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AquaMark3 Preview - Page 1 Of 1

NAVIGATION

INTRODUCTION

Since year 2000, Massive Development has been part of Jowood Software Productions. Massive, which is headquartered in Mannheim, Germany, is basically a developing studio and are known for AquaNox and its sequel, AquaNox 2: Revelation. The technology behind the Aquanox series of games is the Krass™ Engine. Of course Massive Development isn't only developing games. AquaMark 2 was their first benchmark based on DirectX 8 technology, which was only released to professional testers and hardware review websites.

This year Massive Development brings us the AquaMark3 benchmark, which makes use of new capabilities in Microsoft's DirectX 9 Application Programming Interface (API). While there are currently a limited number of games that use DirectX 9, AquaMark3 contains new graphics technology that will be included in the upcoming generation of games. During the course of this preview, you will see a heavy use of pixel and vertex shaders, ranging from the older DirectX 8 formats (PS 1.1, 1.4 and VS 1.1) to the newest and more complex versions (PS 2.0 and VS 2.0) available in DirectX 9.

Note that AquaMark3 is based on a real world game engine. What this means is that the developers decided on the shader version to use to accomplish a task. Although a specific effect could be done with PS 2.0 does not mean that PS 2.0 was actually used. The developer made a decision, based on a variety of factors, on the shader version that was used.

PACKAGING AND INSTALLATION

The AquaMark3 interface is well designed and resembles what you would find in an actual game. The interface operates in full screen mode and consists of a menu driven navigation system.

AquaMark3 Splash Screen

Installing AquaMark3 was straightforward. One thing that needs to be taken care of is your license. If you downloaded the free version of AquaMark3 Benchmark, then you do not need to unlock the software. There are two ways to unlock the application. Either copy the attached license file into the AquaMark3 directory or inside the benchmark by selecting the "Register AquaMark3" option.

AquaMark3 Main Menu

REQUIREMENTS

The hardware and software requirements for AquaMark3 are as follows:

Minimum Requirements
  • System: Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP, DirectX 9
  • Graphics card: DirectX 7-compatible 32 MB graphics card with DX9 drivers
  • Sound card: DirectX 8-compatible sound card
  • Processor: Pentium/Athlon 750
  • Memory: 128 MB (256 MB for Win 2000/XP)
Recommended
  • System: Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP, DirectX 9
  • Graphics card: DirectX 9-compatible 64 MB graphics card
  • Sound card: DirectX 8-compatible sound card
  • Processor: 1 GHz Pentium/Athlon
  • Memory: 256 MB

LICENSE TYPES

There are five different versions of AquaMark3:

AquaMark3 Basic (Free) - Available options are:

  • AquaMark3 TRISCORE™ measurement
  • Selected special features for DX 9 cardtests
  • Manual screenshot function
  • Configurable demo mode
  • Microsoft® Excel analysis support
  • Submitting results to online database

AquaMark3 Professional ($9.95 / €9.95) - All features from Basic plus:

  • Detailed feature-settings
  • Advanced Measurement for single run tests
  • Additional special features for DX 9 cardtests
  • Pixelrate measurements
  • Automated screenshot function
  • Technical support for AquaMark3 as well as for ARC

AquaMark3 Professional Plus ($19.95 / €19.95) - All features from Professional license plus:

  • Automated measurement functionality (multi-run)
  • Commandline measurement functionality (unlimited number of user specific settings)

AquaMark3 Commercial ($39.95 / €39.95) - All features from Professional Plus license plus:

  • Right to publish results for commercial use

AquaMark3 Commercial Plus ($199.95 / €199.95) - All features from Commercial Plus license plus:

  • Ten simultaneous installations per license

FEATURES

AquaMark3 Score Measurement Mode (AquaMark TRISCORE™) - Available for all license types

This mode runs the benchmark using default settings: 1024x768, 32-Bit Color, No antialiasng, 4X anisotropic filtering and maximum details. Together there are nine chapters that AquaMark3 goes through. If you have a basic license, this is the mode you have to use in order to perform a benchmark run. You must complete all nine chapters to get a final score. After completing the benchmark, a TRISCORE™ will be computed and you will be able to upload the results to the ARC database. We will talk about ARC™ later on in this preview.

AquaMark3 TRISCORE™

AquaMark3 TRISCORE™ - Computed

Let's explain the TRISCORE™ Measuring System. AquaMark3 final mark consists of three independent scores: Graphics, CPU and Overall System Performance. The total score is based on the number of frames that were rendered during the benchmark run. Note that the graphics score is also infleuenced by the processor and memory. However, the graphics score does not contribute to the CPU score.

