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Chatlog: NVIDIA’s Director of Developer Relations Bill Rehbock

Edited log from our chat on March 25, 2003 with NVIDIA’s Director of Developer Relations Bill Rehbock.

(Comment from SwedBear: All the questions that I didn’t have time to ask or that were to technical for Bill will be send to NVIDIA so they can answer them. This includes a lot of driver questions.)

Edited log from our chat on March 25, 2003 with NVIDIA’s Director of Developer Relations Bill Rehbock.

1. Scott> So Bill how many people work in your team with developers?
<NV_Bill> We work with developers and publishers to make sure that NVIDIA provides the best gaming platform possible for the PC.
< NV_Bill> We have a total team of over 200 folks in the U.S., Europe, and Asia that are dedicated to our relationships with Developers and publishers.

2. Tell us a bit about the “The Way It’s Meant to Be Played” program
< NV_Bill> <NV_Carrie> The Way It’s Meant to Be Played is a marketing program we started to help better identify those games that are optimized for and play best on NVIDIA hardware.
< NV_Bill> We’ve had more than 20 titles participate so far, including NOLF2, Battlefield 1942, UT2003, to name a few…
< NV_Bill> The program has been very successful in helping our partners sell more product.

3. <SwedBear> What does ‘optimized for and played best on’ really mean? I think a lot would like to argue that they play great on competitor hardware to
< NV_Bill> The long and the short of it is that developers in the program are using NVIDIA to design, develop, and test their products…
< NV_Bill> If a player wants to play the game pixel for pixel the way that the game was created, you can do that using NVIDIA gpus.
< NV_Bill> It was born out of the fact that most developers and publishers use NVIDIA as their “reference standard” for hardware and driver compatibility.

4 . <Scott> To Mr. RehBock: Can we expect significant performance and quality enhancements in terms of AA and AF in the upcoming NV products? ( e.g NV35 )
<NV_Bill> Absolutely; the AA and AF enhancements were a key consideration in the overall design of the GF FX family.

5. <SwedBear> With DX8.1 NVIDIA’s cards definitely was the developers choice. Are you not worried that ATI will be the choice of developers for DX9 simply because thier cards have been out a long time?
< NV Bill>It was important that DX9 didn’t really hit until November, so there isn’t so much of a “head start” as one might think…
< NV_Bill> We actually had working DX9 drivers and our shader emulator working on Ti4600 mid-last year when we started talking about Cg…
< NV_Bill> so a lot of the earliest shader work was done on our drivers anyway.
< NV_Bill> The full 32-bit per component precision has been important for those doing university work and such, so it has been quickly adopted as the reference standard for writing high quality shaders.

6. <SwedBear> Since we are on the subject of CG. how well does the integration of Cg with the developers work?
< NV_Bill> Both HLSL and Cg have been key to seeing developer adoption of new technology faster than we’ve ever seen before…
< NV_Bill> I think we’ll see a surprising number of titles this year already moved over to DX9 and High Level Shading Language…
< NV_Bill> that will provide a fantastic experience for gamers.

7. <SwedBear> Got any titles :)?
< NV_Bill> Tomb Raider, Gun Metal, Planetside, STALKER, to name a few.

8. <SwedBear> Can you give an estimate on how many developers are using Cg now….
< NV_Bill> Cg in and of itself isn’t really important for the consumer as much as how many titles will take advantage of the next generation of cinematic shading.
<NV_Bill> Frankly, from my group’s standpoint, we just want to make sure that gamers can experience cinematic effects in gaming and that titles are visually differentated from what they’ve been in the past.

9. <SwedBear> How has the developing community responded to the delay of the NV30? ATI has had DX9 cards out for over 6 months and NVIDIA is yet to release a DX9 card.
< NV_Bill> Our focus has not been solely on the high-end part, but making sure that the entire GeForce FX family was executed properly…
< NV_Bill> For the sake of the PC gaming marketing, I feel that it’s crucial this time to have the entire top-to-bottom DX solution covered, which we’ve accomplished with the 5200, 5600, and 5800 as a family.

10. <SwedBear> Do you expect DX9 games to get a breakthrough under 2003 or will it take until 2004 before we see more than 1 or 2 true DX9 games?
< NV_Bill> I think that we’ll see a surprising number of titles at E3, and the hotest titles this holiday season will take advantage of DX9.

11. SwedBear> Given the lack of titles that fully utilize the capabilities of the FX, has NVIDIA considered funding the development of a showcase game, or ‘killer app’
< SwedBear> Or do you consider Doom3 to be that app?
< NV_Bill> .) Doom3 is certainly a killer app, but there are others that I’m excited about also; although I shouldn’t announce products for our partners. .)
< SwedBear> Hehe, we won’t tell anyone ;).
< NV_Bill> You’ll see a lot of these at E3.

