by Anton Shilov
11/19/2007 | 06:56 AM
Following the acquisition of Havok, a developer of physics and other interactive middleware, by Intel Corp., the world’s largest producer of x86 microprocessors, actual deployment of a Havok-developed physics engine for video games that could take advantage of graphics processing units (GPUs) is under bug question mark, said Richard Huddy, developer relations chief at Advanced Micro Devices.
Havok was an independent provider of physics engines and other interactive middleware for game developers before it was acquired by Intel Corp. this September. But while Intel Corp. said that Havok will continue to work as previously while being a wholly owned subsidiary of the microprocessor giant, it looks like the company may either abandon, or release without any support its Havok FX, a physics effects engine for video games that performs all the computing on GPUs.
According to Richard Huddy, who joined AMD when it acquired graphics chip company ATI Technologies last year, Havok FX is unlikely to be released at all or power many video games. While AMD admits that there are some games on the horizon that can compute physics effects on GPUs, it is highly unlikely that there will be a significant number of them, unless comprehensive tools for GPU physics are available.
Therefore, for AMD, which is the second largest provider of x86 central processing units (CPUs) in the world, it makes more sense now to promote physics calculations on its multi-core processors, granted that there are special development tools offered. As a consequence, without Havok FX and with no substantial intention to support it by AMD, GPU physics is unlikely to become popular in the short term future.
Still, physics processing on GPUs may get a boost in popularity when Microsoft releases its DirectX 11, which is projected to support additional features that will provide new opportunities for games developers.
Jen-Hsun Huang, chief executive officer at Nvidia Corp. that provides the lion’s share of discrete graphics processors, also said recently that Havok acquisition by Intel will create “negative synergies” for GPU physics. Nevertheless, he was a little more positive about the technology and indicated that there were other middleware companies working in the field.
“Physics is – physics processing has a long ways to go and there are so many companies out there. [There are] quite a few middleware companies out there that are creating technology in this area, and many games, many game developers incorporate their own physics engine. So my sense is that there’s a lot of invention still left to do in this area. I’m not sure why they bought that company, to tell you the truth. It might give them some advantages with respect to Havok, but it obviously creates negative synergies everywhere else,” said Mr. Huang.
Intel Corp. is currently the largest supplier of graphics adapters through its core-logic chipsets with built-in graphics cores, but Intel at this point does not supply discrete GPUs, which computational power is required for physics effects processing. For that reason, it was relatively important for Intel to ensure that Havok FX – potentially, a very popular middleware – does not make it to the market, as in the opposite scenario the importance of a high-end CPU inside a personal computer for video gaming would decrease.
Besides Havok, company called Ageia also develops different physics middleware and engines for video games. For the personal computer market it offers engines that can take advantage of Ageia PhysX, a dedicated physics processing unit (PPU) that should be acquired separately for about $200. Currently Ageia PhysX is not supported by many games and hence is also not very wide-spread.