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No games are being announced that supports ATI's method, says AGEIA

Earlier this week at Computex, DailyTech reported that ATI officially announces its solution to physics processing. Called Triple Play, ATI's solution depends on three Radeon X1K series cards, two of which operate in CrossFire mode while a third card is configured for physics processing. The Triple Play solution, says ATI, uses the raw gigaflop performance of the Radeon X1K series to process physics, but users are concerned at the approach. The fact that customers are forced to buy three ATI boards ended up being questionable for many users as costs quickly escalate.  A system with two Radeons can still use one for physics calculations, but it is no longer dubbed Triple Play.

FiringSquad this week reported a response from AGEIA which attempts to explain the lack of value in ATI's solution. According to AGEIA, measuring the performance of physics processing by simply looking at the number of gigaflops in a GPU is analogous to saying that "the more wheels I have on my car, the faster I will go." AGEIA's vice president of marketing,  Michael Steele, said to FiringSquad:
  • Graphics processors are designed for graphics. Physics is an entirely different environment. Why would you sacrifice graphics performance for questionable physics? You’ll be hard pressed to find game developers who don’t want to use all the graphics power they can get, thus leaving very little for anything else in that chip.
  • “Boundless Gaming” is actually enabled by AGEIA’s Gaming Power Triangle in which the PhysX processor adds true physics to the mix instead of leaving it to a repurposed graphics processor.
AGEIA further says that developers are announcing more and more games that support its PhysX product, while no one is announcing support for ATI's method. Steele also mentioned that while he's glad that ATI has agreed that physics is important, ATI is delivering a "questionable" solution to physics processing.

Steele also emphasized that PhysX is available now while ATI's solution is not.


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physics
By Targon on 6/9/2006 7:37:11 AM , Rating: 3
Considering that physics doesn't offer ANYTHING that can't be done by the CPU these days, I think this is just a case of a company that is in a "developing area" being afraid that they won't survive due to competition.

In order for a physics processing card to do well, it will need to:

1) Improve overall gameplay without causing a negative impact on performance.

2) Be affordable.

3) Get used in enough game titles for there to be a desire on the part of the potential customer base to drive purchases.


Now, when 3D acceleration first came out, it made it so games looked better, and software mode looked ugly in comparison because game companies didn't even try to provide that level of graphics in software. That made an accelerated game obviously better with a 3D card than without. It stood out, and the improved graphics that 3D acceleration brought also improved the framerates as well.

Take the new physics processors we are seeing today. We havn't seen where you get a faster game experience, or one that looks better while also keeping framerates at the same level. This means that until we see a real reason to spend money, not "it could do this", there is ZERO reason for a customer to buy a physics accelerator today.

There was a period where 3Dfx saw some competition from other companies, but either the implementation wasn't as good, or the other companies just couldn't find developers willing to support their version of 3D acceleration. In either case, 3D eventually became a standard feature on video cards, and 3Dfx sank and eventually got scooped up by NVIDIA.

Physics processing isn't an area that any one company has gotten a true dominant position since the only game that I've heard about ran slower with a PPU than without it. It's in the same category of "4 wheel steering" in cars. Every now and then, a car company will try to re-introduce the concept, it will fail miserably, and then fade away. Even if it's a good idea, if it doesn't get support or BUYER interest, it won't go anywhere. If you bundle it with something else that other people might want, then you have a better chance of the technology taking off.




RE: physics
By RMSe17 on 6/9/2006 8:09:17 AM , Rating: 2
I agree with Targon here. Given the strength of current processors, and the move to dual core, I think it would be much more optimised for the game developers to focus on multithreading of games, maybe use one of the cores for physics calculations, etc. And maybe optimize some game code. I remember back in the day when games were made well, written in mix of assembler and C.
Sometimes I wonder if there are chunks of games written in java these days, or else the code was pumped out without any optimizations.

Of course it is easier (and smarter?) to write fat code, and then get users to shell out more money on extra hardware.

Personally I hope that these physics acceleration cards dont take off, because if they do, soon enough there will hardly be a game that wont use one.


RE: physics
By MadMax on 6/9/2006 8:21:05 AM , Rating: 3
The PhysX PPU *DOES* offer physics processing far beyond what the CPU can offer. Even a dual or quad core CPU doesn't have the parallel processing power that a dedicated PPU does. And this processing power does improve the gaming experience.

And I'm tired of people complaining about lower frame rates. Frame rates drop because the visual effects improve- there are more objects to draw onscreen.

Take the game FEAR for example. FEAR has some fantastic graphical effects that improve the visuals of the game, and definitely improve the in-game experience. But these visuals lower the frame-rates of the game because they further tax the video card.

Now, would you "cry foul" and complain to Monoligh (the developer) that they decreased the frame-rate by adding all these nice visuals to the game? Would you play the game with the effects turned off?

The answer is NO. Physics processing adds more objects and visual flare to games, so of course the frame rate will drop! And physics promises to add so much more. The real problem is that no developer wants to go out on a limb and release a game that integrates extensive physics throughout the game, and not visuals only. It will take time for this market to take-off, but it WILL.

MadMax


RE: physics
By hwhacker on 6/9/2006 8:48:16 AM , Rating: 2
I agree that Targon made some excellent points.

The thing about about the PhysX PPU is not if or if not it can calculate physics better than any other current solution, it's the fact that enabling it's ability MOST times drops the frame-rate so badly in games that it makes resolutions that were playable unplayable with the options on, with currently little actual benefits from games we've currently seen. It's not worth it on multiple, multiple levels.