12. <SwedBear> Ok, back to a developer question: How do NVIDIA work with developers? In what stage of development of a new chip does the developers get their hands on the new hardware? are the special features of a chip/sdk available to the developers before the chips are out (do they have kind of previews to include features of future chips in their software?)
< NV_Bill> We stay in constant with our developers and they are a contstant source of great ideas as to what we should be doing next…
< NV_Bill> Part of our success has been that we listen closely to developers and we are great at implementing what they’d like to have rather than coming up with our idea of what should be great next and making them use it.
< NV_Bill> That being the case, they sort of know what’s coming before we do 🙂

13. <SwedBear> it’s quite easy to get the gamers (me included) to drop their jaw with new features. but how cold blooded are developers when you show them new features?
< NV_Bill> Most jaws dropped when we showed Dawn for the first time…

14. <Scott> On that Dawn Point, What did they saw when they saw 4 Dawns at once?
< NV_Bill> The more, the merrier.
< NV_Bill> The great thing for gamers, is that because the difference that cinematic shading provides is so night and day,
< NV_Bill> we’ve had more developers wanting to roll the tech into their games this time than ever before.
< SwedBear> And is there a naked mode of Dawn ….. ;). Ok, I won’t ask that questions 🙂
< SwedBear> I can’t even run the demo ..
< Scott> I can, Bill Send the naked on over 🙂

15. SwedBear> I got a question regarding what you need to do to get a job with you guys?
< NV_Bill> We are always looking for world-class talent. Please feel free to take a look at the listings on NVIDIA.COM

16. <SwedBear> Let’s say I’m a new independent little company that has started to work on a new game. What kind of help can such a group get from NVIDIA?
< NV_Bill> Please contact us; we love to work with new talent. STALKER is a great example of how we reach out to new talent and try to help them…
< NV_Bill> I think that we are going to see a new generation of storytelling emerge in the coming years because the technology finally can produce imagery that appeals to the masses…

16A. <Scott> Has Stalker found a Publisher yet.
< NV_Bill> I believe they have, but it has not been announced.

17. <SwedBear> Seeing Nvidia’s logo splashed across the intro of games is the thin end of the wedge as far as advertising in games goes. How far will this trend be taken? Will Nvidia logos start popping up as textures at key points in games? How do you expect end-user response to be positive in an era when everyone is sick of seeing advertising everywhere on anything?
<NV_Bill> I don’t see the logo as an advertisment as much as a statement of the developer’s intention as to what would be best to run the game on…
<NV_Bill> When I came up with the idea, the Dolby marquees and THX marquee is what I had in mind; that’s why we encourage developers to take the models and “personalize” them.
<NV_Bill> In general, though, I think that we will be seeing more things like product placement IN games as time goes on. It’s been common in sports titles for a while, and we’ll see more of it in other games.

18.<SwedBear> it more a “we need that feature” from the developers, or a “guys we have something new” from nvidias side? and as most developers stick directly with api’s like direct x, on which levels does the collaboration concentrate (special features for nvidia only)?
< NV_Bill> It’s far more “NVIDIA, we could really use this feature.” and NVIDIA looking at the problems that are trying to be solved and coming up with better hardware to solve them.
< NV_Bill> I think that we collaborate incredibly well with the developers and the gamer really benefits from it.

19.<SwedBear> Ok, since I get completely bombarded regarding this: Can you give any info about the upcoming Detonator 50 drivers? …… People are really missing newer WHQL drivers from NVIDIA
<NV_Bill> Good timing; I’m happy to say that we are planning on a driver release later this week.

20. Gene> Is NVIDIA’s significant market share a cause or effect of the hands on approach with developers? mix of both?
<NV_Bill> Being a content-focused kind of guy, my belief is that our success is largely due to the great games that our partners create. If it wasn’t for compelling content, we’d be making doorstops.

21. <Gene> Is NVIDIA involved in the OpenGL consortium. OpenGL2.0 development?
<NV_Bill> Yes, we are very involved in OpenGL. When OpenGL happens, as always, you will be able to count on the best OpenGL support from NVIDIA.

22. What do you think of Microsoft pulling out of the OpenGL ARB? Does that in any way change NVIDIA’s commitment to OpenGL?
NV_Bill> It doesn’t really change our position. As long as our users need DirectX and OpenGL, we’ll have the best support possible for both.

23. <Topaz> Are any developers besides id using OpenGL 2.0 yet?
NV_Bill> There are many that are looking, either becuase they’ve used id engines in the past, or out of the interest in staying up to date.

24. <SwedBear> Why doesn’t NVIDIa include a good list of fixes when they release new Detonators?
NV_Bill> The biggest thing that usually happens with an NVIDIA driver release is feature implementation or performance increases; I’m not that involved in the driver release process, so I don’t know the detailed history.

25. <Topaz> From sega: Do you think that 3dMark03 accurately portrays the FX Ultra’s capabitlities?
<NV_Bill> No, I really don’t. I think that the experience that a gamer has when playing a game is the best judge.

