A new book titled "The Legacy of 3dfx" sheds some incite on 3dfx's experimental Rampage graphics card that never saw a public release. A few pictures released early from the book reveal the results of a few benchmark tests that show how pre-production models of the Rampage GPU performed.
3dfx Interactive closed it's doors eighteen years ago, but the company is still far from forgotten. For those of you that don't know, 3dfx was once the leading developer of graphics accelerators. The company was ultimately forced to close its doors due to a couple of bad business decisions and tough competition against ATI and NVIDIA, which was then just a fledgling company in the graphics card world that would subsequently acquire the remnants of 3dfx.
Before 3dfx went out of business, however, the company was developing a new graphics accelerator codenamed Rampage. Development began on this GPU in 1998, and it should have been nearing the end of its development when the company was purchased, but it never made it to the final production stage. Few of pre-production models were ever produced, but the ones that were created are held as rare and highly valuable collectibles by tech enthusiasts. Some of these cards have sold for as much as $11,000 on the open market.
Oscar Barea, a collaborator on the book, is fortunate to have two of these rare graphics cards in his possession that were used to gain information for the book. Oscar Barea tested these cards on an 800x600 resolution display with a few benchmarks and a number of games including Max Payne and Unreal Tournament. Unfortunately the performance appears to be rather limited from the game tests though. Using D3D rendering on Unreal Tournament, the Rampage GPU achieved just 9FPS, but with software rendering the game ran at 27FPS.
The 3DMark 99 Max test results look a little more promising, but it doesn't appear that the Rampage GPU would have been able to compete with NVIDIA's GeForce 256 even if 3dfx managed to get it to market. The Rampge GPU tested by Oscar Barea achieved a 3DMarks score of 5262 and a CPU score of 36929.
Had the Rampage launched, it would have had to compete with GeForce 256 GPU. We tested one of these cards years ago with 3DMark 99 Max using a 1024x768 display. This isn't a perfect match for comparison, as the higher resolution would have made it tougher on the GeForce 256. It also appears that the CPU in our test system at this time was also slower. Barea didn't reveal what CPU he used, but our CPU achieved a significantly lower score of just 9339. This means that the tested Rampage GPU would also have the advantage of a faster CPU during the test.
Despite these advantages in favor of the Rampage GPU, the Geforce 256 we tested still managed to score higher than it with a 3DMark score of 5852. Placed on a level platform, the GeForce 256 would have undoubtedly been even faster compared to 3dfx's Rampage.
If you are interested to learn more about the history of the 3dfx and the Rampage GPU, you can pick up a copy of "The Legacy of 3dfx" by Martin Gamero Prieto. The book's author is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to help push the book through to publication. The book was originally written in Spanish, but an English translation is in the works. By pledging the equivalent of $6, you can get your name printed in the book, and for $11 you can get a digital copy of the book as well. If you want a physical copy of the book, you will need to pay out $30, and there are some extras such as a T-Shirt, a poster, and a special edition of the book available for those that pledge more.