Skip forward to 1987 and VGA’s eye-popping 640×480 resolution and 256 colors, and PC gaming was finally ready to go large. Add another ten years to that, and there we are at the 3DFX Voodoo graphics accelerator, the card that begat the age of 3D.
Sure, there were 3D accelerator add-in cards doing the rounds over a year prior to the release of the now famous Voodoo board – including NVIDIA and ATI’s first efforts, but it was 3DFX’s opening salvo that changed everything. Prior to 3D cards, we did have 3D games of a sort – but super-blocky, jerky-slow 3D that was painfully managed by the CPU and not the clean edges and natural framerates a dedicated 3D rendering device could offer.
The Voodoo was something every PC gamer craved and – at odds with today’s ridiculously over-priced top-end cards – could actually afford, as a crash in memory prices meant the sporty 4MB of video RAM it carried didn’t cost the Earth. It was a curious beast – with no 2D rendering capabilities of its own, this PCI board had to be linked via daisy-chain cable to the PC’s standard VGA output, only flexing its muscle during 3D games. The external cable meant a little degradation of image quality, in both 3D and 2D, but no-one really cared. They were too busy rotating their in-game cameras around Lara Croft’s curveless curves, awestruck.