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The Story of Three Dimensional Mark

Before we jump to describing the latest installment in the series, let us take some time to pay tribute to Futuremark’s earlier efforts that deserve a separate page in the history of computer graphics. The first computer benchmarking tool with the 3DMark logo was developed by Futuremark Corporation (formerly and initially just Futuremark) in 1998.

3DMark99 was based on an MAX-FX engine developed by Remedy Entertainment. The benchmark stressed the hardware but moderately, focusing on software-based fixed transformation and lighting as well as multitexturing. Journalists and average users were slow to adopt the novelty but that was just the beginning. After a few updates and intermediate versions the industry finally accepted 3DMark2001 as a standard measuring tool.

Not only did the new version expect to be run on premium-class hardware components, but it also made an effort to promote brand-new technologies such as Pixel Shader 1.4 to render water and Vertex Shaders 1.1 for realistic vegetation.

The arrival of 3DMark03 in February 2003 made it clear that Futuremark was more than determined to spearhead visual innovations on the PC. That version proved to be a hard trial even for the then-best graphics cards with full DirectX 9.0 support. The test scenes were most impressing, especially on the right hardware, and made one wonder whether the next generation of DirectX 9.0 based video games was going to look just as good.

In many respects 3DMark06 turned out to be the last triumph of the DirectX 9.0 API. Its extensive use of HDR rendering and shadow mapping resulted in truly remarkable visuals and funny benchmarking results, with even the latest top-end graphics cards begging for mercy. Physics calculations were used to determine the CPU’s computing power, emphasizing the important role of the CPU in a gaming platform’s performance.

The rapid development of Microsoft’s DirectX API and the launch of the Windows Vista operating system forced Futuremark to release the Vantage version. Although its overall support for DirectX 10 is rather low, 3DMark Vantage still manages to impress even now, two year after its release.

So, 3DMark has already had a glorious history for a measuring tool, but as with any other software product, there is always a new and improved version just around the corner.

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