26. <SwedBear> Will new Linux drivers for FreeBSD 5.x be available soon? people seem very happy with NVIDIA’s Linux support …. Sorry. A bit tired. I mean FreeBSD and new Linux drivers
<NV_Bill> Linux support is very important to us; we were showing the Gentoo Linux LiveCD UT2003 demo in our booth at GDC…

27. <Topaz> From MissingLynx: Are you working on an accurate way to capture screen shots with AA on the FX boards?
<NV_Bill> Yes, we are.

28. We have heard a lot of talk about an Anisotropic-filtering bug with the Geforce 4 cards, particularly while using Direct3d
For example with ut2k3 one user got 116fps with no Anisotropic but with only 2x Aniso his frame rate went down to 69fps. Almost 1/2 the speed (this also shows up in 3dmark2k1se) BUT we also tried Nascar 2002 and got 85fps with no AA and no Aniso. When we tried it with 2x aniso we got 75fps.
Is there something a game developer has to do to avoid the major speed drop off with a Geforce 4 or is it a driver/hardware issue?

<NV_Bill> The known aniso issues have been addressed in GeForce FX

28A . <CrashMaster> so its a hardware issue?
< NV_Bill> It’s a general efficiency issue that was best addressed by hardware tweaking. You’re at the edge of my familiarity with this issue, btw 🙂

29. <Topaz> From sega: Is it at all likely that nVidia will ever come out with a video card with a TV tuner like ATI’s Radeon All in One?
<NV_Bill> I’d rather not discuss future product plan specifics, but I can say that I’m pretty happy with Personal Cinema as it stands today, and Media Center PC’s have been fantastic, regardless of the tuner used today.

30. <SwedBear> <the_stick> Q: With which genre of games would you recommened to use CG Effects? FPS , RPG , Flight Sim ?
<NV_Bill> All of the above; you will see great Cinematic Shaders used in all of these genres.

31. <SwedBear> Do you have any comments about Futuremarks decision to withdraw all the results done with several of your leaked driver revisions?
<NV_Bill> I really don’t have a comment on that.

32. <SwedBear> A new benchmark called Aquamark 3 has been announced. Has NVIDIA had any contacts with this company?
<NV_Bill> We’ve worked with the people at Massive pre-original Aquanox

33. <Topaz> Will we be seeing higher order FSAA modes like 16x enabled in future drivers?
NV_Bill> I’ll ask our Driver Product Manager if he can do a chat next week 🙂 I’m sorry, I don’t really have the roll-out plan details handy.

34. <SwedBear> Togehter with the driver question this one is very popular: any info about the NV35 :)?
<NV_Bill> Yes, four Dawns are better than one 😉
<NV_Bill> You can expect to hear a lot about NV35 late this spring.

36. <SwedBear> Ok, I know you can’t say more. However – when can we really see FX’s in the retain stores? <SwedBear> I know the developers would like us all to have FX’s (and that other companies DX9 products 😉
<NV_Bill> The entire line will be in full swing at retail in April.

<NV_Bill> Time for a couple more.

35. <Gene> Does the short product cycle impact your end of the business much?
<NV_Bill> It’s fun to keep up with, especially compared to the cycle of consoles.

36. <SwedBear> A followup question to your NV35 answer: Was those dawns 4 standard model or ultra model Dawns?
NV_Bill> I don’t know; I’d have to ask the demo group guys.

37. <SwedBear> Volt question: What does CG actually offer to developers? Both DirectX 9 and OGL 2.0 have built in high-level shader instructions which can produce cinematic effects.
<NV_Bill> The developers that I talk to say that the best thing about Cg is the write-once run everywhere aspect.
NV_Bill> We love HLSL and as soon as OGL2 really exists, we’ll have support for that. Under the hood, it’s not all that different…
NV_Bill> our value-add is making sure that developers have the ability to choose for themselves and use what’s best for them.

38. <SwedBear> Some final questions. What games are YOU looking forward to this year? You get much beta’s to play with in the office?
<NV_Bill> Tron 2.0 will be great; Doom3, and Flight Simulator 9 (I’ve been an FS fan sine my early Atari days 🙂 There are others that I can’t talk about – yet 😉

* SwedBear says – I am saving all driver related questions and we might either have a chat with driver guys or maybe at least send them over to them.

39. blzburn> can u ask if developers have expressed concern towards Nvidia for the lack of a 256-bit memory bus on the GF FX?
NV_Bill> No, the clock speeds have more than made up for it. DDR2 has been very good for us.

40. <SwedBear> Half Life 2 was mentioned in a conference call. Any info about that?
<NV_Bill> No, we’ve got so many products, it’s frankly easy to get tripped up with Tron 2, Doom 3, and we still play Half-Life around the office a lot. Dan Vivoli, or VP of Marketing is a FPS maniac and he and Jensen are constanly talking about all of our partner titles.

[20:29] <SwedBear> Ok guys. That’s all the time Bill can spare for us (1 1/2 hour goes fast!)
[20:29] <SwedBear> Got any closing comments for us Bill?
[20:29] <SwedBear> A huge thanks for taking the time!

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