In a suite at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas we had the chance to sit down and talk with the folks from MSI. After the pleasantries of introduction were over Rajiv Kothari moved the conversation to MSI and its direction. Rajiv covered the basics of MSI, their mission, and their direction. He talked about how MSI is almost reinventing itself to be a dominant player in the market. We were quickly shown some of their new products as well as some we already know about.
Of course the one thing that we wanted to hear most about was sitting on a table in the middle of the suite. This was the Big Bang Fuzion motherboard. The system was setup in a Plexiglas case so everyone could see it running and know exactly what was there. The system consisted of an nVidia GeForce GTX 260 and an AMD Radeon HD 4890. It was a very odd combination to me, I would have thought a GTX285 and HD 5870 would have been a better choice, but that is just me [this was the same setup they used in that controversial press demo, Ed.].
After some comments from MSI about how Fuzion is ready and that Big Bang is not just Fuzion but an entire line of high-performance motherboards [like the Tri SLI Trinergy] the questions started.
The first was about the fiasco with the launch delay. Rajiv told us that originally Lucid only wanted to release the SLI and Crossfire emulation in 2010 but with their urging they have pushed forward with the X, or mix and match mode. Rajiv also told us that with a new driver set [1.4] most of the problems have been ironed out. They even had a looped demo of 3DMark06 running showing that the mix and match mode was working.
Now, here is the rub, we have spoken with multiple developers about Lucid. We [as you all know] have spoken with NVIDIA and AMD to get their take on this new and potentially game changing hardware. It was during the course of a recent conversation with a game developer that we were told that the Lucid setup has massive issues rendering in DX10. We were not given specifics but just that there were issues. As you can probably guess, when we saw the 3DMark06 demo loop we began to wonder about the issues we were told about.
I asked Rajiv if the new 1.4 drivers had fixed the rendering problems in DX10 and was surprised when he answered "do you mean DX11?" I clarified explaining that we had been told there were rendering issues with DX10 games and wanted to know if they were able to demo the Fuzion with 3DMark Vantage.
As soon as the first scene started the "issues" were evident and visible to our 14-year old intern, yet alone an experienced gamer. Ed-in-Chief wasn’t enthused either. Reflected illumination was flashing and cloth stuttered as it moved. It was clear there were very big problems with DX10 rendering of lighting and textures. Scene two was slightly better but there were still obvious problems with lighting and some textures. What was also clear was that the team present in the MSI suite did not know this was a problem. I do not think this is a failing of the MSI PR team but a failing of Lucid to communicate with developers and even with the company that is pushing their product to the market. Fuzion is potentially a game changer. If it can be released in a working and stable format it will remove the barriers that currently exist for multi-GPU gaming. But the problem is that Lucid does not want to cooperate with anyone. It is the same attitude that drove many companies to the ground, and we hope LucidLogix can get over inherited Israeli-stubbornness that ruined many companies before them. The same developers that told us about the rendering issues also let us know that Lucid would not help them with the problem or give them any support at all.
Now the question begs to be asked, how much of this does MSI know? Personally I think they are aware of at least some of this. They have to know there are issues, but I think that not everyone is aware of the depth of these issues. Lucid knows the whole score, but they are not talking with anyone about it. Remember Hydra was supposed to be the Multi-GPU solution for Intel and Larrabee and Intel infused 12 million dollars for the privilege, it was not really meant as a homogenous technology for the masses. Because of this there is going to be a learning curve to move it to the new market they are in. To do this Lucid needs to open up and work with game and hardware developers. They cannot sit back and ignore them. Game devs do not have the time to trouble shoot hardware and driver issues. If there is a problem and no support; the hardware is ignored and not used.
To MSI we want to say; if Lucid will not work with developers, then you need to. Otherwise the Fuzion will be a stillborn product and MSI will lose more than just the R&D money they have invested. MSI will lose customer confidence, and the brand name Big Bang will become synonymous with the Fuzion failure.
As a final note, we sat thinking about the "you mean DX11" comment and why the demo was only using an HD4890 and not an HD5870 GPU from AMD. Well we asked around and are hearing unconfirmed information that the current drivers are having issues with DX11 hardware even in Crossfire mode. Again we are still looking for independent confirmation but as of this writing the information we have does fit the demo we saw. We will be following up with more as new information comes in.