Reasoning into why PowerVR was selected instead of 3Dfx

Discussion in '3D Hardware, Software & Output Devices' started by megadrive0088, Nov 15, 2002.

  1. megadrive0088

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    [mods if you feel this should only be in the console forum, cool]


    I dug up a usenet post circa 1997 - on the reasoning behind Sega's selection of PowerVR(Katana/DC) over 3Dfx(Blackbelt)
    - I think perhaps 3Dfx would still be afloat today (even if barely) if they had been approved by SoJ in the console deal.

    ------
    It was simply a contest of
    >:who would provide Sega with most bang for its buck, and Highlander
    >:won that contest, fair and square. I doubt Sega would not have
    >
    >Wrong. When a Sega rep was asked whether it is true 3Dfx was
    >rejected NOT based on technological and monetary issues,
    >the Sega rep said: "That's a fair comment.".
    >
    >So now even Sega themselves have admitted their rejection
    >was purely a political decision. Sega is Japanese, so is NEC,
    >3Dfx is not. As simple as that.

    There's some truth to this.

    A little known fact is that Sega of America had specified not just a 3DFX
    but a Motorola 603e (both American designed chips) for their preliminary
    spec of the next-generation console, versus Sega Japan's spec of
    Japanese-only hardware. (Note that more powerful variations of the new
    design would also be used in next-gen Sega Arcade hardware.)

    Sega Japan, which controls all of Sega, immediately rejected the Motorola
    CPU in favor for an unavailable, untested, and unproven Hitachi processor
    design. Sega's primary reason for rejecting the much more powerful and
    well-proven Motorola PPC chip was primarlily political; they wanted a full
    license to be made in Japanese fab under Sega's control, something I doubt
    Motorola would grant. So both the Sega America (specifying 3DFX for
    graphics processor) and the Sega Japan designs (specifying a yet unchosen
    Japanese chip for a graphics processor) were in competition for the next
    console design, and Sega America was forced to change their specification
    for this unproven and as-yet-unavailable new Hitachi processor as well.

    Note that there are other reasons they'd want to go with a proprietary
    processor; they didn't want to lose their tight control over developer
    releases either; if the 603e and 3DFX combo was used, then it would be a
    fairly simple matter to emulate the nextgen console on a PPC equipped with a
    3DFX Voodoo card... it would also open the door for developers to easily
    port the next-gen Sega console games to a powermac equipped with a 3DFX
    card; and if there's one thing Japanese corporations will not tolerate, it's
    an open specification and the intense competition that comes with it. They
    *want* the system to stay proprietary and closed; that's how they do
    business as a rule (name any Japanese computer system that follows an open
    spec; even their laptops use proprietary RAM modules, CDROM modules, docking
    stations....). If someone wanted to clone the console, you can bet they'd
    have a very difficult time getting the processor chips from Hitachi.

    So it comes as no surprise whatsoever that Sega Japan would overrule Sega
    America's design and go with a Japanese graphics processor as well. Since
    the only Japanese processor that currently approachs the 3DFX's power was
    the NEC chip (which of course is a major player in corporate Japan), it
    seemed *invitable* that they would go with this. Indeed I had been quite
    surprised when I first heard that they were considering the 3DFX at all.

    Anyone whose familiar with the policies and politics of large corporations
    in Japan is familiar with this trend; whenever the option presents itself,
    a Japanese corporation will invariably go with Japanese-owned and
    manufactured components over a foreign chip which they cannot establish
    control over.

    While we in America blanche at this sort of anti-competitive policy, we have
    to remember that Japan is not America; they have a different business
    philosophy there.

    Alex
    ajb8886@cs.rit.edu
     
  2. Simon F

    Simon F Tea maker
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    Obviously it was all political and had absolutely nothing at all to do with the fact that the PowerVR solution had:
    • Automatic translucency sorting
    • 2Bit/pixel (and lower!) texture compression
    • Very high overdraw fillrate.
    • Internal secondary buffer for multipass effects
    • Normal map bump mapping.
    • Modifier volumes
    • FSAA
    • Better bandwidth utilisation -> lower cost memory
    • 32bit colour rendering (including 8bit dest alpha)
    • high accuracy FP Z.
    [/sarcasm] :roll:
     
  3. darkblu

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    /in monty python's Quest for the Holy Grail voice/

    simon, what man are you to use the VQ compression as a superiority argument over a chip which had max tex. res of 256x256 !?!
     
