As any 3D application developer will be acutely aware, intimate knowledge of your target APIs and hardware will only take you so far down the development path. Hardware and software bugs and quirks will forever conspire against you, throwing mini spanners in any 3D works; APIs can get in the way with caps bit hell, poor documentation and lack of good examples to learn from (to name just a few hurdles there); and no developer is perfect, so mistakes are bound to be made at some point in the development process.

Therefore any 3D application developer should also be acutely aware that excellent developer tools are a key component in the dev process, helping you avoid the pitfalls and obstacles when developing anything that relies on 3D hardware acceleration on all manner of target platforms. Even the Sweeneys, Carmacks, McGraths and Wenzels of this world need a helping hand now and again. So who better to get that help from than an IHV's devrel and tools development groups, right?

They're the ones that glue the stack together at a basic level, implementing your chosen high level API interfaces in their driver, working their hardware to the best of their ability so that your application can do its thing. So since they have that intimate knowledge since they build the silicon and the driver, and have influence over the APIs with vendors like Microsoft and the Khronos Group, where better to get help with your app.

To that end, IHVs have always provided various freely (and not-so-freely) available bits of assistance to application developers (we group everyone in the 'application' space here, from games devs to DCC application folks and all in between) to help them on their way. SDKs abound with documentation and code samples and examples, profilers are aplenty, letting you see what's going on inside your app as it executes (nowadays interactively and visually) and you get authoring tools, texture compression apps, driver builds and all the other good stuff required to take a 3D application project from start to finish.

And in that space it's probably fair to argue that NVIDIA have given the developer community the best all-round experience when it comes to IHV-led assistance into graphics programming, with their evolving toolset, SDK and devrel interaction, an effort publically visible at We're developers ourselves here at Beyond3D, so we have the first hand experience of development doom that we're sure many of you reading this will have experienced, when you're chasing down a bug or trying to see where your performance just went with your latest code commit. We actively rely on the IHV's tools and assistance there to avoid or circumvent the doom as quickly as possible.

We had a chat with Randy Fernando, the Developer Tools Product Manager at NVIDIA, recently to talk about significant updates to their toolset and SDK, our coding cockles were suitably warmed. Those tools get announced today at GDC 2007 and we've previewed them prior to their official (staggered and some of them beta) releases after GDC is done.

Let's start with their new GPU-accelerated texture tools.