NVIDIA bites back

Urges Valve to update its drivers.

Following yesterday's story which featured a few stern words from Valve's Gabe Newell on the ineptness of NVIDIA hardware when running the DirectX 9 features of Half-Life 2, the hardware company has issued a wordy statement decrying his comments. The reaction is reminiscent of a few months ago when NVIDIA came under fire for its graphics driver optimisations that were branded as "cheating" when put under benchmark tests.

The statement is included in full below, but for those of you who simply can't be arsed to wade through the jargon here's a brief summary: according to NVIDIA, Gabe was making his presentation based on figures and facts that relate to its .45 release of graphics drivers, and had Valve been using its new .50 drivers - beta versions of which are making their way to the tech press today - then it would have seen both performance and graphical output improvements with DX9 features.

There are more details besides the simple driver issue contained in NVIDIA's official word on the subject, though:

"Over the last 24 hours, there has been quite a bit of controversy over comments made by Gabe Newell of Valve at ATIs Shader Day. During the entire development of Half-Life 2, NVIDIA has had close technical contact with Valve regarding the game. However, Valve has not made us aware of the issues Gabe discussed.

We're confused as to why Valve chose to use Rel.45 - because up to two weeks prior to the Shader Day we had been working closely with Valve to ensure that Rel.50 provides the best experience possible on NVIDIA hardware.

Regarding the Half-Life 2 performance numbers that were published on the web, these performance numbers are invalid because they do not use our Rel.50 drivers. Engineering efforts on our Rel.45 drivers stopped months ago in anticipation of release Rel.50. NVIDIA's optimizations for Half Life 2 and other new games are included in our Rel.50 drivers - which reviewers currently have a beta version of today. Rel.50 is the best driver we've ever built - it includes significant optimizations for the highly-programmable GeForce FX architecture and includes feature and performance benefits for over 100 million NVIDIA GPU customers.

Pending detailed information from Valve, we are unaware of any issues with Rel.50 and the drop of Half-Life 2 that we have. The drop of Half-Life 2 that we currently have is more than 2 weeks old. NVIDIA's Rel.50 driver will be public before the game is available.Since we know that obtaining the best pixel shader performance out of GeForce FX GPUs currently requires some specialized work, our developer technology team works very closely with game developers to help them with this. Part of this is understanding that in many cases promoting PS 1.4 (DX8) to PS 2.0 (DX9) provides no image quality benefit. Sometimes this involves converting fp32 shader operations into fp16 shaders in order to obtain the performance benefit of this mode with no image quality degradation. Our goal is to provide our consumers the best experience possible, and that means games must both look and run great.

The optimal code path for ATI and NVIDIA GPUs is different - so trying to test them with the same code path will always disadvantage one or the other. The default settings for each game have been chosen by both the developers and NVIDIA in order to produce the best results for our consumers.

In addition to the developer efforts, our driver team has developed a next-generation automatic shader optimizer that vastly improves GeForce FX pixel shader performance across the board. The fruits of these efforts will be seen in our Rel.50 driver release. Many other improvements have also been included in Rel.50, and these were all created either in response to, or in anticipation of the first wave of shipping DX9 titles, such as Half-Life 2.

We are committed to working with Gabe to fully understand his concerns and with Valve to ensure that 100+ million NVIDIA consumers get the best possible experience with Half Life 2 on NVIDIA hardware."

So there you have it. We think our minds are leaking from our eyes.

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Martin Taylor

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