I'll start from afar. Forgive me, but it won't work out otherwise, this topic worries me too much, a lot in my computer life is connected with 3dfx accelerators. For those who came for the strict part of the review - specific technical data and dry numbers, graphs and conclusions, use the table of contents to navigate through the material. The rest, get ready for a hearty and, I hope, exciting reading.
In the introduction, I will briefly tell my story of acquaintance with 3dfx products, and at the same time I will explain why the accelerators of this company are of interest to me to this day.
For me, the era of 3D accelerated games began in 1997, when, with the help of my parents, the first upgrade of my (not even my personal, but family) computer based on the Intel 80486 DX4-100 MHz processor was carried out.
First, they bought me a Pentium 200 MMX processor and a video card, then, after about a month, they bought an additional FYI VIA VP3 motherboard (I can confuse the name a little), which later had to be changed under warranty. They bought it in parts, since the parents did not have money for a lightning-fast upgrade.
The RAM on this mega machine was only 16 MB of SIMM (8 from 486, another 8 MB was taken along with the motherboard), and the narrowest place after the "four" was the 425 MB hard drive manufactured by Conner.
ASUS 3DExPlorer V3000 AGP 4MB. Фото с сайта THG.ru
Video card, it is also my first 3D accelerator - ASUS 3DExPlorer V3000 AGP based on Riva 128 with 4 MB of video memory. At that time, it was considered a very good solution. Not bad, of course, by the standards of those who advised me to make such a choice. I had no idea how the 3D accelerator was supposed to work. For me, all video cards were the same back then. Formulations like “bilinear filtering of textures”, “table fog”, “rendering pipeline” didn't tell me anything. I was fond of computer games and started working with a 3D modeling program - 3D Studio MAX.
In general, I understood that games and MAX with a 3D accelerator should just work faster, and what should happen to the image and how to fully explain the differences between 3D accelerated games and "normal" (read, rendered in software mode) I am not fully could. And all my friends and classmates couldn't either.
The first time after the "upgrade" I actively bragged about the purchased pieces of iron to my friends, demonstrating at the breaks instructions from the video card and motherboard, which I carried with me to school every day. We didn't understand much about them, but they looked cool.
So, need I say that I could not comfortably play all games on the new system, even despite the presence of a powerful (at that time) processor and a fresh video card. The picture was slightly spoiled by a small amount of RAM, coupled with a slow and small HDD, which, for example, in the Jedi Knight game made the system freeze every 10 seconds to swap data. But all this was insignificant then, because the city of Nar Shaddaa, after checking the Enable 3D-Accelerator checkbox, began to look completely different. At the age of 13, I was happy that I had such a PC at home. And its modernization depended on my behavior, the quality of my studies and important holidays, such as a birthday or a new year.
At the same time, somewhere nearby, every now and then an interesting inscription flashed - 3dfx. Then all the most advanced and modern was associated with the abbreviation 3D, and therefore, the 3dfx sticker aroused interest. 3dfx appeared on game boxes, and older students talked about it when it came to computers. I've often heard ... .. "Do you have 3dfx?" At first I didn’t know if I had it or not, so I was meaningfully silent. Everyone around was talking, but I didn't have a clear understanding. If someone asked me, “what does this very abbreviation 3dfx on the box mean?”, I answered something like “the game is three-dimensional”. That's all.
Of course, such answers did not suit me personally
, because I was extremely interested in what it is - 3-d-f-x. And I started reading. One of the first articles, which I read at the end of 1997 or even at the beginning of 1998, in the "Igromania" magazine, was the material by Eduard Rauschenbach. In it, the author tested various 3D graphics accelerators, compared their capabilities in 3D and even showed in pictures how one video card differs from another.
It was then, in this material, that for the first time I saw so much new information for myself that my imagination did not let me fall asleep in the evenings and woke up in the morning, not dawn. I was constantly thinking about how cool it is to play games with a 3D accelerator. And although Eduard Rauschenbach's work did not include cards based on Riva 128 (if I remember correctly), after reading this material I realized that I have a 3D accelerator!
