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NVIDIA GeForce3 Preview
By: Mike Chambers - April 20, 2001

Antialiasing - Giants

We'll take a look at antialiasing image quality and performance under Direct3D from a variety of DirectX 7 based games. First up to the plate is Giants which was developed by Planet Moon Studios. Using the knowledge they acquired from developing the MDK graphics engine, the developers put together the built-from-scratch Amityville graphics engine which Giants is based on.

It took three years to complete Giants, but it wasn't until the GeForce made its debut that support for graphics-rich features such as high resolution textures, lighting, bumpmapping, enviroment mapping, and reflections were added to the game.

Quincunx Antialiasing - 1024x768

Click to Enlarge - 167KB

At the forefront of the Amityville engine is the landscape generator which relies on the ability of current graphics hardware to process an ever increasing number of polygons. Giants produces some of the most striking landscapes we've seen to date.

No Antialiasing - 1024x768

Click to Enlarge - 187KB

A typical island contains up to 30,000 polygons and is populated with creatures containing multiple levels of detail with some reaching 2,000 polygons each.

No Antialiasing - 1600x1200

Click to Enlarge - 402KB

The following images illustrate the various modes of multisampling antialiasing on the GeForce3. For best results, the enlarged images should be viewed at their native resolution of 1024x768 to see the effects of aliasing and antialiasing. This can be done by using the display properties to change the Windows desktop resolution to 1024x768 and preferably 32-bit, or true color.

GeForce3 Antialiasing Modes - 1024x768

No Antialiasing 2X Antialiasing
Click to Enlarge - 164KB Click to Enlarge - 124KB
Quincunx Antialiasing 4X Antialiasing
Click to Enlarge - 115KB Click to Enlarge - 123KB

All three modes of antialiasing do a nice job of smoothing out the edges on the arch. After careful examination of the full size images and concentrating on the top of the arch, I gave the edge to Quincunx in this particular case.

Measuring the performance of the GeForce2 Ultra and GeForce3 in Giants was subjective as I relied on the framerate counter during gameplay to get a feel for performance. The graphics were set to 32-bit color and all other options were set to their maximum values with the exception of shadows, which was disabled. The demo of Giants was tested with transform and lighting enabled.

Either card can handle Giants at a resolution of 1280x1024 and even 1600x1200 without antialiasing enabled. At a resolution of 1600x1200, the frame rate on the GeForce2 Ultra ranged from a low of 20 frames per second to a high of 40 frames per second. Performance on the GeForce3 fared better with a low of 20 frames per second while reaching a high of 65 frames per second.

With antialiasing enabled at a resolution of 1024x768, the GeForce2 Ultra ran 2X without a hitch, but 4X became a grey area as frame rates ranged from 14-30 frames per second with the majority remaining in the low 20's. With Quincunx antialiasing enabled on the GeForce3, the frame rate was a rock solid 30-40 frames per second as was 4X antialiasing.

Antialiasing - Black & White

An equally impressive graphics engine can be found in Lionhead Studios Black & White which is a strong candidate for game of the year. Similar to Giants, the setting for Black & White's is based on a brilliantly rendered island composed of mountains, plains, valleys, and trees.

Quincunx Antialiasing - 1024x768

Click to Enlarge - 228KB

Based on the power of the graphics accelerator, the landscape engine determines the amount of detail that's rendered. This allows the camera to be panned to any viewpoint from high above the game world all the way down to the detailed textures that make up the landscape while maintaining a smooth frame rate.

The lighting system in Black & White is also scalable and is based on a proprietary algorithm that will scale the number of light sources. Lighting effects, such as tracing rays of light and casting shadows on the landscape as clouds pass by the sun, are touches that add to the realism of the game environment.

No Antialiasing - 1024x768

Click to Enlarge - 232KB

Early on in the development of Black & White, Designer Peter Molyneux offered the following comments on the graphics engine in this interview with Next Generation Online:

The key to the engine's success is that it is entirely dynamic and runs independently to the game. Everything it needs, such as particular lighting or textures, will be constructed on the fly in response to the game. The main challenge with the engine is to satisfy the incredible demands made by the artists and animators in order to visualize the variety of artwork and animation which has been created to represent the variety within the game.

As for antialiasing? I was hard pressed to find a need to use it in Black & White. One reason why Black & White minimizes the effects of edge aliasing, or jagged edges, can be attributed to the artwork. The game artists developed special blending techniques to avoid hard edges appearing on the landscape between varying terrains.