AquaMark3 Benchmark Outline

Clicking the "More" button will take you to an outline of benchmarks that were tested along with average Frames Per Second. Here is a list of chapters that are available in AquaMark3:

  • Dynamic Occlusion Culling
  • High Particle Count
  • Masked Environment Mapping
  • Large Scale Vegetation Rendering
  • Large Scale Terrain Rendering
  • Vertex And Pixel Lightning
  • 3D Volumetric Fog
  • Complex Multimaterial Shader
  • Massive Overdraw

Stay tuned for a more detailed overview of each chapter.

Advanced Measurement (single run - not available with Basic license, and multi run - not available with Professional license)

AquaMark3 Advanced Measurement

AquaMark3 Advanced Measurement - Options

This feature allows you to configure your most important benchmark settings such as:

  • Enable Sound: Off or On
  • Color Depth: 16 or 32
  • Resolutions: 640x480, 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200,
  • Full Scene Antialiasing Mode: Off, Non-Maskable, 2x, 4x (Depending on the hardware vendor)
  • Full Scene Antialiasing Quality: Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4 (Albeit FSAA Modes can be coupled with FSAA Quality, current DirectX 9 drivers do not expose that feature. Thus you can only set FSAA Quality with Non-Maskable FSAA Mode)
  • Anisotropy Quality: Off (Trilinear Filtering), 2x, 4x and 8x (Depending on the hardware vendor)
  • Level of Detail: Very Low, Low, Medium, High and Very High (Those options are also available through Options->Choose Preset where you can set predefined settings)
AquaMark3 Advanced Measurement - Options

Being still in Advanced Measurement section, you will spot few checkboxes (If you have a Professional Plus license that is). The above benchmark settings can be tested with one (single pass) value or more (multi pass) values. For example, ticking off the checkboxes next to Color Depth and Resolution modes will create a multi pass benchmark where all resolutions and all color depths will be tested - a very handy feature for people that do not have a lot of time on their hands.

Automated Measurement (via command line) - not available with Basic and Professional licenses

Another great addition to AquaMark3 benchmarking tools is the support of batch processing. You can run batch files after running an Advanced Measurement benchmark. An output file will be then put in your “My Documents/AquaMark3” folder. From there you can edit it to your taste, add jobs and perform multiple benchmarks. In order to start the benchmark with your own script, you must execute the following command from Windows Command Prompt:

AquaMark3.exe –bench <batch config file>

Configurable Demo Mode - Available for all license types

AquaMark3 Custom Detail Effects

Demo mode is basically a cut-scene with real-time music but without any score computation. It is configurable through Options menu.

Custom Measurement - Not available with Basic license

AquaMark3 Custom Settings Measurement

This measurement allows you for custom benchmarking with settings specified in the Options menu.

AquaMark3 Custom General Options

Here you have similar settings that are available in Advanced Measurement menu. Additionally you can set Vsync, Triple Buffering and Hyper-Threading Support.

AquaMark3 Custom Lightning Effect Options

For low-end systems, this is great feature. Setting effects helps improve the performance.

AquaMark3 Custom Detail Effects

A lot of details can be set within this menu. If you are not familiar with those options, you can easily load a preset and you are ready to go.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Supplementary to the above AquaMark3 benchmark features, Massive Development has implemented three more tests (OVIST™, SVIST™, PIXPM™) that have yet to be introduced in any benchmark. Although they render weird looking scenes, they are very significant while comparing images from two different hardware vendors.

AquaMark3 ASGRA™ (Automated Screen Grabber) - Not available with Basic license

AquaMark3 Special Features - ASGRA™

Forget FRAPS and other techniques of capturing screenshots. AquaMark3 is equipped with the right tool to show off those lovely images. Whether you want to compare Antialiasing modes or detailed textures, this is a great addition to the benchmark. How does it work? It's very simple. Just go into Special Features menu, set the duration of time (in frames) between each screenshot, and hit the "Start Screen Capturing" button. If you feel you need to capture five different frames, command line functionality comes into the rescue:

AquaMark3.exe –grabframe 45,102,300,301,1500

AquaMark OVIST™ (Overdraw Visualization Technique, requires DirectX 8 hardware) - Requires DirectX 8 Hardware

AquaMark3 Special Features - OVIST™

AquaMark3 Special Features - OVIST™ In Action

This is one of the Special Feature Tests that exposes the heavy use of Particles. What happens here is the scene is rendered the same way as in normal benchmark. In other words, OVIST™ uses the same shaders, but additional post pixel colorization is done to show different stages of Overdrawing.

