3DMark 2003 released

Futuremark releases a new version of its PC graphics benchmark that's based on four graphically advanced tech demos.

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Futuremark has officially released 3DMark 2003, the latest in the company's biennial series of 3D graphics benchmarks. The new benchmark, formerly known as MadOnion.com, is one of the first graphics tests that uses any of the new DirectX 9 features that are supported by ATI's Radeon 9500 and 9700 cards and Nvidia's upcoming GeForce FX, but most of the test focuses on DirectX 8-level graphics features.

The 171MB benchmark includes four gamelike demos and a number of more-theoretical tests. The first test, called Wings of Fury, is a DirectX 7-based flight sim scene that features a number of planes flying at high altitude against a simple textured background. The two DirectX 8 demos, Battle of Proxycon and Troll's Lair, both feature dynamic shadows drawn with a stencil shadow buffer method that's somewhat reminiscent of Doom III. The final demo, Mother Nature, is a much more highly detailed version of the Nature demo in 3DMark 2001.

On a related note, Nvidia has contacted us to say that it doesn't support the use of 3DMark 2003 as a primary benchmark in the evaluation of graphics cards, as the company believes the benchmark doesn't represent how current games are being designed. Specifically, Nvidia contends that the first test is an unrealistically simple scene that's primarily single-textured, that the stencil shadows in the second and third tests are rendered using an inefficient method that's extremely bottlenecked at the vertex engine, and that many of the pixel shaders use specific elements of DX8 that are promoted by ATI but aren't common in current games.

In response to Nvidia's statements, Futuremark's Aki Jarvilehto said, "We've been working for the last 18 months to make 3DMark 2003 an accurate and objective benchmark. Nvidia was one of our beta members until December, and it's not our place to comment on why they've decided to withdraw from the program. After working on the project for almost two years with all the leading manufacturers, we do strongly believe that 3DMark 2003 is an accurate representation of game performance for modern 3D accelerators."

In any case, 3DMark 2003 offers some tech demos that use some of the advanced graphics technology that's on its way for future PC games. GameSpot Complete members can download the file from the link below, and it's also freely available from the GameSpot Download Manager.

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