Havok Interview (con'd)
Firing Squad: So far what has the response been like from game developers who have gotten to see Havok FX in action?
Firing Squad: Can you give us a couple of examples of how Havok FX will improve physics game play and effects versus the normal software method?
Jeff Yates - To be clear, we are only targeting physically-based effects with Havok FX on the GPU, working in tandem with Havok Physics for game-play physics on the CPU. Games will continue to use Havok Physics to provide scalable game-play physics with the typical “twitch” response times required to make physics fun and well-integrated with other core game components on the CPU. But Havok FX will be able to layer on top of that many 1000’s of objects (or organic effects based on clouds of objects and particles) that can be affected “downstream” by the game-play physics. There will be some limited feedback from the GPU to the CPU, but this will be lower priority and in general this is what allows the effects to be done extremely quickly on the GPU and in parallel to the game physics. The visual effect of both CPU and GPU physics is essentially seamless – and the nice thing is that the effects can be turned off if/when sufficient GPU power is not available; but when enabled with the right GPU configuration, the effect will be noticeable and will very much help differentiate leading PC game titles.
- Everyone we’ve talked to is very excited about the direction we have taken, especially our use of the GPU instead of a proprietary hardware solution for accelerated physics on the PC. I think there is a great deal of pent up enthusiasm in the technical side of our industry for the “GP-GPU” space – which is exactly what Havok FX is driving into. We realize though that Havok FX represents a very new and different use for the GPU, and game teams will need more first hand access to see and experiment with this new product. Our upcoming 4.0 release will enable access to Havok FX for a lot more developers.
Firing Squad: When can we expect to see the first games using Havok FX?
- That’s hard to say exactly since it depends on a number of factors out of our control. But we can say that Havok FX itself is in the hands of game developers already, and that the installed base for Havok FX compatible PC’s with Shader Model 3 GPU’s is likely over 50 Million units today, growing. That’s a good starting point and we don’t think game developers will need to bet on the “if you build it they will come” strategy, just to differentiate their PC games.
Firing Squad: Has the company been surprised by some of the things game developers have done with the physics engine?
- It is still a bit early – but we expect game developers will use and extend Havok FX in a variety of ways that we have not really anticipated. The reason is simply that the openness and maturity of today’s shading languages and tools allow Havok FX effects physics to be augmented through fairly well-known methods. And since the effects physics simulation lives entirely on the GPU, we expect to see some very novel Shader techniques combined with rich, stable physics.