  4. MfA

    MfA
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    The 603e doesnt hold a candle to the SH4 either, Japanese are nationalistic ... but so are Americans. The difference is that as far as cars and electronics go the Japanese have had more reason to be most of the time. I think this time it was not too different.
     
  5. Simon F

    Simon F Tea maker
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    Damn! Of course I forgot :)
    • 1024x1024 textures
     
  6. Sage

    Sage 13 short of a dozen
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    fukin japs.... well they'll get their payback. why do you think it was so easy to accuse the Jews of being Germany's biggest problem back in the 20's and 30's? because they did buisiness the very same way, and look what happened to them once everyone else started to see this. i attribute most of the so-called "holocaust" to mob mentality, and not design. we've already taken away japans military, who's gonna defend them? :D money only buy so much defence...
     
  7. jvd

    jvd
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    Sage with the way the world is going i doubt they have to worry about being attacked. It will have to go through the u.n for a few months till people can deciede on proper wordings of things. Or wait do we just do that will sick men that have the power to wipe out half the earth ?
     
  8. megadrive0088

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    whoa! this isn't ment to be a racial or nationalistic thing. never intended it to be.

    I believe PowerVR was selected over 3Dfx because Sega probably felt that PowerVR gave a closer approximation to their Model 3 arcade hardware than 3Dfx's Voodoo series did. 3Dfx was SERIOUSLY LACKING in the image quality and features department. Where as Videologic/PowerVR exelled in many areas, having features that even Lockheed Real3D did not have... Although I would have much prefered a Real3D-based console anyday over PowerVR, PowerVR had by FAR the best price/performance ratio. cheaper than Lockheed or 3Dfx. PowerVR was a much, much smarter choice for Sega (with NEC mass producing the Videologic design) than 3Dfx was. Voodoo series had shit image quality.
    And Voodoo2 was not good enough to provide Model 3 performance. (heh, I sound like Nobody's Perfect of usenet fame.)
    Voodoo3 would have not been quite available in that timeframe (though maybe it would) I believe the 3Dfx varient for Sega was either based on Voodoo2.
    or Banshee.

    The SH-4 CPU also had ALOT more floating point power than the PowerPC 603e.
     
  9. MfA

    MfA
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    Maybe you should be more carefull of who you quote without comment then.
     
  10. Fox5

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    I remember that the original specs for the voodoo 3 had few more than the actual thing cards did. I always assumed it was due to the lose of the contract with sega that they dropped all those features.
    Also, a voodoo3 would have been a good contender for the powervr chip, and probably would have garnered more (pc) developer support. True, I don't think it would beat out the best games produced by dreamcast, but the average certainly would have been raised.
    Also, I believe 3dfx did have vastly superior hardware to powervr, but I don't think sega wanted to produce a console as expensive as the saturn.(even if this time it had a major technological advantage...imagine a dreamcast more powerful than most of the strengths of the ps2, and all of the dreamcast's)

    Oh, and wasn't sega's model 3 hardware designed by a combination of 3dfx and Lockheed martin, like how model 2 used nvidia chips?(at least I think it did)
    Also, I don't know about everyone else, but my voodoo 3 put out better graphics than nearly everything on my dreamcast. Also, sure, texture sizes may have been limited to 256x256, but, especially at the time, I saw few games that used textures larger than that, especially extensively, it was usually just a token texture here or there, and the stuff that really needed it didn't get it. And with the dreamcast's small amount of memory, could it really do very large texture sizes?

