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E3 shows AMD, Intel games without frontiers

Booth babes maybe, but AMD's in the trailer park

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Los Angeles, California was again the location of this year's E3 - the world's largest computer gaming convention, which draws attendees and exhibitors from all over the world.

E3 is quite an odd mix of games, hardware, gamers and booth babes, but the combination must be enticing as, once again, the show packed the LA Convention Center for the better part of three days.

The presence of CPU adversaries AMD and Intel was of particular interest - althought AMD only committed itself to the show in a last minute decision.

The difference between the wealth of the two companies' was clear from their locations at the show. Intel enjoyed a presence on the show floor as well as two meeting rooms above the action. AMD shared with Elsa a small trailer in the Gathering of Developers lot, across the street from the convention center.

A late afternoon meeting with AMD highlighted day one. AMD's trailer was hidden away to the left of the stage in the back of the lot. Inside the trailer were two 1GHz Slot A Thunderbird systems. Non-interactive demos of Quake 3 Arena and Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K. 2 were shown on one system while the other was showing a HDTV demo. HDTV decoding was handled completely by software and utilized roughly 80 per cent of the GHz Thunderbird's power.

Next, a roadmap nearly identical to its counterpart at Comdex was produced. Expect Thunderbird and Duron sometime in June, with Mustang and the mobile Corvette slated for the second half of the year. DDR and multiprocessor support also remain scheduled for the latter half of the year.

AMD plans to move to Socket A fairly quickly, with Slot A Thunderbirds going to the likes of Gateway, Compaq and other computer makers. Because of this, AMD does not anticipate Via KX133 incompatibilities with Thunderbird to cause any problems. Expect Slot A T'birds to be rare for the DIY market.

All in all, AMD is poised to cruise through 2000. Yields are good, Dresden is on track, and the company is selling all it can fab. The only question marks are the upcoming DDR memory and dual chipsets, and whether there will be enough boards to match demand.

Processor Support

Over at Intel, things were a little less interesting - on the CPU front. Intel's E3 consisted of Web cams, wireless networking, and a child's line of cameras and microscopes.

There were no Willamette demos. There were no high-speed PIII systems to be shown. Attempts to gather more information failed. There would be no roadmap, yield or motherboard recall inquiries at this year's E3. There was a bit of talk about optimising games for the X-Box, but nothing else to peak interest.

CPU support and a general survey of what CPU systems were powered by was the next goal. Asking exhibitors what CPU was powering their demos proved to be a fruitless task. If there was not a sticker proclaiming it then they did not know. For the record, all games published by Microsoft were PIII-powered, as were the systems in Acclaim's area.

The Athlon powered Ion Storm's Deus Ex demos and Nvidia's GeForce 2 demonstrations. AMD claimed that it had roughly 150 systems on the show floor.

CPU optimisations were another area of interest. In talking to programmers it became clear that there was little interest in 3DNow!, AltiVec or SSE. Most games were in the development stage, and if they were to be added,it would not be until the bulk of the game was finished.

Few booths had programmers on hand to discuss optimisations but - from those sampled it seems that more work is not one of their priorities.

Nvidia is supporting 3Dnow! and SSE in its drivers. The company also disclosed that it is further optimizing for 3DNow! and will continue to work closely with AMD, as evidenced by the Athlon systems in its meeting room. AMD claims that more than 1000 applications now support 3DNow!.

Games People Play

Games lie At the core of E3. PC, console and arcade games all jockeyed for attention. Sony, Nintendo and Sega all had impressive displays, but Sony had the lion's share of the games. It seems well-poised to continue its dominance with the PlayStation 2, in spite of all of the Mario and Sonic games their rivals can produce.

On the PC side, EA, Activison, Eidos, Microsoft and Acclaim all commanded attention. Games which are perhaps ground breaking include Black and White from Lionhead Studios and Halo from Bungie. Sequels were also in full force, with impressive showings of Mechwarrior 4, Diablo II, Warcraft III, and Tribes 2. First person shooters to take notice of include Quake Team Arena, Half Life Mods, Deus Ex, Max Payne and Duke Nukem Forever (the latter mostly for the life-like representation).

Satan's Cheerleaders

Friday was perhaps the most exciting of all of E3. AMD imported local Austin band The Flame Trick Subs along with their customary dancers, Satan's Cheerleaders. With free beer being served in the Gathering of Developer's tent, and served in AMD cups, it was the most festive area of E3.

It wasn't long before AMD representatives were caught on camera in the Limbo line. With AMD tie dye t-shirts quickly running out, and beer in AMD cups, one has to notice that AMD not only had more fun at E3, italso got more for its dollar. ®

Chris Tom is a senior editor at AMD Zone. He can be contacted, by email, at here

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