When one thinks about interaction and physics in games, one usually thinks of Havok, the company that has created a physics engine that has been used in tons of video and PC games over the years, including Half-Life 2, Painkiller and many more. Now at the Game Developers Conference this week the company will be showing off its latest product called Havok FX which will use high end graphics cards from NVIDIA and ATI to create and improve physics effects in games. Firing Squad got a chance to ask some questions to Havok's vice president of product management Jeff Yates for more info on Havok FX and more plans for the company.
Firing Squad: First, what will Havok be displaying at GDC this week?
- Havok will be showing its upcoming 4.0 release, which will showcase more scalable physics on next-generation console platforms, and two new products: Havok Behavior (a character behavior composition tool and run-time SDK), and Havok FX (a GPU-accelerated “effects physics” SDK that blends seamlessly with Havok’s game-play physics product – we’ll be showing Havok FX at the NVIDIA booth at GDC)
Firing Squad: A few months ago the company announced Havok FX. For the folks that don't know can you tell us about this product and how it differs from the company's previous game physics products?
- Sure – we wanted to take advantage of the current and upcoming power of new GPU configurations – Shader Model 3 and above – to do physically based effects that can add a gritty, detailed look to a game (including organic effects). The types of effects we have in mind require far more rigid bodies and particles than are typically simulated on a standard gaming PC. But we were willing to sacrifice some game-play “feedback” in order to achieve great scalability (10K inter-colliding objects, for example, is where things really start to get interesting). We have solid game-play physics in our flagship Havok Physics product – so we wanted to come up with an add-on solution that game developers could use to layer on stunning effects that look and behave correctly – and can be affected by Game-play objects. Havok FX was born out of that effort.
Firing Squad: Why do you think using the GPU from chips from ATI and NVIDIA will be advantageous to Havok to make new physics effects?
- GPU companies have a long, successful track record in the consumer space, and they are not standing still - they are investing like anyone else and building bigger/better/faster technology that will outpace yesterday’s graphics cards. We definitely anticipate more cycles – and with the potential of hosting multiple GPU’s in a standard PC, we see lots of promise for extra GPU’s that can do graphics and effects physics on PC’s at the same time. That’s a big win/win since extra GPU’s can be used for graphics or physics or both (unlike proprietary physics hardware). Fundamentally though, today’s GPU’s are great for doing physically-based effects. And even though today’s mindset is that GPU’s will always be maxed out on graphics 100% of the time, we believe that will change in the next year.
Firing Squad: How closely has Havok been working with ATI and NVIDIA to make sure their GPUs will work with Havok FX?
- Havok FX is architected to run on current generation GPUs that fully support Shader Model 3.0. Both companies are familiar with our physics technology. But we’ve had the opportunity to work very closely with Nvidia on Havok FX and are extremely excited about the progress we’ve made together, especially with GeForce 7900 configurations in SLI mode. We’ll be showing a demo in the Nvidia booth at the GDC conference.