Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Game physics starts to get real

Filed under

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

SwagArch 18.02 - U Got Swag?

SwagArch sounds like an interesting concept. The aesthetic side of things is reasonable, although brown as a color and a dark theme make for a tricky choice. The fonts are pretty good overall. But the visual element is the least of the distro's problems. SwagArch 18.02 didn't deliver the basics, and that's what made Dedoimedo sad. Network support plus the clock issue, horrible package management and broken programs, those are things that must work perfectly. Without them, the system has no value. So you do get multimedia support and a few unique apps, however that cannot balance out all the woes and problems that I encountered. All in all, Swag needs a lot more work. Also, it will have a tough time competing with Manjaro and Antergos, which are already established and fairly robust Arch spins. Lastly, it needs to narrow down its focus. The overall integration of elements is pretty weak. Eclectic, jumbled, not really tested. 2/10 for now. Let's see how it evolves. Read more

How Open Source Approach is Impacting Science

Dive into the exciting world of Innovative Science to explore and find out about how the Linux-based Operating System and Open Source are playing a significant role in the major scientific breakthroughs that are taking place in our daily lives. Read more

Programming: Developer Survey, Code That Unmasks, Retaining Newcomers

  • Developers love trendy new languages but earn more with functional programming
    Developer Q&A site Stack Overflow performs an annual survey to find out more about the programmer community, and the latest set of results has just been published.
  • FYI: AI tools can unmask anonymous coders from their binary executables [Ed: Just a kind reminder that if you are e using Microsoft's tools compile source code, there will be surveillance and telemetry in your compiled code]
    Programmers can be potentially identified from the low-level machine-code instructions in their software executables by AI-powered tools. That's according to boffins from Princeton University, Shiftleft, Drexel University, Sophos, and Braunschweig University of Technology, who have described how stylometry can be applied to binary files. That's kinda bad news for people who wish to develop software, such as privacy-protecting apps, anonymously, as this technology can be used to potentially unmask them. It's also kinda good news for crimefighters trying to identify malware authors.
  • How to avoid humiliating newcomers: A guide for advanced developers
    Every year in New York City, a few thousand young men come to town, dress up like Santa Claus, and do a pub crawl. One year during this SantaCon event, I was walking on the sidewalk and minding my own business, when I saw an extraordinary scene. There was a man dressed up in a red hat and red jacket, and he was talking to a homeless man who was sitting in a wheelchair. The homeless man asked Santa Claus, "Can you spare some change?" Santa dug into his pocket and brought out a $5 bill. He hesitated, then gave it to the homeless man. The homeless man put the bill in his pocket. In an instant, something went wrong. Santa yelled at the homeless man, "I gave you $5. I wanted to give you one dollar, but five is the smallest I had, so you oughtta be grateful. This is your lucky day, man. You should at least say thank you!" [...] I still get angry at people on the internet. It happened to me recently, when someone posted a comment on a video I published about Python co-routines. It had taken me months of research and preparation to create this video, and then a newcomer commented, "I want to master python what should I do."

Software: 5 Online Backup Solutions, Lector, Roundcube

  • 5 Online Backup Solutions for Ubuntu Linux
    As the digital age progresses, the amount of data we produce each year is snowballing. There was a time when we could fit all of our personal digital data on a few floppy disks, but many of us now have hundreds of gigabytes, or even terabytes, of photos, videos, music, and documents that we need to backup and protect. Backing up our data locally is essential, but any good backup plan should also include off-site backups. “The Cloud” has promised us unlimited, cheap storage where we can save our ever-growing data. Online cloud backups should be a part of your overall backup plan, but it’s crucial that your data is secure, encrypted, and backed up automatically. Here are a few online backup tools that aim to make cloud backups easy for desktop Linux users.
  • This Qt eBook App for Linux is a Real Page Turner
    Lector a new open-source Qt-based ebook app for Linux desktops. It supports most common DRM-free ebook files, including EPUB, MOBI, and AZW, as well as comic book files in the CBZ or CBR format. In both visuals and in features Lector is something of a page-turner; a desktop ebook reader you can absolutely judge by its cover. So join me as I take a closer look at its features.
  • Roundcube fr_FEM locale 1.3.5
    Roundcube 1.3.5 was released today and with it, I've released version 1.3.5 of my fr_FEM (French gender-neutral) locale. This latest version is actually the first one that can be used with a production version of Roundcube: the first versions I released were based on the latest commit in the master branch at the time instead of an actual release. Not sure why I did that.