Now, could it change with better utilization in upcoming games? Sure. Could drivers be improved? Sure. Could Ageia produce a better product down the line as this tech progresses, and could this be physics (particularly Ageia's API's) teething stage? Sure.

Like what was said though, the fact BOTH Nvidia/ATi are working with Havok...I'd be a little scared if I were Ageia...Like "who's going to buy us out" scared. All of their points are rather useless and in some spots rediculous, as i'm sure we'll see Havok-optimized games shortly...and perhaps with playable frame rates/better effects before Ageia because of the higher processing ability! On top of that, the fact Nvidia and especially ATi are putting support on their current cards for physics when using a next-gen part for gfx is enough to give them a default audience; they're already a step in the door.

I could pick apart every rediculous Ageia comment, but I like the "Who would sacrifice horsepower for physics...?" comment. Do they not understand ATi's plan is for you to use OLDER cards when you upgrade to a NEWER one, that would not be compatible with the newer one for xfire? IE a x1k card when grabbing a R600, or a x1600-x1800 when using a x1900.

All of their comments sound either deceiving, CYA, or just plain ignorant. I know this sounds like i'm trying to bash them, but they are sounding uninformed and border-line idiotic. I expect them to be chased out of the scene, if not eatten, rather quickly. I give them credit for pushing technology forward though, they do deserve that.


RE: physics
By Strunf on 6/9/2006 8:59:40 AM , Rating: 2
Scared of being bought ? na that's probably their goal...


RE: physics
By walmartshopper on 6/9/2006 4:12:18 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe somebody else can expand on this, but it seems like physics cards should be able to work in conjuction with the new instancing feature of shader model 3.0, which according to Microsoft, "Allows many varied objects to be drawn with only a single command." As we've established, more physics means rendering more objects for the graphics card and therefore lower fps. But in some cases such as explosions, when you are dealing with a bunch of similar objects, couldn't instancing be used to draw the extra objects without slowing down performance much? Would this be left to game developers? Or could Ageia implement this in their API?

Maybe I'm wrong, but this seems like a fairly simple solution to the performance problem.


RE: physics
By AndreasM on 6/9/2006 4:46:17 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Maybe somebody else can expand on this, but it seems like physics cards should be able to work in conjuction with the new instancing feature of shader model 3.0, which according to Microsoft, "Allows many varied objects to be drawn with only a single command." As we've established, more physics means rendering more objects for the graphics card and therefore lower fps. But in some cases such as explosions, when you are dealing with a bunch of similar objects, couldn't instancing be used to draw the extra objects without slowing down performance much? Would this be left to game developers? Or could Ageia implement this in their API?


Instancing would help some, but the objects would still need to be run through shaders, which are starting to be the bottleneck in GPUs. Using it is up to game developers, though.


RE: physics
By freon on 6/9/2006 10:01:01 AM , Rating: 2
It has already been proven the extra graphics load is NOT what causes the frame-rate drop. Aegia is the only one who tried to use that BS excuse. They have since tried to make updates and optimizations to the drivers to get rid of that performance issue.


RE: physics
By Targon on 6/10/2006 7:40:07 AM , Rating: 2
3Dfx was on the leading edge of 3D acceleration, so it DID start out better. The fact that the other 3D accelerators were worse doesn't change that.

The fact that the 3Dfx Voodoo chip improved the framerates is a key reason why we see 3D acceleration as a standard feature since most people will NOT accept very poor framerates just for eye candy. Going from 100fps to 60fps would work, but not from 60fps to 20fps.

If the current physics processors really improved gameplay, it would mean more than if it's just eye candy. Better visuals(so you can see details like switches/controls from a distance) for example is something people might pay for. If it's just for better explosions, then it wouldn't be. If you could take down a wall with an RPG and climb on top of the rubble to get a tactical advantage, or to advance through the game might be useful, but again, if the frame rate drops to 5fps, it won't do well.

Anti-aliasing is a similar type of thing. If you turn it on and it drops your framerates too much, it's NOT something you will turn on during normal play. It has taken us a LONG time to get to the point where graphics cards are powerful enough to allow AA to be enabled during normal gameplay on mid level video cards, but we are finally at that point.



RE: physics
By tygrus on 6/11/2006 9:07:39 PM , Rating: 2
The current PhysX drivers and game implementations still use the CPU. New drivers and game edtions will make better use of the PPU resources and balance it against frame rates. Look at the performance & quality changes using newer drivers for nVidia and ATI GPU. The GPU makers may have to increase the geometry processing to show the advantages of greater detail and interactions.


RE: physics
By ElFenix on 6/9/2006 9:47:47 AM , Rating: 2
"Now, when 3D acceleration first came out, it made it so games looked better, and software mode looked ugly in comparison because game companies didn't even try to provide that level of graphics in software. That made an accelerated game obviously better with a 3D card than without. It stood out, and the improved graphics that 3D acceleration brought also improved the framerates as well. "
actually, frames didn't improve to start with. Matrox Mistake and ViRGE anyone?


RE: physics
By TheDoc9 on 6/9/2006 10:30:15 AM , Rating: 2
I remimber the mistake! I hade one! What a classic pos card. Compared to a 3dfx card of the day, it was a joke.


RE: physics
By jkostans on 6/9/2006 10:54:08 PM , Rating: 2
I had an onboard s3 virge.... what a joke. The virge was dubbed a "3d-decelerator". I think it's fair to compare the ageia Physx to the s3 virge in terms of usability. I'll stick with "software" rendering until something worthwhile comes out.


"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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