The Source for Mac Performance News and Reviews

3Dfx Voodoo2 drivers Performance & SLI Compatibility:
How They Compare to the Game Wizard, Rage128 Orion & Game Rocket
By Mike
Published: 7/19/1999

First I want to say THANKS to Ken Dyke of 3Dfx who made these Mac drivers possible (and the best is yet to come I'll bet). 3Dfx just released their Mac Voodoo2 drivers which not only have Glide 2 and Glide 3 support, but are also SLI mode enabled. SLI stands for Scan Line Interleaving (or interlacing), where two Voodoo2 cards work in pairs to allow higher resolutions (if the game allows it) and theoretically, higher performance. SLI mode performance, on PCs at least, scales with CPU speed and varies by game title as well. See the links in my SLI Editorial and performance scores in my Obsidian X24 (PC) card review for more info. On the Mac even with a 400MHz G3 and the latest motherboard design, there were many cases where I saw higher game framerates with only one Voodoo2 card (read on).

Note: These drivers do not work with the Voodoo3 cards. As noted in the FAQ, cards with 2D video capability need Mac firmware to work and extensions alone won't do the trick. We'll just have to wait a little longer for Voodoo3 drivers/firmware from 3Dfx, which as noted several weeks ago is in the works. [UPDATE: Several weeks after this article was first posted in July, 1999, 3dfx released the first beta version of their Voodoo3 drivers. ]

How to run Voodoo2 SLI mode on the Mac:

I was very surprised to see that in tests using a B&W G3/400, many games reported better scores with one Voodoo2 card than two run in SLI (Scan Line Interleaving) mode. Perhaps the framerates were not accurate with SLI (I had disabled Vsync everywhere possible, even in Mesasettings as suggest by Ken Dyke of 3Dfx). Another possibility is that there is some SLI overhead or the G3/400 CPU and/or Mac PCI design cannot 'feed' the dual Voodoo2 cards adequately. Regardless, with the cost of a Voodoo3 2000 PCI at $100 to $120 (street), and from what I saw in several games, I see little reason to use up another PCI slot and spend almost as much as a Voodoo3 card for a 2nd Voodoo2 card. One benefit of SLI was that Quake2 could be run at 1024x768 with two Voodoo2s and performance at that resolution was nearly twice that of a Rage128. Read the results carefully and consider your CPU speed, available slots and budget. You may want to get a Voodoo3 card instead, especially now that there's a $30 rebate from 3dfx good until Sept 18, 1999. However in case someone wants run SLI mode, here's how:

Dual Voodoo2 SLI mode card setup

  1. First you'll need two identical RAM size Voodoo2 cards, preferably reference design cards (Creative Labs, Wicked 3D, etc.). The Game Wizard should work fine paired with another identical RAM sized Voodoo2 card as well. Since the Game Wizard didn't come with the SLI ribbon cable to connect the two cards, hopefully your 2nd card is a PC model that usually comes with the cable standard. Beware some early Voodoo2 cards that had longer SLI cables, the proper cables are the very short ones that barely reach between the two cards as shown in the picture above.

  2. Install both Voodoo2 PCI cards in your Mac in adjacent PCI slots (required due to SLI cable length). Connect the SLI cable to the connectors near the PCI bracket end of the card. The connectors are keyed so they can't go in the wrong way. Make sure they are fully seated.

  3. Make sure your Voodoo2 pass-thru cables are connected properly. The 2nd Voodoo2 card won't have any exterior cables attached to it. See the picture below for my B&W G3 cable config:

    SLI Exterior cables

  4. Disable any 3dfx extensions you may have enabled via the Extensions Manager control panel. You should not have any Game Wizard, etc. drivers active as you'll want to use only the 3Dfx Glide2 and Glide3 extensions. SLI will not work with the Gamewizard or other generic/hacked drivers for the Mac.

  5. Tip: I suggest making an extensions set with your previous Glide extension enabled, or copy it to game directories that are not compatible with the 3dfx extension so that you'll be able to play those games. Usually games will look in their local folder (directory) for Glidelib before using one in the systems extension folder.

  6. After disabling any previous 3dfx extensions, drag the 3dfx Voodoo2 extensions over your system folder (they'll be put in the extensions folder). Since Glidelib is dynamically loaded, you don't need to reboot. If you don't want the 3dfx RAVE extension installed don't copy it (if you have a Rage128 say for RAVE Games).

  7. Note: If you're using a Voodoo2.ini file like the one on my Tweaking page you'll have to rename it 'Voodoo2.var' for use with 3dfx's Voodoo2 drivers. Also note that Unreal v224 does not seem to work with any Voodoo2.ini/Voodoo2.var file as an error message results when trying to start the game.

