Gone but Not Forgotten: 3Dfx Interactive

QuantumPhysics

Posts: 3,350   +3,174
My first move into PC gaming was my uncle's Packard Bell Pentium II 233Mhz and I had to play Quake 2, Command and Conquer and Half Life in Software Mode. But back then, the graphics still looked considerably better than on the consoles - I believe Playstation and N64 were the biggest comparisons.

When I got my first PC: an HP 8470c Pavilion with Pentium III 450Mhz, 96MB SDRAM and a 20 GB HDD, it was around about the time Aliens vs. Predator was out and that game absolutely demanded a 3D accelerator card.

I wanted a Voodoo 3 3500 TV AGP because everything I had researched and experienced in the marketing led me to believe that that was the best card I could afford and it was better than most other options. I think I focused mostly on the amount of VRAM and the triangle counts.

I ended up buying the Voodoo 3 3000 instead because the price difference (due to the TV tuner) was so high and I was a lowly college student.

The Voodoo 3 3000 in OpenGL mode made Quake 2 look like a totally different game. Brighter lighting effects, darker, deeper textures. It was amazing. The difference in Half Life wasn't as dramatic, but I was able to run AvP with no issues in max settings. Unreal and Soldier of Fortune were beautiful as well.

As time went on, Voodoo made their way to the Voodoo 5 5500 but prices were so high, I ended up buying a Geforce MX400 instead which was a dramatic difference because I noticed way more detail in my flight sims like JANES USAF thanks to the increase in VRAM to 64MB.

I still have my Pavilion and if I were to build up a "classic" system to run classic games, I'd probably get the most powerful Voodoo I could run on it - even the 3500TV AGP - although the low Mhz would severely limit the number of games I could run to virtually everything prior to 2002. Many of my favorite games of that era will not run on my Windows 10, Core i9ex/2080Ti/64GB DDR4 simply because of the drivers. I would love to be able to play Yuri's Revenge and the rest of the C&C games but they won't run.

...or get the best Geforce card of the time.

And as you pointed out: Nostalgia will cost you...
That's the reason why I believe in spending the money to max out the RAM that the motherboard will handle and buying my accessories up front - including the best video cards of the time. This way, further down the road, the tower itself will be "as good as it can be" so if you choose to sell it to a nostalgia builder or ever return to it yourself, you won't have to worry about searching for better hardware because you'll already have the best you can have.

They want large amounts of cash for many of those classic cards now.

There's a Voodoo 5 5500 right now on Ebay being bidded up - but even if you bought it, you'd have a Hell of a time finding and installing drivers for it. The internet as is has requirements so high that many of the old systems won't even load Google now.
 
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QuantumPhysics

Posts: 3,350   +3,174
I really miss the marketing tactics of the 90's. A picture of a man's face with ritual paint on it has absolutely nothing to do with 3D graphics, but it's done so well that "it just works".

Then they started painting polygonal dragons, scantily clad polygonal women, cars and jets.

Then they had pictures of people with their jaws dropping wide open for food to fall out.

Now we just get words or letters and numbers.
 

ZackL04

Posts: 676   +437
Is it just me or do I read this same article, just re-written once a year here on techspot...

Dont get me wrong, I fondly remember my voodoo cards too, but Was it that important that their story needs to be told yearly?
 
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fps4ever

Posts: 495   +527
I remember getting my first voodoo card. OpenGL in Quake/2 and then turning on Glide in Unreal with its graphics candy and butter smooth performance. What a sad story of mismanagment.
 

isamuelson

Posts: 140   +32
I had the original Voodoo and then got the Voodoo 2 as well. Quake and Quake II ran smooth on my old P133 machine back then. LOL. Never knew there was a 4 or even 5. By that time, I had moved on to ATI and eventually nVidia graphics cards.

What's even scarier is those both were PCI (before PCIe came out). In fact, if I remember, PCI was supplanted by AGP and eventually PCIe. Heck, on my 486 machine I had VLB video cards.

My how things have changed.
 

Raytrace3D

Posts: 191   +182
I had a Monster 3D (PCI), Monster II (PCI), Banshee (AGP), and a few Voodoo 3 3000 (AGP). I miss you, 3dfx. It was a good run and I thank you.
 
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Julio Franco

Posts: 8,664   +1,539
Staff member
Is it just me or do I read this same article, just re-written once a year here on techspot...