AquaMark3 Special Features - OVIST™ In Action

Here is another screenshot from the OVIST™ test which lays out a better picture of what is happening. For reference, this is an explosion.

AquaMark SVIST™ (Shader Visualization Technique, requires DirectX 9 hardware) - Not available with Basic License

AquaMark3 Special Features - SVIST™

Not every polygon is drawn with a pixel shader. The SVIST™ test is a shader visualization technique that shows how much of a pixel shader is used in a rendered scene. Just like in OVIST™, post pixel colorization is applied to create different levels of shader complexity. Again, the pixels are colored without altering the ordinal shader. It's a painstaking and slow task, however it comes with a fruitful effect.

AquaMark3 Special Features - SVIST™ In Action

There are benchmarks out there who i.e. implement trivial PS 2.0 for particles which is insane. Particles are typically rendered without any PS at all. With SVIST™ this is visualized for you. If you change the advanced settings you will notice that the SVIST™ visuals will change, which reflects that the engine uses different code path for different situations. Besides we are able to tell you with SVIST™ the exact amount (absolute, relative and in percentage) of pixels drawn through a specific PS (or even simple texturestages like the particles).

AquaMark3 Special Features - SVIST™ In Action

SVIST™ is very fine, sophisticated and easy to use feature. Here is what Alexander Jorias, Managing Director of Massive Development had to say about it:

We are convinced that SVIST™ is one of the coolest features of AM3, however we are wondering if people will get the point about it because you have to think about it before you see it's beauty. We hope that there are enough smart guys out there that will tell the others about it.


AquaMark PIXPM™ (Pixel Performance Measurement) - Not available with Basic License

Last but not least is the PIXPM™ test. This is a fillrate benchmark that utilizes pixel shaders. It consists of two separate tests. In the first pass, an overdraw is created for each frame and number of drawn pixels are counted. The second pass takes those results and calculates pixels per second.

AquaMark3 Special Features - PIXPM™

AquaMark3 Special Features - PIXPM™

AquaMark3 Special Features - PIXPM™ In Action

This is a screenshot from the first pass of PIXPM™. We did not complete this test since it would take a lot of time which we did not have. An update will be made in couple of days with the scores. Even with low resolution and low details PIXPM™ crawled, and here is why:

Q: What is PIXPM™ ungodly slow?

A: With PIXPM™ you are able to benchmark the real world fillrate of a graphics card precisely for the 1st time ever! it is a very complex task to give a precise fillrate score under real world conditions. You have to take the overdraw into account. So in the 1st run we count the sum of all(!) drawn pixels inclusive the overdrawn ones. this may take 45 minutes on a current state of the art system. In the second run we do a realtime run with the same engine setup. Now we are able to calculate the real world fillrate. Like SVIST™ the PIXPM™ technique is very smart and gives you as a user much more transparency about the benchmark and your system then ever before.

BENCHMARKING TECHNIQUES

AquaMark3 Benchmark is designed on a state of the art, very sophisticated Krass™ Engine which exploits the new DirectX 9 API features:

The DirectX9 API is used completely for all rendering tasks in the benchmark. Considering the features that are new in DirectX9 compared to the previous version, we use mainly the new shader models (pixel and vertex shader 2.0). We don't use vendor specific (2.x) or not-yet-hardware accelerated (3.0) shader versions.

-Ingo Frick, Technical Director of Massive Development

In addition to improved shaders, there is a new Antialiasing setup. FSAA can now be applied along with its subroutine: FSAA quality level. Although mixing those settings is not exposed in current drivers, it is possible with the new DirectX 9. Although AquaMark3 Benchmark is designed for the current and future hardware, it is still backward compatible with older graphic cards based on DirectX 8 and DirectX 7 technology. The Krass™ Engine allows for a lot of application level tweaking, making it very versatile for all kinds of systems.

Fore reference, AM3 Benchmark can use a combination of 193 vertex shaders (VS 1.1 and VS 2.0), 39 pixel shaders (PS 1.1, PS 1.4 and PS 2.0) and use a variety of Floating Point Precisions ranging from FP64 to FP128 (High internal precision used by NVIDIA's NV3x).

AquaMark3 Benchmark takes nine commonly used graphical environments and incorporates them into chapters (Cut-scenes). Each chapter contains its own climate, where different technology is applied and exposed to the observer.

Dynamic Occlusion Culling

AquaMark3 - Dynamic Occlusion Culling

Active

This is the first chapter of the benchmark. After cruising the canyon, a large underwater city unveils.

