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No Games with Hardware-Accelerated Physics

Video games have always been among the most demanding applications around. Such kind of software has all the chances to get GPGPU acceleration among the first. But will they?It looks like even in case of physics effects computing using GPUs there is not a lot of enthusiasm. Fortunately, GPGPU is not limited to physics.

X-bit labs: You have been talking about a number of improvements that GPU compute capabilities can bring into PC video games. But can you describe how compute shaders truly imroved actual titles?

Neal Robison: I think what the most of developers started to utilize GPU-compute with DirectCompute, a part of DirectX API. The majority of developers began to use DirectCompute for cross-processing of video frames in real-time. We have also seen GPU-compute for lighting computation; as you can imagine, in every scene of a video game lighting has become a much more important part of the look and feel of the game to make it as realistic as possible. Being able to include a large number of light sources and calculate where are they going and how they behave on different surfaces is a really good use for GPU-compute. Certainly, we have also used GPU-compute for physics. In fact, this month at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) Autodesk released a beta version of a plug-in for Maya that allows to preview the graphics [of physics effects computed by a GPU] that will be in the game built using Maya environment. Those are the things are primary use of GPU compute so far.

X-bit labs: When do you expect this Bullet physics Maya plug-in to be finalized?

Neal Robison: The beta plug-in is available for preview by game-developers right now. I do not think Autodesk has published the release schedule for the plug-in yet. So, the release date is unknown.

X-bit labs: What developers are previewing the Bullet physics plug-in for Maya?

Neal Robison: The plug-in was just announced earlier this month. I do not have the list of developers who use it and will only know when Autodesk actually distributes that.

X-bit labs: What about Bullet Physics engine in general? What developers use it?

Neal Robison: Right now a very small number of PC titles [designed by PlayStation developers] use it. But I know that since Bullet is open-source, people like DICE has used portions of that library to complement their own physics implementations.

X-bit labs: Should we expect games with OpenCL GPU hardware-accelerated physics in 2011 or 2012?

Neal Robison: I don't think there will be a large number of such games this year. Hardware-based physics does not seem to be a huge priority for software developers. We want to make it available as we have that technology, but it seems like a lot of developers are still choosing to use their own physics implementations simply because they want to make sure that performance and gameplay is consistent for all of their customers; a large number [of game developers] are just really concerned about making sure that the experience the consumer has is consistent no matter what graphics card they have in their system or whether they have a very powerful discrete GPU or not. The technology is there some developers will take advantage of it...

 
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