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3dfx to take on S3 texture comp. in open source move

FXT1 better than S3TC, company claims -- and it's available to all, not just Windows guys

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3dfx this week unveiled the latest new technology to be added to its upcoming Voodoo 3D graphics chip, codenamed Napalm. In a move set to tackle rival graphics specialist S3 head on, 3dfx announced its own texture compression technology, FXT1. And in a bid to grab mindshare from S3's S3TC, the company said it will release the spec. and code the powers FXT1 under an open source licence. FXT1 can squeeze textures down by a ratio as high as 8:1, 3dfx claimed. The scheme uses multiple compression algorithms, mixing and matching the best techniques not only for given textures but for given elements within the overall texture. That, said a 3dfx spokesman, ensures FXT1 can compress textures to a greater degree than can S3's technology -- and still offer better image quality. FXT1 does this by using a 4-bit compressed texture format for 32-bit images that use the Alpha channel for translucency effect data (S3TC uses an 8-bit compressed format). Of course, as technologically superior as 3dfx may claim FXT1 to be, the fact remains S3TC is available now, and is already a part of Microsoft's DirectX game graphics API, making it readily accessible to every game developer, almost all of whom are now using DirectX as their prime game API. 3dfx's way around that is its open source manoeuvre. The company's spin here is that it allows cross-platform game developers to use the technology, while S3TC remains restricted to Windows 98. True, but given the relatively low level of games development on Linux, MacOS and others, there aren't that many cross-platform developers out there. Going open source also allows other graphics vendors to use the technology in their own cards, though so far no one has gone on record to back FXT1. Again, 3dfx hopes the will, and that will raise its level of support above that of S3TC. Open sourcing the technology should also speed its support through the OpenGL API, the main rival to DirectX's Direct3D API. FXT1 isn't 3dfx's only toe in the open source water. Earlier this year it released the drivers and spec. for its Voodoo 2-based Banshee chipset. That was part of 3dfx's ongoing plan to shore up its shrinking marketshare (primarily to nVidia and S3) by appealing to other platforms. ®

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