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Unreal Tournament 3 -- image courtesy GameSpot
Epic's Mark Rein opens the flood gates for a discussion on the latest tech

Game Informer recently had a chance to chat with Epic's Mark Rein on a variety of subjects ranging from Unreal Tournament 3 to Windows Vista to the PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox 360 battle. Rein, never one to bite his tongue, held nothing back in this one-on-one.

Rein first spoke about Unreal Tournament 3, which will be a headliner title for the PS3. It was also recently announced that the game would see the light of day on the Xbox 360 platform. "I think it was the realization that we might be able to sell a few copies on this PS3. We had a little success on Xbox 360, and we might be able to sell a few copies there," said Rein.

The tide then turned rather quickly to Sony as a whole, given its recent PS3 sales shortfalls in Japan and North America. The PS3 itself also came under attack recently by Valve's Gabe Newell when he stated that the console is a "total disaster." Rein balks at such commentary and says that the PS3 platform is alive and well. "They sold more PS3s in North America than Microsoft sold Xbox 360s in its same period of time, and they clearly aren’t going to have the shortage problems that Microsoft had. So as long as people are willing to pay the price for the machine -- and I’m sure lots of people are -- I think they’re hopefully in a good situation," said Rein. He went on to say "There’s not a lot of games on there, but the ones that are there are really high quality, and I’m really impressed with the games. It’s a beautiful machine, it’s a great-looking piece of equipment, so I think Sony’s going to be fine."

Rein also gave his thoughts on the Windows Vista platform. In his opinion, there are too many version of the operating system and it has boiled down to a love/hate relationship. "So, I love the feel of Vista, and I love all the cool power tools that are built right in this time. I love the way it organizes all your content for you. I love all the gaming features," Rein told Game Informer. "I hate the fact that there’s a 32-bit version of it, and I hate the fact that there are versions that can run without Aero Glass."

Rein blames the reasons for 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the operating system on Intel. "I think these were compromises they made for Intel, and I think those are mistakes that’ll hold the industry back. There’s no reason why every machine out there shouldn’t be 64-bit now. There’s great 64-bit processors -- AMD has been shipping them for years. Intel was shipping them for years -- and then threw the core processor, the original core processor, into the mix and the Core Duos were 32-bit, and they shouldn’t have."

While it's understandable that Rein would like a swift move to 64-bit computing, the rest of the industry doesn't appear to be ready. The driver support just isn't there and the performance advantages on the consumer side haven't been fully realized yet. Rein, however, will likely get his wish with the next generation Windows operating system.

Game Informer didn't let Rein get away without throwing a Halo 3 question his way. Halo 3 is due to ship later this year, just in time for Christmas. "We’re a long way from Halo 3 still, so it’s not like we’re releasing them in the same week. They’re both complementary. I mean if Gears helps build the audience for Halo 3, then I hope Halo 3 helps build the audience for Gears."



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RE: Transparent windows can stay in the walls
By Ringold on 1/29/2007 7:35:21 PM , Rating: 3
You missed his point. To you, he'd say yes, 32bit XP is great. If your processor can't operate in 64bit environments, it shouldn't use Vista.

But he doesn't like Microsoft caving and making 32bit Vista widely available.. In fact, review sites seem to suggest that it should be the default install. Better, he would seem to argue, to push 64bit, since it works on modern hardware pretty well and could've been working a lot better had it been the primary focus. There's no huge advantage in all applications, but no great loss, and making it the new defacto standard would mean developers would have no excuse not to start tweaking their code to make maximum use of it. If 32bit Vista should be available it all it should be seperate, something only an ethusiast who knows the hardware he's installing on would know to get verus the mass market mindlessly installing 32bit. At least, that's what he implies.

If your qoute though he didn't say you should scrap your 32bit box, so, you took it a bit beyond his intention I think.


RE: Transparent windows can stay in the walls
By TomZ on 1/29/2007 8:28:45 PM , Rating: 2
IMO, it would have been stupid for Microsoft to make Vista 32-bit only. That would have cost them sales of Vista upgrades to anyone who owns one of the hundreds of millions of 32-bit only machines. Also, device driver support for 64-bit is not there yet, especially for older devices, and so you have a lot of other customers that will load 32-bit Vista for that reason also.

On the flip side, what is really the benefit of 64-bit, for applications? Being able to address more than 4GB of RAM? What is the real need for that today on a desktop of laptop? I can understand the need for that on servers, it's not really a need for other computers at this point in time.


By smitty3268 on 1/30/2007 1:20:54 AM , Rating: 2
Double the amount of x86 registers gives performance gains of a few percentage points in most software, about like adding another MB of cache (YMMV). You're right that the benefits are pretty minimal to the end user though. At this time the real benefit would be to developers like him, not the end user.


