Naturally, Intel has a solution to this problem - "Do not mix MMX code and floating point code at the instruction level". Intel claims that this is an acceptable solution, as no applications require closely interleaved FP and MMX instructions. Unfortunately, that is simply not the case, especially with games. One of the most attractive uses of MMX instructions in games is in computing texture coordinates with perspective correction.
Without MMX instructions, the best way to perform this requires among other things two divides per pixel. With MMX instructions, quadratic interpolation is quick and accurate enough that it can be done in place of the divides, saving quite a few cycles. As the triangle decreases in size or becomes narrow, something which happens commonly in the dynamic game environment, the speed advantage of the MMX enabled technique drops due to edge effects. Eventually the MMX enabled technique is hampered so much that it becomes significantly more efficient to go back to the 2 divides per pixel method.
How Intel FUNKED up the Pentium: MMX
If it were not for the 53 cycle penalty incurred when switching modes, the program could use the most efficient method in each situation. Alas, the stall is present, so the programmer must choose one method and stick with it - the penalty for switching is too high, and there is no way to group MMX instructions together due to the diverse size of the triangles on screen. Ultimately it is best to go ahead and use MMX when possible, but its benefits are much less than they could and should be. Saturation arithmetic is something which would seem not to be of much use, but can be a great service to the programmer.
Essentially it eliminates the classic problem of overflow and wraparound. You might have seen this problem in arcade games of the early '80s. These games were 8-bit machines, so most quantities were represented with 8-bit numbers.
One such quantity was usually the level number. All would be fine through level But if you finished level , what was next? Level ? Not if an 8-bit number was used. The level count would increment to the next number, which was 0.
But since there was no such thing as a Level 0, the game would crash. While interesting, it was undesirable And by now you're asking "Why didn't they see this was going to happen and prevent it? The same type of thing can happen today with digital video and graphics effects. Let's say you have a dark red object on the screen, with an RGB value of ,0,0 - on a ,, scale, in this case where is darkest. Now for some reason you decide to render a glass bottle and lay that over top the red object.
Convenient control of the main character of the game!
Let's say this bottle has color ,0, - a light purple. You would expect the place where you can see the dark red object through the bottle to now be very dark red, with a little purple. Since you were overlapping the objects, you just add the color components, and end up with that spot being 44,0, - light blue-purple.
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- x86 ISA Extensions part I: MMX.
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