No Antialiasing - 1600x1200

Click to Enlarge - 288KB

Nevertheless, I've included comparative screenshots along with an indication of performance. Performance is based the retail version of Black & White using 32-bit color with all graphics options enabled.

GeForce2 Ultra & GeForce3 Antialiasing Modes - 1024x768

No Antialiasing GeForce2 Ultra - 4X Supersampling
Click to Enlarge - 145KB Click to Enlarge - 135KB

GeForce3 - Quincunx GeForce3 - 4X Multisampling
Click to Enlarge - 132KB Click to Enlarge - 143KB

Keep in mind that while we're scrutinizing the effects of edge antialiasing by comparing static images, it's doubtful that you'll actually notice them during gameplay.

From this angle, you see that the poles exhibit severe signs of aliasing. After comparing the images, all three antialiasing methods do a good job at smoothing the pole edges as well as the edges of the terrain and mountains. But upon further inspection, as we discovered with Quake 3, a slight blurring also occurs when using Quincunx.

Another noteworthy observation is how supersampling on the GeForce2 Ultra altered the appearance of the right side of the temple (in the background) to make it look better. Other items worth comparing are the fences on the left, the small bush next to the fence, and the top of the wood piles.

GeForce3 Quincunx Antialiasing - 1024x768

No Antialiasing Quincunx Antialiasing
Click to Enlarge - 213KB Click to Enlarge - 212KB

In the above images, I noticed that texture shimmering was prevalent in certain areas of the game - especially coming from the fence around the temple and the roof. What makes these images interesting is that the fence looks similar with and without antialiasing enabled which is the same situation observed in Counter-Strike.

Similar to Giants, measuring the performance in Black & White was subjective as I used the games' maximum framerate counter which is logged under the technical statistics menu. In order to provide consistent results, I began a new game with each antialiasing mode and panned and zoomed around the landscape in a similar fashion. This exercise was very time consuming as each measure required a new game to be started at which time the training session had to be completed again.

With all the graphics options enabled and set to their maximum level, both the GeForce2 Ultra and GeForce3 achieved a maximum frame rate over 30 frames per second at a resolution of 1280x1024. At 1600x1200, the GeForce3 also reached over 30 frames per second which is what I've personally been playing at. On the GeForce2 Ultra, 1600x1200 can be used, although the response tends to feel sluggish at times.

When antialiasing was enabled at a resolution of 1024x768, 4X modes on both cards reached a maximum frame rate of 23 frames per second. On the GeForce2 Ultra, 2X antialiasing registered 29 frames per second while Quincunx on the GeForce3 managed 30 frames per second. Without antialiasing, both cards reached 45+ frames per second.

Antialiasing - Nascar Heat

We'll wrap up our look at antialiasing on the GeForce3 with the racing sim Nascar Heat. This is one game I would certainly enable antialiasing on which minimizes texture shimmering which is an undesirable side-effect of the texture mapping process.

Increasing the display resolution can reduce texture aliasing, as well as taking multiple samples of bordering pixels which is what antialiasing accomplishes. Texture aliasing occur when portions of a texture slide back and forth on an object's surface such as the rear spoiler and along the top edge of a wall.

Yes, nV News visitors do take their Nascar racing seriously...

nV News Race Car - Designed by Andrew T.

Click to Enlarge - 232KB

Texture aliasing can be particularly annoying in slower paced games such as racing and flight sims, and antialiasing can drastically minimize the effect.

GeForce3 Antialiasing Modes - 800x600

No Antialiasing 2X Antialiasing
Click to Enlarge - 143KB Click to Enlarge - 141KB
Quincunx Antialiasing 4X Antialiasing
Click to Enlarge - 152KB Click to Enlarge - 141KB

In each of the antialiasing modes available on the GeForce2 Ultra and GeForce3, the frame rate in the Nascar Heat benchmark ranged from 40-42 frames per second. The results are based on using 16-bit color at resolutions of 800x600, 1024x768, and 1280x1024 with all graphics options maximized and sound on.

To read existing comments on these images, please click here.

Quincunx Antialiasing - 1280x1024

Click to Enlarge - 364KB

Gentlemen, start your engines!

Next Page: Advanced (Anisotropic) Texture Filtering

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Last Updated on May 15, 2001

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