RE: Transparent windows can stay in the walls
By smitty3268 on 1/30/2007 1:29:56 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Also, device driver support for 64-bit is not there yet, especially for older devices, and so you have a lot of other customers that will load 32-bit Vista for that reason also.


That's a circular argument. I think you would be amazed how fast 64 bit drivers came out if that was the only Vista option. Certain older hardware has been abandoned, but I suspect most of the hardware that wouldn't be supported is old enough it is questionable whether it will run well under Vista anyway. At least the hardware makers would be happy :>.

Anyway, I agree it would have been pretty stupid businesswise for MS to abandon 32-bit Vista, but that doesn't mean I don't wish they hadn't done that. Hmm, a triple negative. I think it's time to go to sleep.


RE: Transparent windows can stay in the walls
By saratoga on 1/30/2007 1:42:40 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed. Vista 64 drivers (and to an extent Vista 32 driver) are slow because theres two versions that divide up developers time. If MS had drawn a line in the sand and forced Vista to be 64 bit only, there would only be 64 bit drivers, and they'd be faster then the drivers we have now (on either version).

I also agree that this is largely Intel's fault. While I love my Core 1 Yonah system, Intel did really screw over the market by dumping a 10s of millions of 32 bit only machines that the rest of the world will have to support for years to come. If they hadn't, the fastest 32 bit machines now would be aging P3 Northwoods and Dothans. MS could quite easily have bared these from Vista, since relatively few of them would have met the DX9 and RAM requirements anyway.


By Spoelie on 1/30/2007 8:34:25 AM , Rating: 2
you seem to forget the large majority of Pentium 4 and Athlon XP systems, that have no 64bit capability whatsoever. Intel in particular was very late in the game: only the second spin of Prescott processors (towards the end of 2004, beginning 2005), the 600 series. And they were sold alongside non-64bit Pentium 4.

As such, there's a much larger non-64bit part of the market than what your statement implies. As I remember, Longhorn was ORIGINALLY targeted for a Q4/2005 or Q1/2006 release (which was a bit optimistic), making a 64bit only version particularly painful for Intel, even without considering Yonah.


By TomZ on 1/30/2007 9:43:46 AM , Rating: 2
Why would Microsoft want to "draw a line in the sand," and in doing so, sacrifice the sale of tens or hundreds of millions of licenses for Vista upgrades for 32-bit processors? What is in it for them that would make up for this lost revenue?

Also, I don't follow how this is Intel's fault. Intel correctly read the market, which was telling them that, for desktop machines, there is no need for 64-bit back then. That is still true today. The only place where 64-bit is a requirement today is on new servers. 64-bit delivers no benefit for the desktop today.

AMD was clearly more progressive in delivering 64-bit, but this was due to the marketing benefit of doing so, rather than being based on any real market need.


RE: Transparent windows can stay in the walls
By misbfa1 on 1/30/2007 1:42:22 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
On the flip side, what is really the benefit of 64-bit, for applications? Being able to address more than 4GB of RAM? What is the real need for that today on a desktop of laptop? I can understand the need for that on servers, it's not really a need for other computers at this point in time.


The benefit of 64 bit is the sophistication of the mirco code. 64 bit allows the developers to create better code in general. x86-64 really is a huge leap foward when it comes to the x86 architechture.

All the benefit is behind the scenes stuff that we won't realize.

64 bit is the future of computing. He would just prefer not to wait for the future (I agree that particular point). Microsoft could have mandated that only the 64bit version be on new machines, and that would have been the end of it right there.

You want to anticipate need and be ready for it BEFORE it is needed.


RE: Transparent windows can stay in the walls
By saratoga on 1/30/2007 1:46:05 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
On the flip side, what is really the benefit of 64-bit, for applications? Being able to address more than 4GB of RAM? What is the real need for that today on a desktop of laptop? I can understand the need for that on servers, it's not really a need for other computers at this point in time.


Being able to address more then 4GB of memory . Remember, lots of memory is not mapped to RAM, as lots of people who try to run XP32 with 3GB of RAM find out. 64 bit mode makes a lot of sense as soon as you hit the 2GB mark, which is basically where we are. Any higher then 2Gb and you'll run the risk of hitting various bottlenecks.

But really, the idea is just to get everyone onto the same version of x86 as fast as humanly possible. The transition is going to be expensive and annoying. The faster its over, the sooner people can move on and developers can stop worrying about it (and wasting their time on it).


RE: Transparent windows can stay in the walls
By Shintai on 1/30/2007 7:09:20 AM , Rating: 2
32bit can utilize up to 64GB using PAE.
And with the /3GB flag each process can use 3GB memory. And with AWE more. But AWE brings alot of issues, PAE don´t.


