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Creative Labs Interview at Glide Underground: 6/16/99 -- by  

Creative Labs Interview at GlideUnderground:6/16/99
  Involved Parties:
, Glide Underground News/Reviews Editor
John Danforth, VP & General Counsel, Creative Labs
Steve Mosher, VP, Graphics Business Unit


To begin, how much warning was there that this lawsuit would occur, and were you expecting it when you began to implement the Unified drivers?

Discussion of how to answer 3DFX's concerns began approximately 4-5 days before the press release and arrival of paperwork, with discussion of having the source codes compared by an independent expert.

We were aware of 3DFX's stance on the wrappers and their stance that their competitiveness could go away if Glide worked on other hardware, and their conduct towards other wrapper developers (specifically students), and from following Glide Underground were watching to be sure we stayed within the guidelines for wrappers which 3DFX themselves had set.

We were expecting to have a good-faith exercise to seek compliance with the guidelines, not a lawsuit being served.

Personally having looked at the guidelines issued by 3DFX, as they had been published on Glide Underground. we had a pretty clear indication how development had to be done to be acceptable to them.  The last thing we expected was a lawsuit with these kind of claims in it.

Have 3DFX given any of their evidence of how they "found" Glide source code, or evidence that such exists in the Unified drivers?  I know that in the case of other wrappers, they said there was SDK header information in the source code, gainable only from an SDK or a decompilation of their drivers.

In the complaint, the only evidence of their source code is that the file and command names are used. They claim that this is evidence of source code copying, to which we say "Balderdash."  It is required to use those names to create a functional wrapper, and they know it from work with Glide Underground and their approval of other Glide Wrappers.

They (3dfx) have approved other wrappers, with the same characteristics as Creative's Unified wrapper (the file names and command names).

What do you plan to do while the litigation continues? (i.e. Will Unified keep going?)

We plan to continue to distribute and improve Unified, to respond to the needs of our customers.

How much credence do you put in 3DFX's claims that another 100 titles are being developed "for" Glide, and their claim that 200 commercial products have been developed "for" Glide, as their press release about the lawsuit stated?

 I can't address the claim, but I can say that when we went to look for titles we went to game sites, and after thorough research the initial list had somewhere between 20 and 30 titles. And they were old games, as well. It's interesting to know that Bruce Busby, their director of Intellectual Property, couldn't tell Multimedia Wire's reporter how many Glide-only titles there were.

Is there a possibility that further software titles with what I term "afterthought" support for Direct3D and OpenGL, such as Epic's Unreal, could be added to the list of titles supported by Unified in order to speed up their performance on Creative's video accelerator line?

Our initial motivation was to add legacy support for our end user on games that were Glide-only.  As a natural fallout of that, titles like Unreal will be picked up simply because of functionality development. I think what you see here is a transition of choice of API's, moving away from Glide-only support.  It is absolutely clear now that D3D is the API of choice.  You may see a few titles start with only Glide for 3D acceleration, but more and more are shipping either D3D-only or with both API's supported out of the box now.

What is your response to 3DFX's cutting off of their chip line and making boards themselves?

3DFX bought STB, because they thought STB would secure all the  OEMs,   By buying STB, they gave us and our partner NVidia some great wins in the marketplace. So we say, "Thank You."

Early in development (pre-ComDex), the chip  was called the Banshee 2, because it IS  a Banshee only with another TMU. We had real problems with the lack of 32bit rendering  and RAM.   We were looking at the Voodoo3 chipset
and didn't know what to do with it because it was only 16-bit, and 16 MB. All the  other chip vendors   are on 32-bit and 32MB: more color depth, bigger frame buffers. Nvidia, S3, ATI, and Matrox all realized that quality counts,
 while 3DFX took a Banshee core and renamed it Voodoo3.  I am really happy that 3DFX bought STB, because it gave us the opportunity and the chance to compete against the Voodoo3, which is technologically challenged

What do you think of 3DFX's "But we render at 32 bits internally" claim?

Well, nobody sees the pixels inside the chip, so what matters is what's on the monitor, 3DFX knows that 32 bits is required, and when they do make 32 bit cards they will be trying to make everyone  forget that they said 16 bit was good enough. You have to be honest about these things, and those that have been in the 3D hardware business for long know that for the human visual system 32 bits or beyond is what is required.

The best evidence that 16-bit rendering  is not good enough is Quake 3. Look at the visuals on a Voodoo3. Look at the sky, shoot a rocket, and watch the dither pattern. The picture speaks for itself. The image quality you get is simply not as good as the 32-bit rendering on a TNT2 Ultra or even a TNT, for that matter. The sad thing is that the 3dfx engineers KNOW that.

Remember, the Voodoo3 was called a Banshee 2 UP UNTIL they decided to buy STB and changed the name for martketing purposes.  Technically, it is a Banshee core with a second TMU added. In the end, the end users CANNOT be fooled. They see the visuals of the Voodoo3 and they stick it back in the box and return it.

The representatives of Creative Labs also added that they still think that 3DFX is unreasonable on ther position, and that Glide Underground and the other wrapper developers deserve the title of "heroes" for keeping going through 3DFX's harassment and bullying tactics. Part of the reason for the development of Unified was that Glide Underground and the dedication of its staff and the wrapper coders proved how much of a need there was for the Wrappers as a product. The harassment of the other wrapper writers was also a strong motivation for a card manufacturer to begin to place such a product on its line of device drivers.

Thanks go to Jennifer Garrett, Creative Labs PR representative, for arranging this interview, and to John Danforth and Steve Mosher for donating their time to answer these questions. 


Creative Labs Interview at GlideUnderground

Added:  Wednesday, June 16, 1999
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf


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