Getting Quake and Descent onto IyonixBy Chris Williams. Published: 13th Feb 2003, 23:50:10 | Permalink | Printable
David "I've done a few ports" McEwen reveals what's involvedNow here's a follow up to our earlier mention of publishing house RCI's Quake on the Iyonix tame-as-a-Sunday-drive speed tests, brought about after David McEwen kindly dropped us today an email or two informing us that he was behind the 32 bit Quake and Descent updates, adding he had a few things to say on the subject of the Castle Iyonix, graphics cards and 3D games for RISC OS.
David reminded us that the legendary 3D blast-the-crap-out-of-everything game Quake is quite a processor stressing piece of software in terms of the amount of floating point maths employed to realise the 3D game world and objects therein. It's no secret that RISC OS hardware has always lacked dedicated floating point maths hardware, including the Iyonix. PC users now take for granted the floating point processor units built into their main processors, which are designed to take care of all the tricky maths in a very fast manner. Under RISC OS, all floating point math has to be done under emulation by the system processor, which puts a strain on things when the processor would rather be doing other tasks.
Descent 1 and 2 however are a different story with respect to in-game speed, the Descent 2 port is David's baby after all.
"Descent 1 and 2 on the other hand show off what the Iyonix can do purely in software, of course", David comments. "The code is massively optimized and is also improved over the PC original, eg it has proper vertex lighting (and the transparency, etc..). I could probably make the bilinear filtering faster (definately could if targetting an XScale specifically)."
"Really without use of the hardware acceleration there is only so much that can be done", confesses David. "Also we need OpenGL that uses the hardware and then get access to games to port (ie companies willing to let them be ported for a reasonable fee)."
We put to David that you can't rely totally on a funky graphics card, (the Iyonix has a GeForce 2MX), as the lack of a floating point unit in hardware will still be an irritating bottleneck.
"Well on newer gfx cards you can off load a lot onto the GPU [graphics processor on the graphics card], basically your game just ends up sending vertices to the hardware", David explained. "An FPU would obviously be very helpful as most modern games use floating point math extensively. Even with OpenGL using hardware the best way to get efficiency would be to rewrite with fixed point math (hopefully any OGL implementation would have a fixed point interface as well as an floating point one). Otherwise the gfx card will sit there doing nothing most of the time.
"Personally I think the best way to show off the Iyonix is get a new game out, either a port or conversion that uses as much of its potential as possible. However some company would have to fund that and there would have to be enough units of hardware to justify it."
Other things up David's coding sleeves include sound support for 32 bit Quake and to give Descent 2 movie support. Remember that David is also working on finalising Cineroma (currently in private beta), an audio/video file player for RISC OS that can handle just about everything from RealMedia audio to DivX to AVI and back again. A busy man is he. Grateful we are.
R-Comp Interactive titles. RCI have revealed that the 32 bit versions of the Quake and Descent 1 and 2 ports they publish are currently in testing for the Iyonix.
David's Acorn Emulator Port website
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