In the article I saw how “accelerated” games differ from those that worked in Software rendering mode, it became clear to me that not all accelerators are equal in speed and that the picture quality between them can be very different. I realized that the computer can be made to run faster thanks to overclocking. And I also realized that the quality of a video card is highly dependent on the driver. In short, I re-read this article several times and each reading brought me pleasure, as I found more and more interesting information for myself. And most importantly, it was this material that made me understand what 3dfx is and how the company's accelerators compare favorably with everything that was then available for purchase. According to the author, this magical Voodoographics is not just one of many, it is the best, the best of all gaming graphics cards. And what about me? I also have a 3D accelerator installed! I was impressed by the words of the author, but I didn’t fully believe that my Riva 128 could be worse than some kind of Voodoo. Of course, in the same magazine I found out that the Riva 128 accelerator is officially supported in the computer game Jedi Knight (Dark Forces II), and since this particular game was my favorite at that time, all the card's capabilities, I tested my system on it. Previously, I was already able to complete it to the end with my classmate on 80486, even before the system was updated. We played in 4 hands, without using the mouse and skipping the splash screens, as the game could freeze on the splash screen.
I have studied every corner of JK, which makes it even more interesting to look at the changes that have taken place. And if we forget about the inconveniences associated with the slowness of the hard drive, my delight knew no bounds, because the "squares" were gone, I no longer needed to play in a tiny window, everything became "beautifully blurred", the speed of work in comparison with the 80486 exceeded all my expectations. And, yes, I was able to watch all the screensavers in the game, now they did not freeze.
After such a triumphant test, I forgot about Voodoo graphics for several months. Played DF II: JK, Twisted Metal, Destruction Derby 2, Age of Empires, Warcraft II, Comanche 3, Quake and Duke3D and a whole host of other great games. Some of them were on the wave of technologies, while others were simply passed and, due to their large number, the passage took a lot of time ....
Every month or two, more and more games with support for 3D accelerators appeared, I learned how to install drivers, which I wrote to floppy disks from my mentor in the field of 3D modeling. I learned that there are so-called reference drivers and drivers from the manufacturer of the video card, which at that time differed from the reference ones, and, often, very much. Updating "firewood" (using professional jargon at 14 seemed incredibly cool) has become a new hobby. I waited for new versions to be released, assembled, installed them, demolished the system and installed everything cleanly. Every time I did it "for centuries". Senior comrades explained that there are certain approaches to installing and reinstalling drivers, my computer literacy grew every day. Gaining experience, I realized that a new driver is not always acceleration and profit, and in the case of Riva128, there were a lot of problems, starting with crashes and non-launching of games and ending with visual artifacts. It was these facts that made me wonder about the question "how is it with others?" The topic of 3dfx came up again, and interest in it grew further when, when trying to launch the game Turok, I was instructed to go into the forest. The game reported that I do not have a Voodoo graphics accelerator and therefore I will not see anything at all. And also, played to the point of holes thanks to classmates, Need for Speed II SE worked only in Software Rendering mode and my Riva 128 remained out of work. But the box had the same 3dfx logo. And then I was seized with just an insane thirst to try this miracle of technology.
Now it is already difficult to imagine, but then in 1996-1998 the majority of schoolchildren did not have any access to the Internet, even if they had a computer. Me and all my classmates, with the exception of one, even thought about a modem or playing games on the network simply did not appear. We all played singles. We met at school and discussed our achievements. Nobody, including me, understood the intricacies of marketing and did not know that the same Turok was later released with support for other three-dimensional APIs. All my friends and I had what they could find at the end of the game. There was money for the disc - I went and bought it. The game is running - you play. No - you change it. This I mean, all impressions were formed here and now, without the ability to "replay" and fix something.
And so, as they sometimes say, the beast runs to the hunter and the beast. An older friend of mine was going to sell Macronix Voodoo Rush, in a box. I realized that this was my chance and asked him to give this video card for a couple of days, suddenly, when I show it to my parents, they will allocate money to me and I will buy it. Meeting in the middle of the house, transferring, running home (yes, not walking, running!), Inserting the card into the PCI slot with trembling hands, removing the Riva 128 AGP. Launch. POST. Loading the OS. Installing the driver from the supplied floppy disks. First launch of Turok…. I didn't know how to describe my emotions. It was not delight, it was euphoria, one might say - shock. It just so happened that only a small part of the games I have supported Direct3D and OpenGL acceleration on Riva 128, and those that supported, in addition to smoothing surfaces and increased speed, did not amaze with special special effects. The rest could only work in Software mode, or to support 3D acceleration, patches were needed that I simply did not know existed. Just think, I played them on 486. But there were boxes with Dreamsto Reality, NFS II SE, Turok, they were all only for 3dfx.
