It's been couple of months since 3DMark Vantage was announced. Spiffy screenshots, some videos with Nicke talking about the past, DX10 and the future, and a shiny "Coming Soon" logo. Then... it's been quiet. Obviously the developers at Futuremark have been busy making the benchmark, but an update is definitely overdue - and that's exactly what I set out to get.
So, what's up with 3DMark Vantage? How soon is "soon"? We cornered the person who knows the answers to these things, Jukka Mškinen, Vice President of PC Business at Futuremark and kept pestering him until he gave some answers. It should be note that even this short interview took some serious pestering - including veiled threats, bribery attempts and old fashioned begging. Jukka is always busy, and getting into his schedule is harder than you might think - especially if you are trying to talk about (gasp) release dates.
YouGamers: So what's up with 3DMark Vantage development? I know that the release date of Futuremark products has always been "when it's done", but it seems like it's been quite a while since the initial announcement. You still on track? What's up?
Jukka: "When it's done" is the only way to launch benchmarks. The fundamental requirement of fairness does not allow hiccups in the product. We're very much on track in launching The DX10 benchmark for gamers.
YouGamers: Anything you can tell about the tests and features of 3DMark Vantage? Two or three game tests? Feature tests? Will there be a Demo mode, like in earlier 3DMark benchmarks?
Jukka: The main tests include two graphics tests, an AI test and a physics test. A good set of feature tests are also included. This time there is no soundtrack as we decided to put our efforts elsewhere in the product.
YouGamers: People are also wondering on our forums about the different versions and bundles. What different versions of 3DMark Vantage will there be, and anything you can tell about them or their pricing?
Jukka: The community understands the high amount of work required to create a valid benchmark and has adopted the PCMark Vantage pricing model very well. 3DMark Vantage will have a similar pricing scheme.
(As you may remember, PCMark Vantage shipped in three consumer versions - a limited free trial version, very low cost "basic" version and a reasonably priced "advanced" version. In addition to these, there was a professional version aimed for those that effectively benchmark for a living - and it appears that 3DMark Vantage will be mostly the same, though some of the details are still not known)
YouGamers: Will there be a 3DMark/PCMark Vantage bundle available?
Jukka: Yes, previous bundles have been very popular and we will continue this with both an Advanced and a Professional Vantage Bundle.
YouGamers: About those 3DMark Vantage developer diaries - any plans for more than the two already out there?
Jukka: A developer diary is a good way to let the community in on what we do and get feedback from them. We will certainly develop on this later on - maybe in connection to the game that we're creating.
(Possible "Pwnage" game project related developer diaries? Interesting...)
As always, Jukka is a tough subject to "interrogate", and he refused to divulge more. Now it's obvious to everyone that making a solid and dependable benchmark takes at lot of effort, and the 3DMark team is clearly taking their time to ensure that the final product is something you can depend on. I tried hard to push for some kind of a ballpark idea on when to expect 3DMark Vantage, but he wouldn't budge.
On the subject of Developer Diaries, I was later told that a third one on 3Dmark Vantage is planned, but it's not yet known for sure when (or if) it will appear, or what subject(s) it might cover. I guess all you can do is keep the Official 3DMark Vantage launch site...
...and while you still have to wait for 3DMark Vantage, FutureMark has already managed to release a new "Mark" - VirtualMark. While it might not be quite as shiny, it allows you to do a quick check on your system performance using just a web browser, without running a full benchmark. You can check out the earlier story to read more about VirtualMark.