  8. After rebooting test your setup with Unreal or Quake2. I won't go into the details of using MesaQuake2 as that was covered at Mesa's site and my Quake3 tips page and most readers with Voodoo2 cards are already running Mesa libs. If possible, disable Vsync in any game you can, otherwise SLI framerates may be abnormally low. In Unreal you can do this from the advanced settings page (but this didn't seem to help SLI mode performance, as only with one V2 card did max framerates exceeded the monitor refresh rate). I manually edited my Unreal.ini file for 85Hz refresh since that was not an option normally (75, 80 or 90 was but not 85Hz). Even with Vsync disabled, Unreal peak framerates were a bit higher with 85 vs 75Hz refresh rates (each time the peak was right at the max refresh rate). For best results in Quake2, make sure you have the MesaQuake2 and glref.lib updates for multitexturing support on the Voodoo2/Voodoo3.

Note: SLI mode requires a fast CPU to keep both Voodoo2 cards 'fed' with data, so performance gain will vary depending on your CPU speed and in some case by game title. For examples of dual Voodoo2 SLI performance on the PC, see the links in my SLI editorial and my review of the Quantum Obsidian X24 dual Voodoo2 card. From my tests I was disappointed in SLI mode even on my B&W G3/400. Often a single Voodoo2 card ran faster than SLI mode in many games.

Reminder: Based on some mail I'm getting, a few readers seem to have missed the fact I noted that I'm using PC Voodoo2 cards in the SLI tests (note the VGA only connectors in the photo above). Remember the main reason for these drivers is that they work with most PC Voodoo2 cards (not protected drivers like the Game Wizard that only ran on that card). You don't need a Game Wizard (mac) card to run these drivers - that's the whole point of them. And since most all Voodoo2 cards have the same clock speed, etc. performance should be identical. For best compatibility a 'reference design' (read low cost) Voodoo2 or pair of them is best. Creative Labs Voodoo2, Diamond Monster 3D IIs, Best Data Voodoo2s, Wicked3D Voodoo2, and most other brands work fine. Note I'm using a Creative Labs 12MB and Wicked3D 12MB card in SLI mode.

3Dfx Voodoo2 Driver Compatibility: [Note: This listed was based on the first driver release, as of summer 2000 there have been 5 revisions, be aware some issues may have been resolved with later versions.] I don't have every Mac 3D game to try but here are some problem areas I found during my B&W G3/400 (OS 8.6) tests:

  • iMac Game Wizard: As noted on Nov 30th, 1999 at my www.mac3dfx.com, the 3dfx Voodoo 2 drivers can be used with the following conditions:

    • You must use the original iMac Game Wizard Glide 2.x Extension *not* the 3dfx Voodoo2 Glide 2.x extension

    • You can use the 3dfx Voodoo2 OpenGL extension and Glide 3.x extension. However OpenGL games seem to be limited to 640x480 modes, at least games like Quake3. (this may be some refresh rate issue, or a Video ram limit since the iMac Game wizard card has only 8MB of Vram, of which is split for texture storage and frame buffer)

    • If you're using 3dfx's opengl extension (preferred) - make sure all Mesa extensions/files are removed from your system and game folders.

    • I also disable the "OpenGL ATI Renderer" extension which prevents games from trying to use the ATI video chip, and makes sure the Game Wizard/Voodoo2 is used.

  • GameWizards and SLI I ran two PC Voodoo2 cards (Creative Labs & Wicked 3D) in SLI mode as noted above but after a reader report of a problem with a Creative labs and a Game Wizard in SLI mode I tried the same thing. Even with the Game Wizard as the non-Video out card (no monitor connection) SLI compatible games like Quake2 would only produce a black screen. You could hear the Voodoo2 switching the video but no video output was seen.

  • SLI Mode Game Issues: In SLI mode (2 cards), Tomb Raider II hangs at black screen after the intro movie. I had some problems even in single card mode with the TR 1.02 updated setup app hanging the same way. Running from the TR2 game icon solved that for non-SLI setups, but nothing worked when two cards were connected in SLI mode.

    Quake 1 3dfx doesn't run in SLI mode. Update: I tried the 3dfx extensions again with Quake 3dfx and a game wizard and it runs fine. Not sure what the problem was last night. Odd.. but good news. RAVE Quake didn't run in either SLI or single card mode in my tests. (With 2 voodoo2 cards installed even without the SLI cable attached and a copy of the GameWizard Glidelib in the Quake 1 folder, Quake still hung. I had to physically remove the 2nd Voodoo2 card for it to work).