AquaMark3 - Dynamic Occlusion Culling

Inactive

What Occlusion Culling does is it detects potential objects that need to be rendered. Each object has to be tested against any blocked / hidden (occluded) object. Before such object can be rendered, its shape has to be tested for occlusion in the depth buffer. Objects are then tested for visibility with regards to the terrain, in our case hills and canyons. Dynamic Occlusion Culling deactivates when previously blocked objects become visible.

While this is a CPU based task, it is very eloquent feature for improving overall GPU performance.

High Particle Count

AquaMark3 - High Particle Count

I'm sure you've been exposed to Particle Effects of some sort. Whether it was a firing weapon or a burning object. This is a commonly used technique for creating any sort of smoke, fire, explosion or rain effects (Of course there are many others, but this is just to give you an idea). In this benchmark, your video card will be stressed for high particle count. Such effects are created from simple 2D textured quads with variation in direction, size and color.

Masked Environment Mapping

AquaMark3 - Masked Environment Mapping

Environment Mapping (E.M) is an old technique though improved and perfected. Specular lightning effects and reflections are the main outcomes of this benchmark. Transparency combined with E.M produces very complex effects, like those seen on the ships above. It's hard to capture such effect, but its beauty is heavily visible in AquaMark3 - the real-time benchmark.

Large Scale Vegetation Rendering

AquaMark3 - Large Scale Vegetation Rendering

AquaMark3 Benchmark uses its own plant rendering system for underwater environment. Its efficiency can generate huge amounts of plants, plankton and other sea-type surroundings. On the above screenshot you can see hundreds of plants growing on the seabed. Each plant is individually animated for more life-like effect. What Massive Development has utilized for this chapter is a Hardware Driven Geometry Instancing Concept. As a result of this technique, only four tasks need to be processed by the CPU: plants size, position, rotation and color. This chapter delivers highest polygon count throughout entire AquaMark3 Benchmark.

Large Scale Terrain Rendering

AquaMark3 - Large Scale Terrain Rendering

Massive Development's Krass™ Engine allows for very broad viewing distances. Modern graphics cards should have no major problem coping with this benchmark.

AquaMark3 - Height Map

Quadtree based cLOD System

The terrain is produced with a height map which covers the entire underwater world. A cLOD system (continuous Level Of Detail) is then used to extract the geometry from the terrain. Additionally, the landscape is built on two types of materials: sand and rock - which are then colored accordingly.

Vertex And Pixel Lightning

AquaMark3 - Vertex And Pixel Lightning

Vertex and Pixel lightning is a very cool technique which adds life-like looking lightning effects to the gaming environment. This approach calculates the "x" amount of light (from the source) that needs to reach a vertex / pixel. Then those vertecies / pixels lit up. As the name implies, this benchmark stresses both vertex and pixel shaders.

3D Volumetric Fog

AquaMark3 - 3D Volumetric Fog

Volumetric Fog is an atmospheric type effect used to dim objects within a beam of light. This type of fog effect is restricted. In other words it must fit within a specified volume. The 3D Volumetric Fog can be seen throughout the whole AquaMark3 Benchmark. It's a nice addition to the whole underwater environment.

Complex Multimaterial Shader

AquaMark3 - Complex Multimaterial Shader

In this benchmark you will see objects where Multimaterial shaders are applied. Creating sophisticated material shaders gives very realistic effects. Take a look at the above screenshot.

Massive Overdraw

AquaMark3 - Massive Overdraw

This is the last chapter of the AquaMark3 Benchmark. As mentioned earlier, particles can be used for creation of fantastic looking explosions. In this chapter, you will be exposed to just that: smoke, explosions and missile trails. Your video card will have to render heavy loads of particles which is the main purpose of this test.

PERFORMANCE TESTS

Test bed

Abit N7F-S 2.0
Barton 2800+ @ 2.08 GHz
TwinX 512MB Corsair 3200LLPT (dual-channel)
PixelView GeForce FX 5900 (400 MHz core / 425 MHz memory)
Beta Detonator 51.75 Drivers
Windows XP with SP1

Here are some results using the beta Detonator 51.75 Drivers. We did not have enough time to complete more detailed benchmarks with this set, but I hope this gives you a picture of what is happening. Detonators 44.33 were about 5-10 FPS slower depending on the chapter.

TRISCORE: 1024x768x32bit highest details / 0AA 4AF

Custom: 1024x768x32bit highest details / 4AA 8AF

Custom: 1280x1024x32bit highest details / 4AA 4AF

Custom: 1600x1200x32bit highest details / 0AA 0AF

The first result is a TRISCORE benchmark with default settings: 1024x768x32bit 0AA 4AF, highest quality settings. Overall performance during this test was satisfying. The rest of benchmarks were done using the Advanced Measurement feature. That concludes our performance section since this is only a benchmark preview and not a driver / hardware rant.

