Many of you may already be aware of nVidia's recent attempts to piss off the gaming community. The "optimizations" they have implemented for Futuremark's 3DMark2003 synthetic benchmark have already been widely discussed and sometimes even justified by the writer of those articles. However, I don't think anyone can defend nVidia's latest move. They (nVidia) have contacted OMEGADRIVE of Omega Corner and asked him about his very popular, and helpful, Omega Drivers for nVidia based video cards. They did not ask him to stop making them nor to stop distributing them, but they did contact the owner of Driver Heaven (the host of the Omega Drivers) and ordered them to remove the drivers.
This was quite a shock to OMEGADRIVE as his drivers were not reverse engineered, have not comprised any licensing agreements, and generally improved user's gaming experience. In fact he has helped to solve many people's stability problems with nVidia based cards in certain games. You'd think nVidia, like ATi, would be thanking him and encouraging his work.
OCA recently had the opportunity to interview OMEGADRIVE and get his take on the situation.
OCA: Explain what happened with the breakdown between you and nVidia.
OMEGADRIVE: The guy that I talked to didn't know anything about DLLs, INF files or the registry, he just knew about the law and how I breached their license agreement. So in easy words, I tried to explain to him what exactly I do to modify their drivers, step by step, and he wrote it all down. At the end of the conversation he kept insisting that I must remove the nVidia logo from my site since people might be confused about my drivers and think they are approved by nVidia. I agreed to take down the logo and asked them if I could continue releasing Omega nVidia drivers. He told me to not develop any more sets until he can get a statement from nVidia, that he would call me. I gave him my number, but I haven't heard from them again since that day.
Were you getting good feedback from nVidia users before you stopped offering nVidia based Omega Drivers?
Yes. In fact, a lot of feedback was from flight simulator gamers. They liked the extra ground detail in their games. I also received feedback from people that had problems with regular nVidia drivers and they said my drivers fixed every video problem they had.
Will you continue to develop your own drivers for ATi? Have you made contact with them to see if a similar situation may ensue?
Yes, of course! ATI has opened their doors to me. In fact, I can ask questions directly to the driver developers and ask them for features or submit problems. In the beginning of Driver Heaven, we (Zardon and I) tried to contact nVidia for their support, but they refused. They stated the site was too "ATI" biased. The idea was to make the site as neutral as possible, but they refused to believe it.
As for ATI doing the same thing? I asked Terry (Catalyst Maker) about it. He told me that there was a time, in the beginning, when their lawyers where planning to contact me about my drivers. But, Terry stood up for me and told them to "stay away" from me. I think I'm very well protected in the ATI side :D
What is your take on the "driver cheating" fiasco with Futuremark, nVidia and ATi?
That's what I call unfair competition and deceiving marketing tactics. And the sad thing is most of the time it works. People pay too much attention to synthetic benchmarks, especially corporate companies since they depend on those benchmarks to make business decisions. I've had e-mails that start praising me for my work on the drivers and how their games run smooth and with better graphics and end by cursing me because my drivers dropped their 3dm (3DMark) scores by 100 or more points. That they will going back to the original drivers ONLY because of a benchmark. :-/
ATI made a wise decision when they publicly admitted they optimized their drivers for a specific benchmark. It was even wiser to tell the public that the optimizations would be removed in future driver releases, and they did (remove them).
What gave you the idea to initially start creating your own optimized drivers?
I never liked the word "default." I'm always looking for new stuff to do, and the one thing I wanted was to have "pre-tweaked" drivers. You know, instead of doing the process of installing the drivers, customizing the settings, apply internal tweaks using a tweaker and then adding additional stuff. Why not have all that in one package? That's true plug 'n' play :D
Did nVidia initially support you or did they always just turn a blind eye?
They have NEVER contacted me before, and I suppose they never supported my work either.
Per your comments on the Omegacorner.com, did ATI contact you to assist in the beta community or did you contact them?
Terry (Catalyst Maker) contacted me some time ago. I had removed Smartgart support in my drivers, and he asked me politely if I could add it back to my drivers since it was an important part of the Catalyst drivers. So I did. After that we continued exchanging e-mails. I was asking questions about the drivers and asking for implemented features. He kept explaining to me about the drivers and how they worked internally. That helped me understand the drivers better and tweak them accordingly.
Do you see a day where you will resume work on nVidia drivers?
Only if an nVidia representative contacted me and explained to me that this was a misunderstanding. That I can put their logo back on my site and continue my work on the drivers. PLUS put me in contact with at least one nVidia driver's support technician so I can help them and myself with the drivers and tweaks.
Has this experience soured you against nVidia forever?
Nope. But the fact is, the only nVidia card I've ever had was a Geforce2 MX 200 and I had a very bad experience with it. So I sold it and bought a RADEON 64MB VIVO. After that it has been the ATI route: 8500 and 9700 Pro. Right now I do have a Geforce1 32MB in another computer. That is the one I use to test the drivers and will probably not replace it for some time. It is still running pretty good for a card of it's age.
Have there been any repercussions from your statement?
Only sad people. Most of them depended on my drivers. They will not look back to normal nVidia drivers since my tweaks fixed a lot of problems for them and kept their PC's running smoothly and crash free.
Why do you think nVidia asked you to stop working on the Omega Drivers for their cards?
In fact, they NEVER asked me to stop working on the drivers. They just suggested I stopped working on them until they contact me again, but that was three weeks ago and still no word.
I decided to stop working on them the moment Zardon mentioned to me that nVidia contacted him to remove my drivers, that did it, no more nVidia drivers.
With nVidia’s excessive “optimizations” in recent driver releases do you think they may be afraid you would uncover more?
I don't know what they where afraid of, since I don't reverse engineer the drivers it would be difficult for me to uncover "optimizations" they have secretly made. Unless they count the fact that my next set was going to have their "program detection" disabled :D
Do you have intentions to continue making Omega Drivers for nVidia cards? Or are you just going to focus on drivers for ATi?
I already answered the part about the nVidia drivers. And yes, I will continue my work upon improving the ATI drivers with features the gamers want, not the "default" ones... ;)
I'd like to thank OMEGADRIVE for taking the time to stop by OCA and answer some questions for us. I can honestly say that when I ran an nVidia based card I truly appreciated the improvements the Omega Drivers brought to my PC. And with my RADEON 9700 PRO I especially enjoy the new features OMEGADRIVE has put into them. With an overclocking utility and a refresh fixer, among other features, his website has become a one-stop shop for ATi based cards.
I want to leave you with a quote from Omega Corner, OMEGADRIVE's site. I wish more overclockers, gamers, or whoever would listen to these words:
WE are the ones that buy their cards.
WE are the ones that play the games.
WE are the ones that support each other in forums when something goes wrong.
WE are the ones that make their hardware reviews.
WE are the ones that they should listen.
WE are the ONLY ones, that can make a difference...
Feel free to shoot me an email or visit our forums if you have any questions for myself or OMEGADRIVE. Thanks for joining us today for the Omega Intereview.
DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.
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