Reader Updates on Games that work:

  • Game News editor Randall Markarian says Carmageddon 2 works but not carmageddon 1 as I suspected since it was not V2 compatible.

  • Descent II 3Dfx, MacMame 3Dfx also work according to Tim Silver (Powercenter/Game Wizard 12MB card)

  • Mechwarrior RAVE (the rare Power3d bundle game I think):

    " Mechwarrior 2 RAVE no longer draws all the triangle lines on the environment(a problem which occurred with the GW Rave drivers) and the sprites are almost drawn correctly. There is a small white border around each of the rocks and bushes.
    Avelino Santa Ana Jr "

  • F18 Korea and X-Plane, even in SLI mode according to a dual 8MB Game Wizard owner:

    " Mike,
    I have a mactell XBpro G3 (300MHz) ,cache running at 300MHz , 208Mb RAM ,a mactell proII-lite 8Mb card and two wizards in SLI (XB pro has 6 PCI slots). X-Plane runs great it is very smooth at maximum settings,the scenery and plane textures from Xpansion add-ons look wonderful . Falcon 4.0 with maximum settings looks great,tremendous effects and runs quite smooth. My old F18 Korea runs fine too.
    Willy "

Send me your Compatibility Info: I don't have Carmageddon 1 or 2, or Descent I/II (3dfx patched) but welcome reader feedback if they work with one or two Voodoo2 cards (I doubt Carmageddon 1 will as it doesn't work with Voodoo2 cards).

Game Performance:

To compare game performance I used some of the most popular Mac games that have 3Dfx accelerated modes: Quake 2 (OpenGL, using Mesa3DfxEngine and MesaQuake2 libs), Quake3Test (OpenGL), Unreal and Falcon 4. I've included results from other cards like the Rage128 Orion, GameRocket (3dfx Banshee chip) and Voodoo2 (some results were taken from my Rage128 vs GameRocket review, but the Unreal tests were repeated with the latest 224b4 version).

I have included results with the Game Wizard voodoo2 card/drivers as well as Rage128 and IXmicro Game Rocket (3dfx banshee) for comparison.

Game Performance Results:

Quake 2:

I ran timedemo tests in Quake 2 (full install) with the latest multitexturing (for Voodoo2/Voodoo3) updates. Tests with the Voodoo2 were run with and without the new MesaQuake2/refgl.lib update to show what boost multitexturing support provided. Tests in the B&W G3 were run with the Rage128 and Game Rocket the 66MHz PCI slot. All Voodoo2 SLI tests used the 3Dfx driver of course, single card Voodoo2 tests also used the Game Wizard driver (no SLI support) for comparison. If using a Voodoo2.ini file when running the 3dfx drivers you need to rename the file 'Voodoo2.var'. Note in Quake2 that SLI mode had a lower framerate than a single card with the 3Dfx drivers. Mesasettings had Vsync disabled. All tests used the same game settings:

  • 16 bit color
  • No 8-Bit textures
  • Low audio quality
  • No sync every frame
  • CD audio disabled

The chart shows the results of Demo 1 tests at 640x480-1024x768 mode:

Quake2 timedemo 1 results

See the table below for complete demo1/demo2 scores:

Quake 2 640x480 Demo 1 Demo 2
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2 SLI
With new GL Lib
48.9 46.2
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2.ini
With new GL Lib
(3Dfx driver)
51.5 48.9
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2.ini
With new GL Lib
(Gamewizard driver)
47.1 44.9
B&W G3/400/66 Rage128 47.3 45
B&W G3/400/33 Rage128 45.6 44.1
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2.ini
(Gamewizard driver)
41.7 40.7
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2
(Gamewizard driver)
(original refGL.lib)
36.6 35.4
B&W G3/400/66 GameRocket 29.3 27.9

800x600 Results:

Quake 2 800x600 Demo 1 Demo 2
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2 SLI
With new GL Lib
48.6 46.3
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2.ini
With new GL Lib
(3Dfx driver)
48.5 46.7
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2.ini
With new GL Lib
(Gamewizard driver)
45.2 43.9
B&W G3/400/66 Rage128 39.6 38.9
B&W G3/400/33 Rage128 36.1 35.8
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2.ini
(Gamewizard driver)
34.8 34.8
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2 29.2 29.6
B&W G3/400/66 GameRocket 27.3 27.3

1024x768 Results:
Voodoo2 cards can only run this resolution in SLI/dual card mode).
This is one area where SLI mode really paid off.

