[Update] New Catalyst drivers embezzle graphical details - AMD released a statement
Driver optimizations are a good thing actually, because they increase the performance in popular games. But as soon as certain "optimization” adjust the visualization or even cut effects from the game, things could get nasty. Currently Ati is in the pillory - we got the details.
During the last month several people in the 3DCenter Forum mentioned that current Catalyst drivers would embezzle certain graphics effects in Unreal Tournament 3. The game utilizes Pixel Shading to visualize certain distortions. This isn't used for displaying water but also makes glass and explosions more realistic. The problem: With current drivers the player won't find the slightest piece of realism with all the turmoil all around. Diagnosis: Catalyst A.I., Ati's "optimization” package, is accused to be responsible for the missing effects. Screenshots with deactivated Catalyst A.I. proof that this is true.
Bug or Feature?
In the meantime we made some tests ourselves and were able to replicate the problem. The following applies to a Radeon HD 4870 on windows XP x86. Furthermore UT3 was patched to version 1.3: Current Catalyst drivers seem to reach their noticeable performance increase by leaving out the effects mentioned above. As soon as the user - You - activates Anti Aliasing in the CCC, the distortions are missing. If FSAA is deactivated, the graphics look like they should. Hence, the kludge for enabling Anti Aliasing, is not working correctly.
Our tests with the Catalyst 8.6 reveal that this driver displays everything properly. The spot check with the Catalyst 8.8 already shows the problem. Further tests will have to reveal if the Catalyst 8.7 is infected already. It's a fact: With an up-to-date driver you don't see everything developer Epic intended you to see.
If you rename the UT3 exe file into "bioshock.exe” and activate the Catalyst A.I. and FSAA, the game runs with all the details - even with the latest driver.
According to our source, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is affected by a similar problem. But since we haven't verified that particular matter yet, we won't comment on the situation for the time being.
Conclusion: Bug or Cheat
It wouldn't be anything special, if this faux pas actually is a "hidden” optimization that results in more fps. In over ten years of graphics card history, both, Ati as well as Nvidia, took such missteps. We are currently waiting for a statement from AMD/Ati.
Update: We just received the following statement from AMD/Ati
“Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. Our driver engineers have looked at the problem, and found that it had crept into the code due to the changes made to support AA on new UT3 engine based games. So the root cause of the problem has been identified and it will be addressed in a future driver. You should know that the UT3 engine does not normally support AA, but AMD has put a lot of effort into adding it, so that our users can benefit from improved visuals in those games using it. We had not received any Catalyst reports of the problem before this article was published. In the future, we would like to be informed of rendering issues and given some time to investigate. Negative speculation on improper optimization is unwarranted. Adding features not intended to games is not trivial and often can lead to visual changes, which we try to address. It’s a complex process that creates new rendering paths in the driver which need extensive quality checks; but we gladly do this to benefit our users. Regular rendering (non-AA) shows no anomalies and is proof that the issue is not related to Catalyst A.I. itself.
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