As I mentioned, there are two graphics sections to 3DMark06, the first uses Shader Model 2.0 while the second implements Shader Model 3.0 along with HDR effects. The two Shader Model 2.0 tests will look very familiar â€“ they are Return To Proxycon and Firefly Forrest, both seen in 3DMark05. However, both tests have been significantly updated since their â€™05 outings.
Itâ€™s clear from the screen shots that Return To Proxycon looks a lot better in 3Dmark06 than it did in â€™05. The main improvement is the lighting â€“ not only has the amount of light sources increased, but there are also different coloured lights throwing differing casts on the environment and characters. The textures are also improved from â€™05 making the whole test far more demanding.
Firefly Forest is more immediately different from its 3DMark05 predecessor. Whereas the original test showed a single firefly buzzing around a magical forest, the 3DMark06 version has two differently coloured fireflies flying around. This test does look great with the ambient light from the moon offering partial illumination, while the green and pink fireflies provide constantly moving dynamic light that creates changing colour casts on the surroundings.
Outdoor scenes like this are far more difficult to render convincingly than indoor corridors and rooms, which is why most 3D games are set in dark gloomy corridors. One major exception to this was Far Cry with its lush vegetation and open spaces â€“ even by todayâ€™s standards the Far Cry engine looks good. The Firefly Forest test goes some way to showing just how good a 3D environment can look, even when based on the older Shader Model 2.0 standard.