Quake2 1024x768 tests
Quake 2 1024x768 Demo 1 Demo 2
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2 SLI
With new GL Lib
47.7 46.1
B&W G3/400/66 Rage128 25.3 25.4
B&W G3/400/33 Rage128 23.6 23.7
B&W G3/400/66 GameRocket 20.8 21.1
B&W G3/400/33 GameRocket 20.3 20.2

Note: A single Voodoo2 card can't run 1024x768 but SLI mode (two cards) ran almost twice the rate of a Rage128 Orion at 1024x768 in Quake2.


Update: 9600/350 Results: Randall Markarian sent results of his tests with the drivers in a 9600/350 with a G3 CPU Upgrade running 469/187. He said "All results are high detail with the Voodoo.var file and no overclocking of the cards. I didn't test all combinations yet, but I think that this is a good reference for what people can expect for performance". I asked him to fill in the holes to be able to show the game wizard vs 3dfx drivers running the same resolution/demo.

Driver/Mode/Demo# 640x480 800x600 1024x768
Game Wizard drivers Demo1   36.3  
3Dfx Drivers Demo 1 43.9    
3Dfx Drivers SLI Demo1 42.7 42.6 39.8
Game Wizard drivers Demo2   34.5  
3Dfx Drivers Demo 2 41.8    
3Dfx Drivers SLI Demo2 40.3 40.4 38.5


Quake 2 Shadows On/Off Performance Tests:

All tests above were done with the default Quake 2 shadows off. The command to enable shadows is 'gl_shadows 1' (gl_shadows 0 turns them off). You can add 'set gl_shadows "1"' to your config.cfg file to make it a default option. As noted at the Game News page last week, I ran tests with and without shadows enabled in Quake 2 with a Rage128 Orion, Game Rocket and Voodoo2 card to see what performance effect shadows had when enabled. To save space on this page I did some tests to see what performance effect shadows had with the Voodoo2, Game Rocket (Banshee) and Rage128. The table below shows the results. The Voodoo2 scores used my Voodoo2.ini file shown on the Voodoo2 tweaking page. When running the 3dfx drivers, rename the file 'Voodoo2.var'. Note again SLI mode had a lower framerate than a single card with the 3Dfx drivers. Mesasettings had Vsync disabled.

Quake 2 Timedemo Scores
(Shadows On/Off - 640x480 res.)
System/Card
Shadows OFF
Shadows ON
Comments
B&W G3 400
Voodoo2 12MB SLI
(w/new RefGL lib)
48.9 fps
40.2 fps
Dual Cards
w/Voodoo2.ini
Not overclocked
B&W G3 400
Voodoo2 12MB
(w/new RefGL lib)
(3dfx driver)
51.5 fps
42.3 fps
w/Voodoo2.var
Not overclocked
B&W G3 400
Voodoo2 12MB
(w/new RefGL lib)
(Gamewizard driver)
47.1 fps
38.9 fps
w/Voodoo2.ini
Not overclocked
B&W G3 400
Voodoo2 12MB
(w/Voodoo2.ini)
41.7 fps
35.0 fps
Original refgl.lib
Tweaked/not overclocked
B&W G3 400
Game Rocket
(IXmicro Banshee)
29.3 fps
24.7 fps
66MHz
PCI Slot
B&W G3 400
Rage128 Orion
47.3 fps
42.9 fps
66MHz
PCI Slot

Both Rage128 and Game Rocket were in the 66MHz PCI slot of a B&W G3. 'New RefGLlib' means the test was run with the new MesaQuake2/refGl.lib for Quake2, which enables multitexturing for Voodoo2/Voodoo3 cards that provides an appx. 10% boost in framerate.



Q3Test:

I used Q3Test 1.05 (latest currently available) for all tests on each system and card combination. If the card supported it I ran tests up to 1024x768 resolution. Graphics settings in the game were :

  • 16-bit color
  • Lightmap lighting
  • Geometric detail high
  • Texture quality 16-bit
  • Texture detail 1 notch from max
  • Texture filter - bilinear

Unlike Banshee cards like the Game Rocket, I had no trouble getting the Q3test timedemo to run (there were no 'server timeouts' like I often saw on the Game Rocket). And that's no typo - SLI mode resulted in a lower score than a single Voodoo2 card running the 3dfx drivers. (I hesitate to say framerate due to the fact that Q3test timedemos are not considered framerates in the current version.) I had disabled Vsync in Mesatweaker but repeating the tests several times always showed the single Voodoo2 card as faster.

