PC gamers have been looking for more than just pretty graphics when it comes to their game titles over the last few years. Not only do gamers want realistic graphics, but they want realistic physics as well.
Physics have long been a part of PC and console games to some extent. As games get more complex the mathematical calculations required for accurately rendering things on screen like smoke and explosions gets more complex as well.
GPU makers ATI and NVIDIA both know the value of physics processing and both companies put forth similar ways to tackle physics for video games. DailyTech reported in January of 2007 leaked specifications from ATI showing exactly what would be required for its asymmetric physics processing. Almost a year before those documents were leaked, DailyTech reported on NVIDIA’s Quantum physics engine.
Things in the world of video game physics heated up when Intel announced in September that it intended to buy Havok, the company whose physics software is widely used by game developers around the world. Xbit Labs reports today that AMD’s Developer Relations Chief, Richard Huddy is saying that GPU physics is dead for now.
The reason Huddy is saying GPU physics is dead is that Havok, now owned by Intel, is said to be releasing its Havok FX physics effects engine that is responsible for computing GPU physics without support. That is assuming Havok doesn’t abandon the Havok FX engine at all. DirectX 11 is projected to support physics on the GPU and it may be the release of DirectX 11 before we see GPU physics processing. This should be great new to the ears of AGEIA, who recently announced it would be developing a mobile physics processor.
Exactly how this will affect mainboards that NVIDIA already has in development remains to be seen; the replacement to the NVIDIA 680i mainboard is said to have three PCIe slots. If one of those slots was slated for use in GPU physics is unknown, however, this could be why the 680i replacement was pushed from a launch date of mid-November as was rumored to have been the scheduled launch date.
quote: Then when you finally have a finished gpu/ppu package what are you left with? An expensive gpu with useless ppu that no game uses.
quote: Crysis uses a developed physics system. There are attempts to calculate physics systems with the GPU. Are Crytek and NVIDIA going that way?
quote: NVIDIA_Roy: Let me answer generally and then specifically
quote: Generally we believe that the GPU can stand by itself as a powerful processor more than capable of accelerating advanced physics for today's and future games. The GPU lends itself well to scaleable, violent or destructable physics. What we need is an industry standard API that developers and the community can get behind, that isn't proprietary. Ideally the developer can then select the GPU or other processor as they see fit. We don't have one today, and this is something we are looking into.
quote: Specifically, with regard to CryEngine 2, we are in discussions with the team about this but can't add more right now
quote: The second reason, and that which has the greater effect, is a slew of technical details that stem from using Havok FX. Paramount to this is what the GPU camp is calling physics is not what the rest of us would call physics with a straight face. As Havok FX was designed, the physics simulations run on the GPU are not retrievable in a practical manner, as such Havok FX is designed to be used to generate "second-order" physics. Such physics are not related to gameplay and are inserted as eye-candy. A good example of this is Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, which we'll ignore was a PhysX powered title for the moment and focus on the fact that it used the PhysX hardware primarily for extra debris.