Dont get me wrong, I fondly remember my voodoo cards too, but Was it that important that their story needs to be told yearly?
It's just you. In years prior we wrote the history of GPUs which of course had a section dedicated to the decade where 3dfx was an actor. But this is a brand new take and is just the second on a series of new articles we are working on (first one was OCZ) looking back at now defunct hardware companies.
 

dotnon

Posts: 36   +48
I still distinctly remember the "click" sound the Orchid Righteous 3D would make when it switched over to 3D mode. That with the spinning 3Dfx logo meant the graphics were about to get awesome.
 
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candle_86

Posts: 515   +383
My first move into PC gaming was my uncle's Packard Bell Pentium II 233Mhz and I had to play Quake 2, Command and Conquer and Half Life in Software Mode. But back then, the graphics still looked considerably better than on the consoles - I believe Playstation and N64 were the biggest comparisons.

When I got my first PC: an HP 8470c Pavilion with Pentium III 450Mhz, 96MB SDRAM and a 20 GB HDD, it was around about the time Aliens vs. Predator was out and that game absolutely demanded a 3D accelerator card.

I wanted a Voodoo 3 3500 TV AGP because everything I had researched and experienced in the marketing led me to believe that that was the best card I could afford and it was better than most other options. I think I focused mostly on the amount of VRAM and the triangle counts.

I ended up buying the Voodoo 3 3000 instead because the price difference (due to the TV tuner) was so high and I was a lowly college student.

The Voodoo 3 3000 in OpenGL mode made Quake 2 look like a totally different game. Brighter lighting effects, darker, deeper textures. It was amazing. The difference in Half Life wasn't as dramatic, but I was able to run AvP with no issues in max settings. Unreal and Soldier of Fortune were beautiful as well.

As time went on, Voodoo made their way to the Voodoo 5 5500 but prices were so high, I ended up buying a Geforce MX400 instead which was a dramatic difference because I noticed way more detail in my flight sims like JANES USAF thanks to the increase in VRAM to 64MB.

I still have my Pavilion and if I were to build up a "classic" system to run classic games, I'd probably get the most powerful Voodoo I could run on it - even the 3500TV AGP - although the low Mhz would severely limit the number of games I could run to virtually everything prior to 2002. Many of my favorite games of that era will not run on my Windows 10, Core i9ex/2080Ti/64GB DDR4 simply because of the drivers. I would love to be able to play Yuri's Revenge and the rest of the C&C games but they won't run.

...or get the best Geforce card of the time.

And as you pointed out: Nostalgia will cost you...
That's the reason why I believe in spending the money to max out the RAM that the motherboard will handle and buying my accessories up front - including the best video cards of the time. This way, further down the road, the tower itself will be "as good as it can be" so if you choose to sell it to a nostalgia builder or ever return to it yourself, you won't have to worry about searching for better hardware because you'll already have the best you can have.

They want large amounts of cash for many of those classic cards now.

There's a Voodoo 5 5500 right now on Ebay being bidded up - but even if you bought it, you'd have a Hell of a time finding and installing drivers for it. The internet as is has requirements so high that many of the old systems won't even load Google now.
Actually it's really easy to get retro rigs all setup again. I have multiple going back much older than a 99 box. Go to vogons.org and start reading. For drivers network is your friend, get a nic that windows 95 or 98 had drivers for. Or get a USB floppy drive which windows 10 still understands, and setup an ftp server.

Also if 3dfx had survived they'd have crashed anyway later, they couldn't stick to a deadline, and they loved having drug parties and blowing any money they made.
 

scavengerspc

Posts: 529   +368
TechSpot Elite
I still have 2 voodoo 2s in a DOS box I built almost 20 years ago after Windows XP broke a lot of DOS programs and even more games. It has a Quantum Bigfoot HDD that is 24 years old BTW. Anyway, I play a lot of different games just for nostalgia reasons but mainstays are Screamer, Maniac Mansion, Sim City, and Snatcher.

Glide is King!!
 
Not to sound too much like Forest Gump here, but I crossed paths with 3Dfx at both inflection points in their history.

I was working with the Army building simulators, and a real time missile test flight visualizer. We were using Silicon Graphics Indigo and O2 systems, which cost $50K+. I clearly remember showing up at White Sands for a test flight carting in our O2 systems, while another company showed up with a PC and a 3Dfx card. They had better frame rate and some texture mapping going on, all running on a card and system that cost maybe $3000. About a week later, Silicon Graphics held one of their marketing bashes in town and showed us their next O2 system. It made some incremental improvements, but still cost about $45K. I left there convinced 3Dfx was going to put Silicon Graphics out of business.

