"The Gathering". Not some overrated Poker substitute, but the moniker NVIDIA coined for their 2001 developers' conference, held in the glitzy confines of the Hilton Hotel at Heathrow's Terminal 4. A cacophony of booze and bitmaps, the conference was opened to the press last Thursday evening, and EuroGamer journos, never ones to turn down a free pint, trooped along to check out the NVIDIA's codename NV20 product, the GeForce 3, and meet some of the people developing next generation software using the platform. We ran into all sorts. Although the conference was mostly held during the day, the hardcore and those who had flown in for the event hung around to make our acquaintance. Adrian Thompson, our man in the trenches at NVIDIA (and possessor of the purse strings when it comes to taxi jaunts home) was very eager to talk to us about GeForce 3. A lot of websites, Adrian told us, have seen tech briefings, but nobody has yet been provided retail drivers, so anything you may have read on the Internet thus far has been largely academic. How does the GeForce 3 compare to its competitors? At the moment, its specifications are far beyond anything you will find on chipsets and graphics cards from NVIDIA's rivals. Even NVIDIA's own market-leading GeForce 2 Ultra pales in comparison, thanks to the GeForce 3's four texture units per pass, multiple textures units per cycle and breathtaking new pixel and vertex shading technologies. Another thing we got to ask Adrian related to the Xbox. After hearing from several sources (including Scottish developers who had gorged themselves on the GeForce Juice Hilton staff were handing out) about NVIDIA's role in the Xbox, we wanted clarification. Is the NV20 appearing in Xbox? "The technology you are seeing here" Adrian said gesticulating wildly at the monitor array we had just walked away from, "will appear in Xbox. Does it really matter what the chip is called?" He's right of course; be it NV20 or NV25, the fact of the matter is that the GeForce 3 will be in Xbox, be it in its current form or in a souped up, overclocked, feature-saturated version eight months down the line. During the next few days we hope to bring you preview coverage of a couple of "launch titles", games used to demonstrate the GeForce 3's capabilities. Aquanox, German developer Massive's contribution, is an RPG come action game set in a post-nuclear underwater world. The sequel to Archimedean Dynasty, which was released by Massive in 1996, the game uses the GeForce 3 to full effect, taking advantage of pixel and vertex shading, the new programmable GPU and the rest of the kaboodle. Pixel and vertex shading are dramatic new technological breakthroughs for this industry. They help the GeForce 3, already the fastest graphics chip on the planet, breathe life into every scene with intricately detailed textures, scope for full facial animation and more. The nfiniteFX (Infinite Effects) GPU enables programmers to create their own sumptuously detailed palettes and stylised visual effects. One of the criticisms, Adrian told us, that people have levelled at the GeForce family in the past is that developers have had to stick with roughly similar palettes and visual effects. Not any more - if they can code it, they can use it. Ballistics, the other title that was on display, is a futuristic evolution of Formula 1, developed by GRIN, where you control vehicles that travel at exceptional speeds (with no real speed ceiling hard-coded into the game) through tunnel-based levels. It's a fine balance of speed, acceleration and thermal-management, and it shoves textures up the GeForce 3's pipelines like nothing else on the planet. Both of the titles we were shown comfortably pushed the GeForce 3, and both looked and performed admirably. One of the key problems that NVIDIA face when it comes to marketing the GeForce 3 is software ready to take advantage of the new technologies. The good news is that not only is performance in classic applications like Quake III industry-leading, but that in time games which make use of pixel and vertex shading predominantly will emerge, angling the GeForce 3 as a hell of an investment for future gaming bliss. We are even more eager to get hold of a board for testing now than we were before! Thanks to NVIDIA for inviting us down to "The Gathering", and thanks to various people for entertaining us, including Bo Anderson at GRIN, Alexander Jorias from Massive Development, gracious sponsors ELSA, AMD and Vector, and our friends Adrian Thompson, Kevin Strange and Chris Donahue from NVIDIA! Here's to the next one! Related Feature - GeForce 3 Preview
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