Oh what a year it was. New, fast, cheap, processors abound along with the blistering speed of new video cards. One small problem. There were few new sims to run all that cool technology on. Hello 2008.
Somewhere along the way to the effort of competing against Intel as a platform provider, AMD stumbled its way into serious financial trouble. While a lot of its current issues can be attributed to its primary competitors firing on all cylinders (for example, who could’ve predicted that Intel’s desktop parts would be so wildly successful with the Core 2 Duos after years of NetBurst-based processors?), 2008 will be a telling year for AMD. The Phenom (K10) architecture needs a stepping or two for bug fixes and higher clock speeds, and AMD needs to transition to 45nm as fast as the company can. And Intel’s tick-tock cycle is ticking away with the shadow of Nehalem still rumored to be looming at year’s end. Penryn is the tick to Nehalem’s tock, a new architecture that, as wesomewhat detailed here is a scalable multi-core design with an on-die memory controller that boasts per core multithreading and a new point-to-point chip interconnect rather than a traditional bus.
On the GPU-front, AMD managed to release competitive midrange parts with the Radeon 3000 series late in 2007, after essentially handing NVIDIA a full year of nothing but pure dominance thanks to its excellent GeForce 8800 series. And with the rollout of the first new Microsoft desktop OS in almost six years, one that furthermore included a new version of DirectX, AMD’s failure to deliver a competitive DX10 GPU could not have seen worse timing. The Radeon 2900 XT hit the market like a WKRP turkey dropped on a Cincinnati parade, but as mentioned above AMD took the R600 chip, moved it to a new process, made some refinements, and thus was born the Radeon 3000s… solid midrange parts that compete fairly well against NVIDIA’s 8800 GT. We hope AMD’s graphics division has moved beyond whatever issues caused such a stumbling and can regain their stride in 2008 with solid, 2nd-generation DX10 GPUs.
We’re certainly not enjoying what AMD wrought for itself in 2007 for several reasons. The spunky Sunnyvale CPU company has been in a similar position prior to the Athlon 64’s release years ago and we hope that management are able to turn the company around in 2008 and make it once again a solid, viable competitor. Aside from the Extreme 9770, a part with a somewhat ethereal release date and price, Intel seems to believe that 3.0GHz is some trench in the ground that its parts are unable to cross. We realize the company is most likely sandbagging due to the lack of competition in the desktop space, yet we don’t want to come off as unfairly blasting Intel for simply managing their yields and profit margins in the face of the current market situation. And the same goes on the GPU side, with the GeForce 8800 GTX, a part released in 2006, still firmly sitting on the GPU performance throne. An unacceptable situation in the face of the merely decade-old history of desktop 3D accelerators that saw incredible performance gains over the years.
And speaking of unacceptable graphics performance, the handful of games that have dared to wet their toes into the muddied stream of the DX10 pipeline have garnered for the new iteration of Microsoft’s API a rather tarnished reputation. Yet as in so many other aspects of life, our collective memory can be painfully short. Case in point: early DX9 hardware likewise choked when running any code other than than that built upon previous generations of the API, and we certainly see this repeated with GPUs like NVIDIA’s 8800s. So we expect 2008 to bring 2nd-gen. DX10 GPUs more adept at accelerating SM4.0 titles.
– John Reynolds
The First Annual John Reynolds Elves and Dragons Awards
Editor’s Note: Well since this is John’s page we will publish his favorite genre picks and pans from a post in the Staff Forum.
“No idea if this is ‘publishable’ at SimHQ [it is!] but here goes my ‘elves and dragons’ rip.”
Best PC Game of the Year: The Witcher. Despite some shoddy translation and voice acting, The Witcher presents the best narrative and ‘living’ world of any RPG in years (yes, I’m looking at you Oblivion). There is no binary right or wrong, good or evil, views presented within the game, but rather a cascading series of grey choices that give the title quite a bit of replayability. It also offers a wealth of upgrade and crafting options, and the combat system is extremely intuitive and remains enjoyable through acquiring new skills.
Most Overhyped was BioShock. The gaming press entered into an frenzied orgasm of heaping effusive praise upon this title, blasting grapeshots of excessive rhetoric across the ‘net lest they be outdone by competing outlets. And in the end, the game was just a pale System Shock imitator with a quasi-interesting setting. Anyone who didn’t see the big narrative ‘shock’ coming twenty fathoms away should burn their gaming card.
2008 Anticipations: Bioware’s Dragon Age, the company’s first internally developed fantasy world. Here’s hoping the recent EA acquisition doesn’t impact its development. Also looking forward to Mafia 2 and Knights of the Sky.”
– John Reynolds
2007 SimHQ Technology Articles
Copy Protection Through the Eyes (ouch!) of “BeachAV8R”
I was going to write an article for the end of year wrap-up, but I realized that my Microsoft Word was no longer working due to StarForce. As a matter of fact, as I was just starting to write the first page, my DVD burner started accelerating at an incredible speed, defying all Newtonian laws. Then the DVD came apart, shooting Silent Hunter 3 shards of StarForce infected plastic from the drive bay. One of them hit me in my eye. I quickly removed the shard, but last week I realized that I could no longer remember anything prior to the date of the incident. Yes — StarForce has also infected my brain.
I contacted the authorities, and they told me not to travel since I was now a carrier. I had a wedding to attend in Italy though, so I snuck into Mexico and traveled via British Airways to London then on to Italy. So now Europe is infected too. Some might be upset about getting infected with StarForce, but I rather enjoy it.
You see, I enjoy talking about StarForce much more than I enjoy playing sims and games on my computer. It is the new object of my obsession. I’m getting together with a publisher and we are going to create a StarForce game as a matter of fact. You travel though dark hallways trying to get Nero to burn copies of your data files. It will be scarier than Stalker (because Stalker only uses SecurROM). So, maybe I’ll submit an article next year… I hear they are working on a cure.
– Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth
Editor’s Note: Yes, this is a satire and Beach lives on “un-infected and un-injured” by any copy protection software. We think.
The G25 had its first full year in production, and it’s a great piece of kit. NaturalPoint’s TrackIR continues to find its way into more and more titles, adding to immersion. It is sad to note though, that of the limited selection of mass-produced racing peripherals, Logitech makes about 60% of them (G25, MOMO, DFP). If Logitech loses interest, the genre could be hosed.
I discovered to my delight that some laptops are so powerful now that they can act as desktop replacements. That’s handy if you have to “travel” unexpectedly.
If I were to get a console, it wouldn’t be one of the big two as they just offer even more of the same old same old. It would be the Nintendo Wii, as it seems to offer something new. At least it’s games let you get off the couch and be physically active.
– Jens “McGonigle” Lindblad
Not Ready for Primetime
Vista and simulations? Hahahaha….! Check back later to see if things are better.
From the Staff Forum
“guod” (teasing John Reynolds):“We could say all that valuable 2007 computing and graphics power was wasted on those ‘elves and dragons’ games…”
John “EaD” Reynolds: “I will pray for you after uttering such blasphemy.”