    Also, the dreamcast was nowhere near model 3 performance. Maybe 50%, 80% at best. And a more feature rich version of the voodoo3(and perhaps slightly higher performance) probably would have been used in dreamcast, possibly a dual chip solution, but I doubt it, otherwise it would be too expensive.(considering sega was $2 billion in debt at that point)

    Oh, and one point I'm wondering.....why did sega even bother with a pocketpc cpu and windows CE. I'm pretty sure even the n64's cpu would have run circles around the sh-4.(200 mhz pocket pc processor versus midrange 93 mhz sgi chip...and if you completely ignored tilebased rendering, texture compression, and visual iq, the dreamcast wasn't much more powerful than the n64...of course, without tile based rendering and texture compression, every dreamcast game probably would have looked like hi res playstation games with better filtering)
     
  11. n64

    n64
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  12. Fox5

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    Segatech? Uh.....right.......I believe that's the site that said ps2 was several times as powerful as gamecube before it came out with its "tech" articles(though I could be wrong, as I couldn't find anything like that now, or anything relating to ps2, and a page about gamecube that appeared to be far more technically accurate.....still, I'm pretty sure it was segatech or sega something), but so what if the powervr hardware could do 10 million polygons per second in a tech demo, in real life, only the very best developers, in very few games, got up to 5 or 6 million, and most games were below 3 million, and probably closer to 2.(though those games would probably be the ones that did not capitalize on tilebased rendering at all, but if you don't have a lot of overdraw, tilebased is worthless)
     
  13. jvd

    jvd
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    fox5 - dural was the site owner and he new alot of stuff about tech. Heck even Simon F posted there from time to time. Thats how i found out about this place . Sadly its not the same as it once was.
     
  14. Reznor007

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    Umm....a 200MHz SH4 is slower than a 93MHz MIPS R4300i? Since when?
     
  15. darkblu

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    fox5, no offence, pal, but you're been talking rubbish in this thread.
     
  16. Simon F

    Simon F Tea maker
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    For a start, what has Voodoo3 got to do with it? V3 would have been no more than a twinkle in 3dfx's eye at that time. AFAICS any 3dfx proposal would have been Banshee or V2 based (and, IIRC, the latter had not been released at the time).
    On a separate note, as for features of the V3 they must have dropped a great many if it had a comparable number to PowerVR's CLX.

    Possibly (and I mean possibly because I don't know the specs) the only thing a 3dfx solution may have had was more raw fillrate but I heard on the grapevine that Sega's own benchmarks ran faster on the CLX than on the much more expensive V2.
    ...despite the evidence to the contrary?
    Just Lockheed-Martin if I'm not mistaken. BTW has anyone seen the boards (plural!!) in a model 3? The system is enormous and rather expensive!
    (The remainder of Mr Fox's interesting post deleted)

    There are 3 modes available. The one that was most commonly used (for about 75% of the textures) is asymptotically 2bpp, i.e. it's 2bpp plus the size of the LUT which could be up to 2kB. For example a 1k*1k texture would require at max 258kB => 2.02bpp.
    It was possible to use 1bpp and 0.5bpp (at further reduced quality) but the compression tool was only upgraded to do this at a fairly late stage, due to the researcher (cough) being busy.

    For a example of the 2bpp mode see these pages
     
  17. Fox5

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    "fox5 - dural was the site owner and he new alot of stuff about tech. Heck even Simon F posted there from time to time. Thats how i found out about this place . Sadly its not the same as it once was."
    Well, I thought it was. I remember some site with sega in its name that had bs articles all over it.

    "Umm....a 200MHz SH4 is slower than a 93MHz MIPS R4300i? Since when?"
    Since a g4 beats a pentium 3 clock for clock. One is a low power cpu meant to do minimal work, the other was meant for 3d rendering.(combined with about 80 other processors in 1994, but still.....I'd assume it's faster clock for clock)

    "For a start, what has Voodoo3 got to do with it? V3 would have been no more than a twinkle in 3dfx's eye at that time. AFAICS any 3dfx proposal would have been Banshee or V2 based (and, IIRC, the latter had not been released at the time).
    On a separate note, as for features of the V3 they must have dropped a great many if it had a comparable number to PowerVR's CLX"
    Voodoo 3 was released before dreamcast, at least in the US. I'd say that puts it in a useable timeframe.
    And I remember, back when the 3dfx was still open, articles about how the voodoo3 promised more than it delivered(real time ray tracing and things like that), and how it was originally suppposed to be a very feature rich card, and retailing for around $300-400, but the features were dropped because "the CEO had dollar symbols in his eyes" and thought if they could sell the card as cheap as possible($100-$200), they could make more money by selling more.


