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Game Developers Conference 2006 - Physics and Gaming

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: General
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NVIDIA and Havok FX

NVIDIA and Havok recently announced they were cooperating on bringing physics acceleration to the GPU.  For an initial preview of what the partnership between these two companies will actually bring to the gaming world you read over my article on the subject posted at the beginning of this week. 


At the NVIDIA booth at GDC they had a station dedicated to the Havok FX engine and some demonstrations of it. 



This demo uses Havok FX to simulate smoke and steam coming out of a sewer grate.  The users can walk through the steam affecting its path and direction.



This screen shows a healthy dose of spheres in a bowl that can be pushed around by the fin in the center and react according to laws of physics. 



This demo shows a large tower of blocks collapsing onto each other and reacting in scale that the CPU by itself wouldn't be able to hand with other compute issues going on in game.



In a more game oriented demonstration here we see that a large number of objects showing up as garbage here are flowing around the character.  There are videos of these demonstrations available at end of this page that can give you a better feeling of what kinds of effects are in order. 


Most of these physical simulations are still merely eye-candy in nature, though the Havok developer I spoke with said that this wasn't a necessity.  Apparently the engine and GPU can support a similar level of interactivity like what AGEIA is trying to offer but they are not forcing that upon developers.  We will have to see what develops as the engine finalizes and software begins to be developed using it.









Video Link



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NVIDIA - Bricks Demo




This video shows many different levels of detail on the brick demonstration at the NVIDIA booth.  You can hear discussion between myself and the Havok representative that says the API and hardware can support interacting with the environment, but they are choosing not to do it now as it affects a users game play so dramatically.  He clearly states that Shader Model 3.0 is the only necessity for the Havok FX functions to work so the ATI R520 and R580 chips will definitely work. 









Video Link



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NVIDIA - Dino Demo




The most graphically intense of the demos on hand, this one was built by NVIDIA and shows a dinosaur skeleton in a museum environment being destroyed as we throw objects into it.  There are some noticeable pauses in the demo when the physics objects first collide in some cases before the animation continues.  Hopefully these can be remedied as the software implementation improves.









Video Link



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NVIDIA - Vortex Demo




This demo shows what Havok FX might do in a gaming scenario.  Basically, the character moves around the level collecting objects in a whirlwind around him to create a "magic garbage shield."

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