ARC OVERVIEW

ARC™ aka AquaMark Result Comparator is an online database designed for submission of AquaMark3 Benchmark scores.

AquaMark3 - ARC Query Page

ARC gives you more options and tools for comparison of your benchmark results than any other online benchmark database tool. Just have a look at the many ways you can filter and set comparison options. It is the most powerful online database for benchmarks currently available

Searching and comparing results is easier than with any other software

AquaMark3 - ARC Result Page

You will need to register a username in order to use the ARC™ system, or to access the AquaMark forums. You only have to register once, both systems are integrated for easier access and navigation.

Things you can do inside ARC™:

  • View / Edit Measurements
  • Navigate Measurements
  • Delete Measurements
  • Compare Measurements
  • Make your scores available to the public
AquaMark3 - ARC Detailed Comparison

Detailed comparison is also available. It's a three column page that lists both yours and the comparative measurements.

CHEATING AND CONCLUSION

Statement of Massive Development regarding AquaMark3 / IHV cooperation & cheating attempts

As a developer of interactive high-end 3D gaming applications and benchmarks we obviously have to collect in-depth Know-How about a specific hardware from it's manufacturer.

This type of cooperation is common practice for all major developers. It serves the sole purpose to utilise the latest technologies in the correct way and thus giving the customer the best gaming and performance experience possible.

You may decide to support a specific hardware platform or a specific hardware feature by a game application. However this not an option for any serious benchmarking application.

While developing AquaMark3 we take precautions in a way so that all IHV's (Independent Hardware Vendors) with a vital interest in AquaMark3 are treated equally. So there is no reason for those vendors to conduct any cheating attempts on AquaMark3.

Once a benchmark is released there are obviously multiple possibilities to cheat its results (both for any IHV and any user). We took precautions to prevent and detect cheating attempts in this post release phase and during the lifetime of AquaMark3. Unfortunately we can not prevent this in all cases by the application itself.

The most powerful anti cheating tool will be the AquaMark Result Comparator (ARC), the online database and the AquaMark3 forum. We will immediately inform all customers about our evaluation of the latest cheating attempts (if they should happen).

As a developer of high end 3D gaming applications we will of course be very specific and accurate when we have to judge if a specific optimization is of general interest or if it only targets AquaMark3 in a questionable way.

We are always open to discuss our policy with interested users in this forum.

Alexander Jorias / Managing Director Massive Development
Ingo Frick / Technical Director Massive Development

Based on information from Alexander Jorias and Ingo Frick from Massive Development AquaMark3 does not contain any vendor-specific codepaths. However, this does not mean a driver cannot modify a shader or lower filtering quality to artificially increase the performance of a graphics card. There are many "optimizations" that simply do not depend on vendor specific codepaths, but can be performed through driver routines. Although I regret we haven't had enough time to test the Image Quality with AquaMark3 and Detonator 51.75, you can expect an update very soon. All I can say right now is that older drivers have a far better IQ than the upcoming release of Detonators (51.xx). This is certainly an indication that NVIDIA's "next-generation automatic shader optimizer" does exist, and will soon kick into high gear. So far it looks like NVIDIA forgot about their own optimization guidelines:

  • An optimization must produce the correct image
  • An optimization must accelerate more than just a benchmark
  • An optimization must not contain a pre-computed state.

AquaMark3 Benchmark is a fantastic tool, not only for an average Joe, but for people that demand something extra from such an application. Whether you need an accurate fillrate test, apple to apple comparison or a blazing fast and reliable DirectX 9 benchmark with backward compatibility, you can't go wrong with AquaMark3. This is not some predefined synthetic benchmark, it's based on a real game engine: Krass™ Engine. Utilizing latest DirectX 9 API, developers had a great time with the new pixel and vertex shader formats:

The most powerful new feature is the pixel shader 2.0 model, that allows significantly more textures and complexer computations in one pass. Also the new higher-level shading language (HLSL) makes life for a developer much easier, and produces usually as good code as you write by hand.

Weighing only ~60 Megabytes and priced at $9.95 for Professional license, it's simply a steal. Accurate screenshot frame grabber and automated measurement functionality are only two features that stand out from the bunch. Other benchmarks can only dream of accurate SVIST™ or PIXPM™ technologies. Application level settings make this the most sophisticated and easiest to use benchmark ever.

Will AquaMark3 replace Futuremark's benchmark suit? Wait until September 15th and see for yourself.

Back to nV News

Last Updated on September 14, 2003


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