Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Game physics starts to get real

Filed under
Gaming

Part of the appeal of computer games is that they can take you places and show you things you would never find on Earth.

But increasingly game makers want their creations to match the real world in one crucial respect. Namely the physics used to underpin the action, reaction and interaction of every element in the game world.

Not long ago games action was notoriously uniform. Fire a rocket and the resulting explosion would look the same every time. The scenery may not even be damaged.

But better physics means you can let the computer work out what happens when rockets are fired at zombies, bunnies or rebounding surfaces. It will be different every time.

The physics in ground-breaking games such as Half-Life 2 and Doom III is only the beginning.

Limits on the processing power and computer memory available to game makers means that only relatively large rigid bodies were modelled effectively in these recent titles.

This means that you get a good idea of what happens when grenades meet packing crates or circular saw blades interact with zombies. What you get is everything splitting or shattering into relatively large chunks.

It does mean that it is hard to model the interaction of anything smaller than those chunks or such things as liquids.

But even this offers a huge range of possibilities so much so that in Half-Life 2 players get a gravity gun that lets them take advantage of the realistic action/reaction and interaction of objects. Many of the puzzles in the game that held up the progress of its central character Gordon Freeman revolved around exploiting physics.

The gravity gun was one of the many factors that made Half-Life 2 fun to play despite its linear plot.

David O'Meara, chief executive of physics software firm Havok, said Half-Life 2 offers a hint of what is to come.

"Half-Life 2 is the standard now in terms of what the consumers sees," he said. "But it was developed over a number of years and the standard of physics today is not what the consumer sees."
Already there are games that can model interactions using elements as small as bullets and realistically show what happens when they hit a foot or ankle, said Mr O'Meara.

The next big change is modelling interactions between objects and environments made of particles - effectively big molecules.
This will give game designers unprecedented freedom to build worlds and have the objects, animals and people in them react to each other like their real world equivalents.

The next generation of consoles and powerful desktop PCs will give designers the scope to model entire worlds of such small elements, said Mr O'Meara, although there were going to be moments when other things, such as animation of faces have prior calls on memory and processing power.

There are also more firms producing physics engines, such as Ageia, Meqon and others, that developers can use to give games a more realistic feel.

"There are games coming out where we know what's been achieved and it is at least as startling as what has been seen in Half-Life 2," he said.

Full Story.

More in Tux Machines

Leftovers: Software

Leftovers: Gaming

Android Leftovers

  • Android Candy: Intercoms
    Ever since my "tiny $20 tablet" project (see my Open-Source Classroom column in the March 2015 issue), I've been looking for more and more cool things to do with cheap Android devices. Although the few obvious ones like XBMC or Plex remotes work well, I've recently found that having Android devices around the house means I can gain back an old-school ability that went out of style in the late 1980s—namely, an intercom system.
  • There's a wild prank hidden in Google Maps that insults Apple in the most childishly inappropriate way
    Rawalpindi is a vibrant Pakistani city known for its bazaars, ancient ruins, and array of religious shrines. But if you pay it a visit on Google Maps, you're going to notice something very unusual on the outskirts of the city — the Android "droid" mascot urinating on the Apple logo.
  • There's an Android bot peeing on an Apple logo on Google Maps
    Sick of all the Apple Watch news today? You're in luck, because we have something completely different for you. An image of an Android mascot, also known as an Android bot or Bugdroid, peeing on an Apple logo has been discovered on Google Maps.
  • An Android robot is peeing on an Apple logo in Google Maps
  • An Android is urinating on the Apple logo in Google Maps (update)
    Google and Apple have always had their differences, but a new Easter egg inside Google Maps has just taken their rivalry to a whole new level. As spotted by Team Android, if you head to these coordinates with the regular Map view enabled, you'll see Google's iconic Android mascot taking a leak on the Apple logo. At the moment, it's unclear who created this little piece of mischief and whether Google is taking action. But if this hidden message is any indication, it was snuck through by a member of the public using Google's Map Maker service, rather than a Google employee. Regardless, it's a crazy (and pretty hilarious) addition that's sure to rile some of the employees in Cupertino. Shots fired!
  • Sony's Android TV-powered 4K televisions are ridiculously thin
    Four models from Sony’s 2015 Android TV-powered 4K television range are now available for pre-order, with shipping to begin in May. The Japanese electronics giant unveiled its 4K TV lineup for 2015 at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, but kept pricing and release information to itself, only saying the new sets would be available sometime in the spring. Those details are finally here and the TVs themselves aren’t far off.
  • Android Wear v1.1 APK has Apple references in it, but when is iOS support coming?
    That Google is working on iOS support for Android Wear is nearly undeniable at this point, but even more evidence has surfaced in case you aren’t a believer. We peeked inside the latest Android Wear update APK to see what hidden bits were swarming about, and we came across some very interesting references.
  • 5 Things to Expect from the Nexus 5 Android 5.1.1 Release
    A few weeks ago, an Android 5.1.1 update mysteriously appeared alongside an update for Google’s Android SDK. Earlier this week, Google finally confirmed the Nexus Android 5.1.1 release with an update for its Nexus Player. With an Android 5.1.1 update now on the minds of Nexus users, particularly Nexus 5 users dealing with Android 5.0 Lollipop problems, we want to take a look at what we expect from the Nexus 5 Android 5.1 release from Google.

The Turing Phone Is Super Durable and Ultra Secure

The device also sports a 13MP/8MP camera combo, 64GB / 128GB of internal storage and runs Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the box. Read more