So, after starting the Turok game, I could not come to my senses for a long time. Fog, the effect of light refraction under water, bright colored flashes of colored lighting - all this made me tremble with delight and summon all my family to the monitor, one by one. Now it doesn't matter that most of these effects are the merit of the game, not the accelerator, nevertheless, I first saw it on 3dfx Voodoo Rush. Then I thought that this game works like this only on Voodoo and most importantly - it did NOT slow down! At all! Yes, my HDD was tight and there was little RAM, but the game did NOT slow down! And the scale in the game was not as dark as on Riva 128.
Of course, I immediately moved on. The second game that made an equally strong impression on me was Need For Speed II SE. Even in software rendering mode, the game looked modern, quite beautiful. If we compare it with the first part of the series, there was more dynamics, freedom of action, everything was very dynamic, but still something was missing in the game. There was a visual feeling that there was no air in the game, there was no fullness of the world, everything was too artificial, abrupt, bright. The 3D world was empty. I wanted more visual realism, because the physics of the cars, although it was arcade, was felt. Tactilely felt that the action takes place in a world where there is gravity, there is air resistance. There are feelings, but there is no visual design for all these sensations. And so, when the game was launched on Voodoo Rush, everything turned upside down again. Fog, rain, snow, clouds, insects breaking on the windshield - all this visually revived the world, linked the sensations of driving with what you see around, into a single whole - the world of a three-dimensional game. Now I understand how technologies work, I realize that visually, if desired, all the same could be seen on Riva 128 and other cards of that time with full Direct3D support, but for me then, at the age of 13-14, the moment was important.
Unfortunately, they didn’t give me money for a new product, because quite “recently” I was already bought “almost the same”. A little later, my 3D mentor said that all these cards from 3dfx are mischief and that they cannot get the normal OpenGL support from them, which is so necessary in 3D Studio MAX. Well, then he was right, and his parents did not have the opportunity to buy. Unfortunately, those small pennies that I earned by repairing computers from classmates and their friends were not enough for anything, however, I also preferred to give this money to my parents .... In short, the transition to 3dfx Voodoo did not work out then.
Once again, my upgrade took place in 1999, at a time when cards based on Riva TNT 2 were just appearing on store shelves. Charged with the thought of buying, with the coveted amount ($ 140-150) in my pocket, I ran all over the place. firms in my city, looking for who have already brought the new product? If I recall the facts correctly, this is a glorious place - the NIKS computer store, it was there that I bought the ASUS V3800 Pro pure, based on Riva TNT 2 Pro with 32 MB of video memory. Why not 3dfx? Because my mentor in the field of 3D modeling said that 3dfx is only for games, and Riva TNT 2 is cooler. I listened.
I put the new card of the Riva family into my system, wanting to get even more speed, even more pleasure from games and modeling. Of course, the Pentium 200 MMX did not allow the video card to spread its wings, and I, being already an "advanced" user who had read many magazines, knew that I needed to update the motherboard and processor. And now, in tandem with Riva TNT 2, a Celeron 500 MHz worked on an MSI 6337 motherboard based on i815EP, and the amount of RAM was already as much as 64 MB of SDRAM. And, it would seem, everything should be fine, and it seemed to be ... .. All the games worked, the performance was very high, but something was missing .... There was not enough magic. Visual breakthrough. But after the purchase of the new system, there were no revolutionary changes, evolution was felt, but I did not get a furore, a breakthrough effect, a pleasant shock, like from Voodoo Rush. It took about a year or a little more and then I once again decided to turn to the magic of Voodoo, I wanted to play games with Glide. I had a lot of such games, besides, here and there the new 3dfx logo flashed here and there ... I wanted to try Glide, but my Riva TNT 2 did not support this API. It seemed to me that a miracle should happen, as before ... I imagined that by launching the game in Glide, I would get more than with D3D or OGL.
