI Talks 3D Gaming
9:37 PM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story
IMG sat down today with ATI to talk about their recent (and future) contributions to the Mac 3D hardware scene. As you know, ATI's products did not make it into the new Apple portables announced today, but that doesn't mean the company is down and out about their prospects for 3D on Mac OS X.
One very exciting annoucement from the ATI camp today was that they will be releasing a control panel for users to toggle features like Full-Scene Anti Aliasing (commonly called FSAA). This means users with recent ATI hardware (likely Radeon-class or above) will be able to turn on FSAA in any 3D application which runs in OS X, without the game developers having to write any extra code. Other features like anisotropic filtering or possibly even special DVD options might get toggled in the control panel as well.
The Radeon 9000 Pro Mac Edition is now shipping to retailers, and the card stakes out a nice balance of features with an affordable price point. Have a read through IMG's recent preview for more on the card. Possibly even more interesting to Mac gamers is the fact that a number of demo machines in the Macworld gaming arena were running the Radeon 9700. According to ATI, this beefy 128MB card has made significant progress over the last six months in terms of OS X drivers. This is proved by the amazing stability of the machines demonstrated at Macworld.
The Radeon 9700 is currently triumphing over anything else on the PC side, and ATI's strategy for producing the Mac version has shifted a bit with this product. Instead of doing a line-for-line rewrite of the drivers, ATI's Chris Bentley explains they are instead wrapping the PC driver in a sort of abstraction layer. They are reordering the input data, shifting from how the Mac represents the it to make it what the drivers expect. This copying is currently only incurring a 3% hit, which could be optimized even further down the road.
The good news for Mac gamers is because they are leaving the PC drivers in tact, the Mac Radeon 9700 drivers will have near feature parity with its PC counterpart. While the ATI team is hoping to have it ready well before Macworld New York, there's no release date even estimated yet. Bentley did note they have very little driver work left to do other than bug fixes.
All in all, ATI is happy with Apple's direction for OpenGL, especially moving forward with new extensions for shader support. This will culminate with a standard high-level shader scripting language, GL2, being implemented, followed by OpenGL 2.0 further down the road.
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