Graphics benchmarker tightens the rules

Manufacturers have been warned not to tweak their software to cheat on benchmarks
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor
Graphics-card manufacturers have been instructed not to optimise their products to generate undeservedly high results in a key benchmarking test.

Futuremark, which operates the 3DMark range of benchmarks, published a new set of guidelines on Tuesday. These rules explain that Futuremark will not tolerate the practice of optimising software drivers so that a graphics card records a deceptively good score on the 3DMark test.

It is now explicitly forbidden for a graphics-card driver to change the rendering quality level that is requested by 3D Mark. By secretly rendering at a lower level, a card could achieve a higher frame rate -- and thus a better score in 3DMark -- than would otherwise be possible.

Manufacturers also may not program their drivers to detect whether 3DMark is running -- a move which should prevent any subsequent changes in driver performance in the hope of achieving a better benchmark.

Any optimisations that "utilise the empirical data of 3DMark" -- in other words, watching the results and tweaking settings to improve them on the fly -- is also now seen as foul play.

According to Futuremark, these new guidelines should help to ensure that 3DMark03 -- the latest version -- is "truly impartial".

"We have spent the last few months talking with all the key hardware manufacturers, and these common set of rules are the end result of this process," explained Tero Sarkkinen, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Futuremark.

"We will cooperate with all major graphics vendors to enforce the guidelines as quickly as possible," Sarkkinen added.

The publication of Futuremark's new rules follows a high-profile row between the company and graphics card-maker Nvidia. In May this year, Futuremark alleged that Nvidia had tweaked the software driver for its GeForce FX 5900 processor to distort performance in 3DMark 03.

Nvidia hotly denied the claim, and in June the two organisations issued a joint statement in which Futuremark dropped the allegation that Nvidia had cheated.

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