Open Source Zealotry at 3dfx!Dec 11, 1999, 15:59 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Emmett Plant)
By Emmett Plant
3D video card manufacturer 3dfx made a splash in the Open Source community earlier this week by Open Sourcing their popular Glide API. Glide is one of the premiere 3D technologies in games for the Windows platform, and open sourcing it means that game development on the Linux platform can move at a faster clip.
I had the opportunity to discuss the 3dfx's Open Source efforts with Brian Burke, one of 3dfx/STB's PR folks. In speaking to Brian, I learned that not only was 3dfx one of the best video card manufacturers in the industry, but that they were also invariably devoted to the open source community. While 3dfx isn't currently willing to announce any more open source projects for the time being, past history indicates that 3dfx will continue to support Linux and the open source community for many years to come.
One of the latest open source wonders to come out of 3dfx is the FXT1 texture compression technology, which is designed to compress textures with minimal loss and present them in gameplay accurately, regardless of the platform and/or API it's presented on.
Brian looks at this as a major boon to software companies working hard to keep things even across software distributions and platforms.
"If someone wants to play Quake under a different API, why should id Software have to pay the penalty of losing high resolutions textures to do that? The Voodoo4 and 5 will support FXT1, as well. If our competitors want to include FXT1 in their hardware, more power to them. It's open source - All they have to do is go get it."
I also got to ask Michael Vance, Programmer for Loki Entertainment Software, what he thought of the Open Source efforts at 3dfx.
"While I think FXT1 and Glide are great, I don't think either of those are anywhere near as important as the complete register level specifications release for the Voodoo 3000 and related products, like the Banshee. A lot of people had thought that 3dfx was a little behind in the market after nVidia released their video card drivers as Open Source, but now [3dfx] has one of the most open and supported pieces of hardware for Linux. I would love to be able to release 3-D accelerated Heretic II and Heavy Gear II for PPC and Alpha."
By staying ahead of the hardware pack by continuous open source efforts and 3D innovation, 3dfx is one more company that is showing that there is money to be made with open source as part of the business model.