I began to think how I can get what I want. In the process of thinking, I remembered how at the very moment when I was buying my ASUS V3800 Pro pure box with its faceless Asian “beauties” and “golden” gypsy box design, some guy in front of me received a sealed box with a Voodoo3 2000 AGP, which "looked" at me with a mesmerizing look, inviting me to try to play with Voodoo. These thoughts prompted me to make an exchange without surcharges for a card from 3dfx. Armed with a modem, I posted an ad on komok.com and found someone willing to take my TNT2 Pro and give me their Voodoo3 3000 AGP. At that moment, I did not think that along with some Voodoo chips, I would lose such features as 32-bit color in games and support for large textures. The only thing I worried about was to try Glide, to find the magic. But then not everyone knew, and I didn’t know that 3dfx was on the verge of bankruptcy and that API Glide would never again be a favorite in game 3D simply because it was morally outdated. I didn’t know a lot of things and I was wrong about many things. This ignorance and these delusions pushed me to different, sometimes reckless actions, but they also helped me to develop.
In general, my second acquaintance with 3dfx happened on the example of Voodoo3. Everything was not so smooth here, largely because now I had not just one day for tests, now I own the video card. Of course, talking about the advantages and disadvantages of Voodoo3, I will focus solely on my memories.
The first game I played in an attempt to catch the "magic" was Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Ha. Ha. Ha. The first launch and the first disappointment - the speed dropped immediately, 32-bit color is no longer supported. In 16-bit color mode, the difference was visible to the naked eye, right in the menu. And it hurt. I instantly realized that those nuances that I was not paying attention to suddenly became important to me! The first impression is to cancel the deal, return it as it was! Of course, I didn’t know about any MiniGL drivers, I didn’t think that alternative Amiga firewood would appear soon. But all this would give me an increase in speed, Voodoo3 still could not give what immediately seemed important at that time - color accuracy in the most modern games. However, there was a sharp negative just before the launch of Unreal and Unreal Tournament. These games worked in Glide with detailed textures, you could see something that no other default accelerator could provide! At the time, I hadn’t studied the game config files yet and didn’t know that Detail Textures is included in D3D, so when I started playing with Glide, the mood was uplifted and I began to feel a kind of "elitism" from owning Voodoo again. The next game was the well-known "Drove" (Driver). Of course, this game should have worked fine on Riva TNT2, but my feeling of that time was spoiled by the fact that when launched in Direct3D, the game was incomprehensible why it shamelessly raped the HDD, as a result of which, constant data downloads made it annoyingly slow In 1998, I was already given a 10.1 GB IBM Titan 351010 for my birthday. This disk, despite the spindle speed of 5400 rpm, was quite fast (especially compared to the old 425 MB) and very reliable. So, on Voodoo3, the game immediately worked without any complaints, and I got excellent smoothness and excellent graphics. The disc was no longer used as often, no freezes and delays, only smoothness. Everything that I tried to play further could be divided into two groups: the first group - games until the end of 1999, the vast majority of which worked well (remember, these are personal feelings of that time, obtained on a specific configuration!). The second group consists of games released a little after 2000. How lucky there. Those that were made taking into account the architectural features of 3dfx cards still ran with dignity, and those that were released with an eye on 32-bit color and / or support for the hardware T&L engine have already begun to reflect problems associated with driver optimization rather than with the inability of Voodoo3 to give a playable fps even on medium details. However, this is a value judgment that needs to be tested and proven, a person's memory is very deceptive.
A lot of people in my place would make a simple and understandable conclusion from this whole situation and in the next upgrade they would buy an up-to-date 3D accelerator from ATi or nVidia. In the late 90s, these companies overtook all their competitors in terms of a combination of factors and it was from their assortment that one had to choose, but…. By that time, a fan of Voodoo graphics woke up in me. And the more there was dissatisfaction with the new 3dfx cards (well-founded, often!), The more I defended them. He defended not only because you always want to protect those who are offended, but also because everything was not so smooth with nVidia either. The fact is that starting with Riva 128 I very often ran into problems with drivers, constant incompatibility and glitches. All this was complemented by reviews from peers about overheating of cards based on Riva TNT and even TNT2, someone declined cuts like M64 or Vanta, each had their own spoons. The only thing that left me on the side of nVidia was a pretty good job in OpenGL, which was important for me then. I wanted a universal solution that would allow me to play my existing games, and at the same time, new items to work. In fact, for a long time there was no alternative to nVidia for me, but I always wanted something better.