I tried to convince our managers to let us buy 3Dfx cards and port the code over to better hardware. They dismissed the new technology: 1. It was a "gaming" system, not a serious professional computer; and 2. 3Dfx did not have salesmen like Silicon Graphics, who you knew by name and could call when you needed help. This type of inertia in the government and big businesses allowed Silicon Graphics to slough on for a while, but each year their offices had fewer people working there, and the contrast between the performance you could get between SI and 3Dfx for the cost became undeniable.

At the other end of 3Dfx's rise and fall, I worked for a small company that developed 3Dfx's trade show demonstration software. We had early access to their latest cards and worked with the local office to build demo scenes to show off how their cards were better than their competitors. We had a meeting at their office a few weeks before CES. The local office had about 25 employees. The engineers were in a panic because the latest run of the chip they planned to announce at CES had a timing bug in the silicon. Fixing the flaw and burning it into silicon would take about a week turn around time. Not long after, nVidia posted a video, where they showed off their virtual chip simulation server farm. They were able to simulate an entire chip in software before committing to silicon. There was no way 3Dfx could compete with nVidia's ability to iterate. Within a few years, the local 3Dfx office was sold off and and nVidia logo was put up on the local office building.

The take away is that organizational inertia can kill a company when new tech comes along.

One last anecdote about Silicon Graphics: near the end of that period, we bid on creating an interactive astronomy theater for a new museum. We proposed placing PCs with nVidia cards at each seat to drive a touch screen for each visitor. We proposed building 10 different really cool interactive visualizations: solar system explorer, hurricane visualization from satellite data, virtual environment simulator, etc. The consumer cards and PCs would ensure that the system could be easily upgraded with more capabilities as cards improved, and would make replacing broken hardware simple and cheap. Silicon Graphics came in and quoted placing a single one of their Onyx big rack servers in to run the whole thing. They offered the President of the museum and the IT guy a free flight to Germany to see a similar setup running in a CAVE setup. The best we could offer was a free trip to Wendy's for lunch. Once Silicon Graphics got their money, they never delivered on the custom visualizations they promised. The on-going maintenance fee, and complexity of the system, eventually turned the virtual theater into a useless boat anchor.
 

Mugsy

Posts: 662   +114
About a decade ago, my monitor was dying and I could not determine if the problem was my video card or the monitor. My motherboard didn't have onboard video connections and I didn't have another PC or modern card to test it on, so I dug out my old 100MHz "Voodoo3 2000" and plugged it into a PCI slot.

To my astonishment, it worked. I could not run the computer above 640x480 and the frame rate was horrible even just viewing the Win7 desktop (forced to use the Generic Windows driver despite still having the Driver CD), but I'll be damned if it didn't work.
 
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derncricket

Posts: 11   +13
If anyone remembers, Interstate '76 was a funk themed game. The second disc that came with the game was a complete funk album. I only wish I still had it. -sorry. I meant to put that on the 3d Glide games list post.
 
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McMurdeR

Posts: 193   +160
I was losing interest in gaming until I saw a voodoo card in action. I think it was the title animation for Unreal. Jaw dropper. Admittedly visual fidelty has really come on in the last 4 or 5 years, but there was never a leap forward so profound as that.
 

Lew Zealand

Posts: 1,561   +1,560
TechSpot Elite
Bought an Orchid Voodoo2 for my brother-in-law so he could game and eventually bought myself a Voodoo3 2000 once 3dfx released beta Mac drivers and tests showed it had the fastest 2D acceleration on the Mac. It was already a given that 3D acceleration was way better than anything else available. Easy purchase and dayum did Unreal look fantastic!
 

Gezzer

Posts: 76   +47
Got a couple of Voodoo II in a box somewhere. Along with a couple of 36Gb WD raptors, an ATI AiW pro, Promise ATA-66 controller card, etc, etc. <sigh>

It's nice to reminisce and all, but time marches on and obsolete tech is... well obsolete... I just wish I'd been smart enough to unload the stuff when it was worth more instead of storing them out of nostalgia instead.
 

isomage

Posts: 6   +1
You can't do this deep a dive into the mid-90's 3D graphics market without mentioning the Diamond Edge 3D. It was released in '95, capable of both 2d and 3D graphics (on one card), had integrated audio, AND supported a Sega Saturn joystick you could plug into it.

It was all built around a new chip from some company called "NVIDIA".