By saratoga on 1/30/2007 9:44:26 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
32bit can utilize up to 64GB using PAE.


x86 can, but XP-32 cannot. If you want to address more then 4GB of physical memory in XP or Vista, you MUST install the 64 bit version.



By TomZ on 1/30/2007 9:29:43 AM , Rating: 2
Most people are running WinXP, and use their computers for browsing the Internet, accessing e-mail, and office productivity apps. Based on this, even 4GB of RAM is way more than is needed.

I understand your drive to get everyone on 64-bits, but my point is that there's no practical reason for most folks to get there. They simply have no requirements of their machine that demands a 64-bit OS. Therefore, adoption of 64-bit OSs will be slow.


By TomZ on 1/30/2007 9:24:55 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The benefit of 64 bit is the sophistication of the mirco code. 64 bit allows the developers to create better code in general. x86-64 really is a huge leap foward when it comes to the x86 architechture.

As a developer, I can tell you that's not the case. Almost all code written for PC's is written in high-level languages (e.g., C++, C#, Java, VB, etc.), and at this level, whether the computer is 32-bit or 64-bit doesn't affect your abilities at all. In fact, most of these languages specifically abstract the underlying hardware so that your software runs correctly on both 32-bit and 64-bit systems without any modification (C++ being an exception). Basically the only benefit is that it is easier to access really large amounts of RAM, e.g., more than 2-4GB. This is of course far more RAM than any desktop app needs today.


By AlexWade on 1/30/2007 9:37:56 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
On the flip side, what is really the benefit of 64-bit, for applications? Being able to address more than 4GB of RAM? What is the real need for that today on a desktop of laptop? I can understand the need for that on servers, it's not really a need for other computers at this point in time.


To see a real benefit of 64-bit, play the 64-bit version of Half Life 2. Load times are significantly less. So in games, expect to wait less. Every program that is 64-bit loads a lot faster. There are other benefits too.


RE: Transparent windows can stay in the walls
By SmokeRngs on 1/30/2007 4:54:06 PM , Rating: 2
Making Vista 64 bit only would not hurt Microsoft much from a financial standpoint. I don't remember what article or what site I read it on, but Microsoft makes 80% of its sales from vendors like Dell, HP, etc. The vast majority of the systems they now sell with the exception of Core Solo or Duo laptops would be 64 bit capable. In this case Microsoft would still get the vast majority of their sales no matter what.

I'd bet many if not most of the people that would spend the money to upgrade from XP to Vista would be more of the enthusiast type and would likely have a 64 bit CPU already. The exceptions would probably be the Core Solo an Duo people along with some people with older P4's.

Microsoft did not release a 32 bit and a 16 bit version of Windows 95. Every version was 32 bit with the capability of running 16 bit software.

As already mentioned, 64 bit drivers would be all over the place instead of hit and miss right now. No one would have had to split resources on two different drivers and instead concentrated on 64 bit drivers.


RE: Transparent windows can stay in the walls
By TomZ on 1/30/2007 5:17:36 PM , Rating: 2
The reality is that, regardless of demand, most companies are not going to release 64-bit device drivers for old hardware, e.g., devices that are more than one year out of production. It is just not economically sound. That is a barrier for users to going the 64-bit route.

In my case, for example, I have a 6-year old Thinkpad - there is zero chance of getting 64-bit drivers for any part of that machine. And yet, since I could load 32-bit Vista on it, I can use Vista on that machine. On my main workstation, I have an Adaptec SCSI adapter and HP scanner that I've had for many years, as well as a webcam that's a few years old. Same story there - if I loaded 64-bit Vista, then I couldn't use those devices at all. Since I had the option of loading 32-bit, I did, and so I loaded my WinXP drivers for all my older devices.

And looking at the other side - the benefits of 64-bit, in my case are zero for me. I have no need for >4GB at this point in time, and I'd rather be able to use my existing hardware rather than buying all new hardware.

I think my case is typical of upgraders wanting to use Vista with their existing hardware investments, both at home and at businesses.


RE: Transparent windows can stay in the walls
By saratoga on 1/30/2007 9:49:34 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The reality is that, regardless of demand, most companies are not going to release 64-bit device drivers for old hardware, e.g., devices that are more than one year out of production. It is just not economically sound. That is a barrier for users to going the 64-bit route.


Which is why 32 bit Vista is such a bad idea. Now companies have to release a Vista 32 and a Vista 64 driver. If they'd done the Vista and 64 bit switch at once, then ALL Vista drivers would be 64 bit, and the problem you're describing would not exist.

quote:
In my case, for example, I have a 6-year old Thinkpad - there is zero chance of getting 64-bit drivers for any part of that machine. And yet, since I could load 32-bit Vista on it, I can use Vista on that machine.