And then information about the VSA-100 went to paper magazines. Nobody knew that this was the last 3dfx chip, because there were a lot of rumors and assumptions, there were a lot of guesses and everyone hoped that 3dfx would come out. And, like any new convert fan, I decided with youthful perseverance to support 3dfx with my coin. The Voodoo3 card was sold on the secondary market, my parents were treated with a long lecture in the style of “this is all for my future” and, as a result, I received an investment to buy a Voodoo 5 5500 AGP. This map fascinated me with just its appearance. And it doesn't matter that I took the OEM. I took a new card sealed in a film, which, in my opinion, with two GPUs simply could not slow down and be worse than competitors! I really wanted to not only try Glide on a fast map, but also experience the full-screen anti-aliasing effect that has been written about so much. In general, there was a lot to do with the new map. Only with its platform in the face of Celeron 550, as well as with the first versions of drivers, life did not go well. Where I wanted to get 32 bits per pixel, I got them, but in doing so I didn't get some crazy speed. It was not bad, sometimes even good, but it did not fly! A test of full-screen anti-aliasing showed that with rare exceptions it is possible to play with 4xAA, but most of the games worked well only at 800x600 @ 2xAA. This is how I remember it now. So it was deposited in my head. Nevertheless, I had special feelings for this card. I waited and hoped that upgrading the processor to 1 GHz Coppermine would solve most of the problems, and updating the drivers would help me, but here…. Like a bolt from the blue, the news came that 3dfx is gone…. I don't remember what I was thinking then. But I realized very quickly that under Voodoo 4/5 there would be no more top games, at least from those that were being conceived at that moment. The last Glide game I remember back then was Hitman. The Hitman game engine knew about Voodoo5 and worked with the proprietary 3dfx API. At that moment, no one thought about leaving Voodoo abruptly. The secondary market was filled with cards from this manufacturer, in many stores the shelves were filled with boxes of Voodoo3 and Voodoo4 / 5, but it was obvious that Hi-End solutions with the 3dfx logo would no longer be available.
Voodoo5 stayed with me for only a couple of weeks, after which I sold it and switched to the "dark side of power", dreaming in my heart that the already developed card based on 4x GPU VSA-100 would be launched on sale. Suddenly we will see a novelty, albeit under the nVidia brand. Unfortunately, this did not happen. And as long as 3dfx cards were still sold new or were freely available on the shelves of stores with used goods, I did not give up the importance of searching and collecting. I used different versions of accelerators GeForce, Radeon, played what was. And only after a couple of years, I again began to study the world of 3dfx much deeper, because now I have the opportunity to assemble a second computer and install the Voodoo accelerator, which has become quite inexpensive, into it. And so, in the process of this dive, I learned that the same Voodoo 5 6000 can still be bought…. Of course, I wanted to do it. Then there were: a long search (I was looking for several years), preparation for a deal (several months), a happy day of purchase and long hours of games and tests ...
While all this happened to me, I did not stop looking for information. I caught sight of leaked presentations of accelerators that were supposed to replace solutions based on VSA-100. Yes, the Specter series accelerators could be the future for 3dfx, in which there could be not two, but three main players competing in the ability to represent three-dimensional worlds in a new light. And as I learned from this presentation, there was no place for Glide in this alternate reality.
It was assumed that in order to maintain backward compatibility with games for this API, an emulator (wrapper) was to be released that would translate Glide requests to OpenGL or Direct3D. Logically, if this very emulator was to be produced by 3dfx itself, so there would be no doubt about the quality of its implementation. But…. It did not grow together. All 3dfx developments have disappeared into the depths of nVidia, and we are not interested in them in this review. But what is interesting is the fact that the VSA-100 is the latest chip from the company that has hardware support for 3dfx Glide and is officially compatible with this API. This fact makes Voodoo 5 6000 even more desirable card, because there is simply NO more powerful device with full hardware support for Glide in the gaming segment.