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Friday, August 04, 2006

The Scientists' Opinions on Gaming Physics - Not there yet

Physics in games isn't ready yet, from Toms Hardware:

"From a science perspective, there isn't much talking up of Ageia's PhysX card. Granted, the scientists we talked to hadn't been able to get their hands on that piece of hardware, but their opinions still have weight as they know what is to be expected from it. They know about the mathematical limitations, and know that it won't help them do real physics simulations. But, as we all know, and maybe you're saying it out loud right now: science is not gaming. What really matters in the game is how it performs, and how physics is applied in that specific setting.

What many folks want to see in games is an increase of effects that add realism. For example, debris that actually stays on the ground after an explosion, rather than going away when you leave a scene and later return. Imagine being able to actually destroy walls inside a building until it collapses under its own weight. If you're able to interact with everything in a game as well as just look at it, you're a big step away from effects that just look good and actually heading towards seeing new types of games.

An obvious fact is that physics isn't just lights and mirrors like graphics, where you can accept the illusion that a large square area looks like a realistic wooden wall. You don't want a cloth towel behaving like a wooden board when colliding with something else. Gaming physics that makes things more realistic needs insane amounts of calculations, something a PPU might do quite well in some areas but more inaccurately, whereas the CPU does more correctly but at the cost of speed.

So, what hardware will be best for physics? We still have to wait and see. The optimal solution will probably be some sort of compromise, where a multi-core CPU does the complex calculations, and some kind of hardware (be it the GPU or a PPU) takes care of easier calculations where a larger number of objects is involved. And of course, you wouldn't go wrong having dual graphic cards to render it all on the screen with a decent frame rate.

All in all - hardware accelerated physics has arrived, and will stay in one form or another."

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