Actually, if your laptop is using the 32 bit Vista drivers, theres probably 64 bit versions, since I think MS ships all their included drivers in both versions, but I could be wrong.

quote:
And looking at the other side - the benefits of 64-bit, in my case are zero for me. I have no need for >4GB at this point in time, and I'd rather be able to use my existing hardware rather than buying all new hardware.


The real limit is more properly >2-3GB of RAM in XP-32. Hitting 4GB would involve Linux and some good luck in 32 bit mode.


By TomZ on 1/31/2007 12:16:29 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Which is why 32 bit Vista is such a bad idea. Now companies have to release a Vista 32 and a Vista 64 driver. If they'd done the Vista and 64 bit switch at once, then ALL Vista drivers would be 64 bit, and the problem you're describing would not exist.

You're forgetting one little thing, which is that Vista can use 32-bit XP drivers, and that 32-bit Vista drivers are basically the same as 32-bit XP drivers (with some exceptions, e.g., video). Also, most drivers are compiled from the same source code to 32-bit and 64-bit driver targets. So, really it is just a question of the particular hardware vendor recognizing demand for 64-bit, setting up test platforms, and certifying for both versions.
quote:
Actually, if your laptop is using the 32 bit Vista drivers, theres probably 64 bit versions, since I think MS ships all their included drivers in both versions, but I could be wrong.

No, I downloaded XP drivers from the Lenovo web site. As I said, there is zero chance that Lenovo is going to release 64-bit drivers (or any Vista drivers at all) for my laptop. And again, that is what's great about 32-bit Vista - I can use ancient WinXP drivers and it works just fine.
quote:
The real limit is more properly >2-3GB of RAM in XP-32. Hitting 4GB would involve Linux and some good luck in 32 bit mode.

Agreed, the limit is 3GB AFAIK. My laptop is limited to 512MB, so that won't be a problem. On my workstation, I currently have 2GB, and once I decide to go to 4GB, I'll just load 64-bit Vista. Hopefully by then I won't have my legacy hardware and 32-bit drivers.


RE: Transparent windows can stay in the walls
By jak3676 on 1/30/2007 9:45:06 AM , Rating: 2
I think you missed his point as well. I don't think he's blaming MS, he's blaming Intel.

Intel delayed making 64-bit chips for quite some time in a failed attempt to hold up 64-bit as something that was exclusive to their top-end server line - Itanium. If Intel have moved to all 64-bit sooner in the P4 line, this wouldn't be an issue. The fact that they released their first core chips with 32-bit only is also pretty unexcuseable. The fact that Intel is still manufacturing and selling 32-bit chips necessitated that MS release a 32-bit Vista. (In all fairness AMD is still making 32-bit only semprons as well. But you get the idea.)

Before all the flames start, I'm not saying this is my opinion, but I believe this was the point he was making in the interview.


RE: Transparent windows can stay in the walls
By TomZ on 1/30/2007 7:53:43 PM , Rating: 2
Intel "held up" (as you say) 64-bit from consumer and business desktop, simply because there is no requirement from these markets for 64-bit. Never was, and still isn't today.

For servers, there is a need for 64-bit, to be able to simply address more memory to support in-memory databases and web servers, as well as to be able to support server consolidation for energy/cost/space savings.

AMD pushed 64-bit hard into the consumer space, quite successfully. But this was based on their marketing needs, rather than any actual need consumers had for 64-bit operating systems. And what OS do you think everyone runs on their 64-bit AMD processors? Yes, you guessed it: 32-bit XP, and not 64-bit XP!

Clearly, the future belongs to 64-bit operating systems, and it is not a question of "if," but "when." But to say that Intel was to blame for slowing down supplying something that the market didn't want or need is simply inaccurate.


RE: Transparent windows can stay in the walls
By saratoga on 1/30/2007 9:54:07 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Intel "held up" (as you say) 64-bit from consumer and business desktop, simply because there is no requirement from these markets for 64-bit. Never was, and still isn't today.


Thats not what anyone has argued. Stop beating down strawmen.

Fact is the 64 bit transition will stretch out for years. The fact that its not a big deal today is irrelevant, since it will be a big deal in a few years. All of this should have been in place by now, so that the transition could be completed BEFORE it became an issue.

quote:
Clearly, the future belongs to 64-bit operating systems, and it is not a question of "if," but "when." But to say that Intel was to blame for slowing down supplying something that the market didn't want or need is simply inaccurate.


For this point to be accurate, you'd have to show that no 32 bit system sold by Intel would ever need more then 2-3GB of RAM. I doubt this is the case. The fact that Intel didn't completely drop the ball doesn't make up for the fact that they still screwed a lot of people over by drawing out the 64 bit migration longer then it should have.


By TomZ on 1/31/2007 9:51:28 PM , Rating: 2
I still don't understand how Intel "screwed over a lot of people." For example, those who wanted 64-bit could have just purchased AMD processors, right?


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