Futuremark and NVIDIA decided to sit down and discuss the situation around the 3DMark03 and NVIDIA GeForce FX graphics cards. This seems to be the first time they communicate after NVIDIA left the 3DMark03 Beta Program on the 1st of December last year, after being in the Beta Program for 15 months.
Well, here is what you can find all around the World Wide Web.
For the first time in 6 months, as a result of Futuremark's White Paper on May 23rd, 2003, Futuremark and NVIDIA have had detailed discussions regarding NVIDIA GPUs and Futuremark's 3DMark03 benchmark.
Futuremark now has a deeper understanding of the situation and NVIDIA's optimization strategy. In the light of this, Futuremark now states that NVIDIA's driver design is an application specific optimization and not a cheat.
The world of 3D Graphics has changed dramatically with the latest generation of highly programmable GPUs. Much like the world of CPUs, each GPU has a different architecture and a unique optimal code path. For example, Futuremark's PCMark2002 has different CPU test compilations for AMD's Athlon XP and Intel's Pentium 4 CPUs.
3DMark03 is designed as an un-optimized DirectX test and it provides performance comparisons accordingly. It does not contain manufacturer specific optimized code paths. Because all modifications that change the workload in 3DMark03 are forbidden, we were obliged to update the product to eliminate the effect of optimizations identified in different drivers so that 3DMark03 continued to produce comparable results.
However, recent developments in the graphics industry and game development suggest that a different approach for game performance benchmarking might be needed, where manufacturer-specific code path optimization is directly in the code source. Futuremark will consider whether this approach is needed in its future benchmarks.
NVIDIA works closely with developers to optimize games for GeForceFX. These optimizations (including shader optimizations) are the result of the co-development process. This is the approach NVIDIA would have preferred also for 3DMark03.
Joint NVIDIA-Futuremark Statement
Both NVIDIA and Futuremark want to define clear rules with the industry about how benchmarks should be developed and how they should be used. We believe that common rules will prevent these types of unfortunate situations moving forward.
Probably you have more questions than answers on this issue, for instance, how can a cheat become an optimisation and what cheat is apparently an optimisation, also, will Futuremark allow future optimisations for its 3DMark03. Stay tuned with us and we will try to find it out.