    "...despite the evidence to the contrary? "
    multichip solutions.......
     
  18. Dave Baumann

    Dave Baumann Gamerscore Wh...
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    So, no-one has pointed out the obvious to you yet then? PowerVR's tiling solutions had been inherantly predisposed to multi-chip. Why do you think Sega's post model 3 cabinets used multiple PowerVR Series 2 chips?
     
  19. Simon F

    Simon F Tea maker
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    Having studied the MIPS chips of that time very carefully (in particular NECs 4k and 5k series chips) as well as the SH4, I think I can safely say that the latter was by far the better choice.

    Sorry, I should have been clearer. The timeframe I'm refering to was long before the release date. Consoles, unlike PC graphics cards, have to have new games at launch and therefore the developers need to have the systems on their desks well before public availability.
     
  20. Fox5

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    "So, no-one has pointed out the obvious to you yet then? PowerVR's tiling solutions had been inherantly predisposed to multi-chip. Why do you think Sega's post model 3 cabinets used multiple PowerVR Series 2 chips?"
    I knew they had multichip solutions, but wasn't sure about back then. I also wasn't sure about the efficiency....oh and I think only the naomi 2 used multiple chips, and it certainly wasn't 4x the power of the dreamcast, despite having 4 chips. I think tile based rendering loses efficiency with multi chip solutions, but that's probably due to the multi chip solutions in general, and has nothing to do with tile based rendering.(just something I heard about powervr's multichip configurations)


    "Sorry, I should have been clearer. The timeframe I'm refering to was long before the release date. Consoles, unlike PC graphics cards, have to have new games at launch and therefore the developers need to have the systems on their desks well before public availability."
    Oh yeah, sonic adventure was really taking advantage of the hardware. Game development is started before final hardware is available, and thus they guess at what they will have. Oh, and if they had gone with a 3dfx card, they could have used direct x or opengl or glide(though I think dreamcast supported directx), they could have programmed for those. Xbox game development started way before final hardware was ready, and it wasn't very difficult to adapt the games to final hardware due to the similarity to pcs.

    BTW, what games on dreamcast couldn't have been done on a voodoo3? I'd say shenmue 1 or 2, but their lackluster framerates, and blocky textures(even though they had a lot of them) probably would have been possible. And while areas were detailed, they usually weren't very large(and people and some objects weren't loaded into memory until you were right next to them). Test Drive Le Mans maybe couldn't have been done, if it ran at 60 fps on dreamcast, but I don't know the recommended specs of the pc version. Sonic adventure 2 I don't think could have been done, mainly since I have no comparable games on pc, but also because it had high res textures, and rather large and detailed environments, and usually ran at 60 fps. However, the average game on dreamcast didn't look anywhere near as good as these games. Also, pc ports, like quake 3 and unreal tournament, have to be very heavily downgraded for dreamcast. Now, I know dreamcast had less memory, and a slower cpu, but consoles are supposed to be able to due more with less due to no operating system, but say a 500 mhz athlon with a voodoo 3 could easily outperform a dreamcast in unreal tournament, or quake 3. I don't even think those games ran at full detail(more like low to mid) and ran at 640x480 and sub 30 fps.(not too far below, but it wasn't perfectly stable) I'm pretty sure, a voodoo3 running either of these games at the maximum settings possible and 1024x768 could usually stay above 30 fps. It could also run max payne with a better frame rate than shenmue 2, and max payne has far better textures and particle effects.(or at least it did on my computer, but by that point, I was probably running with the latest 3rd party 3dfx drivers, that probably had edge antialiasing, hidden surface removal, geometry assist, and software texture compression...not sure if the software texture compression worked, but it did remove all the textures from 3d mark)
     
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