Graph of Q3test 105 scores

The tables below show Q3Test performance with each of the card/system combos:

Q3Test 1.05 640x480 800x600 1024x768
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2 SLI
(dual cards)
39.3 38.9 36.9
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2
(one card/3dfx drivers)
46.2 40.7 not supported
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2
(one card/GameWizard drivers)
45.1 40.2 not supported
B&W G3/400/66 Rage128 51.2 42.9 29.7
B&W G3/400/33 Rage128 48 34.9 19.1
B&W G3/400/66 GameRocket 31.7 30.9 21.9

Unreal:

For all the results listed here I used the latest version of Unreal, 224b4. Tests with the Voodoo2 and Game Wizard driver showed about a 6 fps gain at 800x600 over my previous v219 with the 1.02b4 patch. The Rage128 and Game Rocket scores were about the same or a bit less than with v219.

I used high quality detail settings for all Unreal tests with resolutions up to 1024x768 for cards that supported it (3Dfx cards running Glide can't run 1024x768 as Unreal Glide mode is limited to 960x720). Hopefully with the Voodoo3 release and Voodoo2 SLI support in 3dfx's drivers the next update to Unreal will offer higher Glide resolutions. Note that with a single card, the 3Dfx driver was just a hair faster than the older Game Wizard glidelib (which doesn't offer SLI/2 card support however). Disable Vsync must have been working as single card Voodoo2 scores (both 3dfx and Game Wizard drivers) peaked at 94 fps in 640x480 mode, beyond the 85Hz monitor refresh setting. In SLI mode it seemed like the monitor refresh rate was a limit, as 85Hz resulted in a 85 fps max fps. I don't understand why SLI would show less peak rates and seem to be monitor refresh rate limited when a single card wasn't but that's what I saw during the testing. As with all tests, the 2d desktop was set to 1024x768, thousands colors (16-bit) mode (only the Rage128 supports 32-bit mode 3D).

unreal 224b4 Castle flyby tests

Unreal Castle Flyby 640x480 800x600 1024x768
B&W G3/400 3dfx Voodoo2
(SLI mode - 2 cards)
47.61 45.58 not supported
in game
B&W G3/400 3dfx Voodoo2
(one card/3dfx drivers)
48.49 39.5 not supported
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2
(one card/Game Wizard driver)
48.0 39.1 not supported
B&W G3/400/66 Rage128 38.3 29.1 21.6
B&W G3/400/66 GameRocket
36.9 29.6 not supported

Hopefully the next Unreal patch will enable higher Glide resolutions (at least 1024x768). The Rage128 was run in 16Bit and 32Bit color modes. As you can see there was little difference in the Rage128 scores with either color depth.

Falcon 4:

I ran tests of Falcon 4 with the latest 1.06c patch only on the B&W G3/400 (a rev 1 machine). The game features a built-in framerate (instantaneous, not average) counter so I noted what I saw as an average FPS seen during an autopilot run of the 'instant action' mode. I only wish the text size was larger - the tiny text is very hard to see on many monitors and against some scenery (especially the sky). I found it interesting that Falcon 4 showed '1600x1200' as an available Glide resolution when the Voodoo3 card was installed and 3dfx's glide2/glide3 extensions active. Falcon 4 is no speed demon even at 800x600 on a Blue G3/400 (avg 18fps), so 1600x1200 is not practical. Voodoo2.ini/.var files seem to have no effect on Falcon 4 Voodoo2 performance.

Falcon 4 Framerates (640x480) Avg FPS
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2 SLI
(3dfx drivers)
21
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2
(3dfx driver)
21
B&W G3/400 Voodoo2
(Gamewizard driver)
21
B&W G3/400/66 GameRocket 23
B&W G3/400/66 Rage128 Orion 21

Image Quality: 3Dfx cards/Glide mode has more realistic texturing in the game in my opinion; most noticeable on the plane's surface Rage128 vs Game Rocket games performance page screenshots clearly showing this). Falcon might be the most resource intensive Mac game I've seen as of 1999.


Test System Hardware Summary:

The following is a list of specs on the B&W G3 that was used to run the Voodoo2 tests in this article:

  • Apple B&W G3/350/DVD (overclocked to 400MHz):
  • 256MB RAM (two 128MB DIMMS)
  • Rage128 Orion video card
  • Stock 6GB IDE Hard Disk (60% full, not defragmented)
  • 32X CDROM drive
  • Voodoo2 cards tested: Game Wizard 12MB Voodoo2 card/Two PC Voodoo2 cards (Creative Labs & Wicked3D)
  • Initio BlueNote PCI SCSI card (for legacy SCSI support)
  • OS 8.6, 6MB Disk Cache, VM off, QT 3.0, QD3D 1.6, std (many) Apple installed extensions. [No Libmoto]



Back to WWW.XLR8YOURMAC.COM


Copyright © 1999.

All brand or product names mentioned here are properties of their respective companies.
Site Privacy and terms of use.