GeForce3 means good times for PC and Xbox gamers

Nvidia reckons that the Xbox, powered by the GeForce3 GPU, is going to cause Sony a few problems

PC and console gamers were promised more impressive graphics than ever before, such as realistic facial movement and convincing metal, hair and fur effects, with the release of Nvidia's GeForce3 graphics processing unit (GPU) Tuesday.

At Wednesday's launch in Paris, Nvidia showed off the power of its latest chip, which should be appearing in the shops on graphics boards from March. The GeForce3 -- also known as the NV20 -- is designed to take advantage of Microsoft's DirectX 8.0, which includes 3D technology licensed from Nvidia. At least two manufacturers have released details of GeForce3 graphics boards, and game developers were enthusiastic about the potential of the new GPU.

According to Dan Vivoli, Nvidia's vice president for marketing, the GeForce3, which will also power Microsoft's Xbox, will provide stunning effects. "With this GPU, we're getting closer to creating computer graphics that are nearer to what you see in real life," he said.

He also claimed that the GeForce3 would help the Xbox to outperform Sony's PlayStation2 console. "The PS2 didn't live up to Sony's hype, and it's also a very hard platform to program for. Developers are already very excited about the GeForce3," Vivoli said.

Nvidia demonstrated that the GeForce3 is capable of creating extremely detailed surfaces to a high degree of realism, thanks to its nFiniteFX engine. A vertex processor allows the GPU to create convincing facial movement and highly complex behaviour, such as cloth movement. A pixel processor allows a maximum of 36 pixel shading operations to take place simultaneously. At the launch, Nvidia showed that this allowed the GeForce3 to creative realistic images of fur, uneven metal surfaces and even facial hair.

Nvidia showed off the power of the vertex and the pixel processors with a software demo of a fortune teller, which boasted convincing lighting and skin movement.

Leigh Davis, of Silicon Dreams, believes that gamers will start to see games written to take advantage of the GeForce3 soon. "The beta version of DirectX 8 was available to developers for at least six months before it launched three months ago. I expect that games written with the GeForce3 in mind will start appearing in the next few weeks," he predicted.

Silicon Dreams, part of Kaboom Studios, showed a demo of its latest UEFA Champions League football game. Davis said the advantage of the GeForce3 over other graphics cards is that gaming environments would be more realistic. "It will allow the physics to be more realistic. We'll be able to model the pitch better, and improved inverse kinetics will mean that the interaction between ball and player will be better," he explained.

Fred Gill, technical director of Kaboom Studios, predicted that the GeForce3 would catch on fast. "If you're a serious gamer, this is the card you'll want to buy as soon as it hits the shelves. I expect that most of the Christmas game releases will need the GeForce3," he predicted.

Both Elsa and Hercules announced that they would be releasing GeForce3 graphics cards immimently. The Elsa Gladiac 920 has begun shipping to resellers and will cost £459.99 (inc VAT), and the Hercules 3D Prophet III -- available from March -- will cost $529 (£365) in the US, but the company could not confirm a UK price.

While Dan Vivoli said the GeForce3 GPU would help Xbox to succeed, he does not believe that the console will damage the desktop PC's position as a gaming platform. "Xbox will run incredibly realistic sporting games and very impressive role-playing games, which are the type of games that traditionally are done well on consoles. There will still be a big place for the PC in gaming, especially for networked games," he said.

Vivoli is convinced that the Xbox will triumph over the PS2. "We certainly hope that it will put Sony in a fix," he said.

For complete gaming news, see GameSpot UK.

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