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The State of Video Game Physics 170

Posted by Soulskill
from the god-does-not-play-fallout-with-universe dept.
The Guardian's games blog convened a panel of engineers and other experts to talk about the current state of video game physics. A great deal of research is currently going on to make better use of multiple cores so that advanced physics tools and engines can take advantage of all the processing power available in modern computers. Many of those tools are being put to work these days to find more realistic ways of breaking things, and game developers are trying to wrap their heads around destructible environments. Mike Enoch, lead coder at Ruffian Games, said, "This idea of simulating interactions and constructing the game world similar to how you would construct the real world generates more emergent gameplay, where the game plays out in a unique way for each player, and the player can come up with solutions to problems that the designer might not have thought of." Another area that still sees a lot of attention is making game characters more human, in terms of moving and looking as realistic as possible, as well as how a game's AI perceives what's happening. "The problem is not necessarily in having the most advanced path-finding technique with large-scale awareness; we need to have more micro behaviors, with a proper physics awareness of the environment," said software engineer George Torres.
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The State of Video Game Physics

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  • by reporter (666905) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @01:26AM (#28492241) Homepage
    One of the toughest aspects of calculus-based physics is teaching how to intuit it. Space-based games (i. e., ones involving the behavior of light, planets, and other celestial entities) written to conform to actual physics laws would be a fun way to teach students how to intuit physics.

    This generation of students is just damned lucky to have access to such computing power. In the old days, the most readily accessible computing power was an 8080 hobbyist board. Simulating the universe on that is impossible. The students of that era were stuck with just manipulating integrals and derivatives.

    Life is unfair. I hate it.

    • by WCguru42 (1268530) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @01:33AM (#28492279)

      You know, some of us youngsters were brought up on the idea that calculators should only be used to multiply large numbers together and nothing else. I know that I've benefited greatly by having restricted calculators / computer use on exams that require a more fundamental understanding of physics than simply plugging numbers into equations.

      And if you can't intuit physics then you probably shouldn't mess with it. I remember when my first physics teacher told me that calculus was nothing more than mathematics for the purpose of physics and all of a sudden calculus made so much more sense, taking mathematics and equating it to physics and the real world just seemed to simplify the whole thing.

      • by kestasjk (933987) * on Saturday June 27, 2009 @02:03AM (#28492455) Homepage
        Problem with that is that limit based calculus itself is fundamentally based on abstract concepts like finding the sum of infinite parts. A physical analogue to an equation can make grappling with the physics much easier, but I don't think understanding goes the other way. Who "gets" electromagnetism and uses that to help them learn partial derivatives? It can easily go the other way though
        • by Miseph (979059)

          I didn't really "get" limits until I started calculating instantaneous velocities based on acceleration. I could tell you the concept, and I could roughly explain what it was, but I couldn't really fathom what it was, how it made sense, or why anyone would ever bother.

          I suppose that to a very abstraction-minded person it could go the other way, and I think that's probably the biggest difference between a mathematician and a physicist, formal study aside.

      • >And if you can't intuit physics then you probably shouldn't mess with it.

        So, nobody should mess with Quantum Physics?

      • by daver00 (1336845)

        Precisely! Anyone who cannot invert a 100000x100000 matrix in their head should not be doing physics!

        Seriously though, finite difference methods are about the only way to extract meaningful information from the differential equations which model anything remotely interesting, the only physics problems which are 1 or 2 dimensional, steady state and easily solvable by hand are those which drastically simplify reality and serve only to deliver the basic understanding of how calculus is used in modeling. Calcul

    • I don't think that'll help very much. Ever watched someone try to play Mario Kart, and they just can't figure out how to take a jump or a turn? You'll always get those kinds of people; sometimes, they just don't get it, they can't learn how to play games and build logical mental constructs based on trial, observation and error. They just don't think that way.

      Maybe it's politically incorrect to say this (and in all likelihood, unscientific as well, but I'm going with my gut): if you can't get it, then you'll

    • by kestasjk (933987) *
      Don't worry, for whatever reason this generation of students doesn't yet have the software to simulate physics for the purposes of learning. We do have software to make manipulating integrals and derivatives easier, but it doesn't become useful until quite late. Really it's still overhead projectors and acetone slides, you're not missing much, but hopefully that is yet to change
    • by johannesg (664142)

      One of the toughest aspects of calculus-based physics is teaching how to intuit it. Space-based games (i. e., ones involving the behavior of light, planets, and other celestial entities) written to conform to actual physics laws would be a fun way to teach students how to intuit physics.

      Do such games actually exist? Every title I can think of has blatantly bogus physics. Even when discounting FTL-travel (which I can forgive on the basis of no one living long enough to actually reach another star during their lifetimes otherwise), you often see simulations in which spaceships behave like planes: they bank, they share common orientation, their relative speed never exceeds something that is humanly understandable, etc.

      This generation of students is just damned lucky to have access to such computing power. In the old days, the most readily accessible computing power was an 8080 hobbyist board. Simulating the universe on that is impossible. The students of that era were stuck with just manipulating integrals and derivatives.

      Life is unfair. I hate it.

      Should we get off your lawn now?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 0xygen (595606)

        I can forgive the banking, as it is due to the ships maneuvering thruster arrangement. They are often depicted as four thrusters (two up, two down) near the front of the ship, and sometimes an opposing four at the back.
        Firing opposing pairs of thrusters causes roll, firing both up / both down causes pitch, so the only logical way to turn is to bank and then pitch up.
        This layout saves having another pair of thrusters to allow turning without rolling, plus you only need to account for stress in two directions

        • Re: Banking (Score:5, Funny)

          by Joce640k (829181) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @05:59AM (#28493563) Homepage
          Space ships bank when turning because it stop your Earl Grey from spilling all over the console.

          You'd think people complaining in a physics thread would know some.
          • by 0xygen (595606)

            Yet the applied rotation accompanied by the lack of initial lack of gravity until the turn itself begins does not spill your tea?

            Nice idea though! Mmm, Earl Grey...

          • Earl. Grey. HOT!

        • I always loved manoeuvring in Wing Commander for this -- ships had pretty good thrust and directional behaviours, along with drifting by thrusting then turning and firing. Each ship and missile in the game actually had documented yaw pitch and roll maximum correction speeds in degrees per second too.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)

      One of the toughest aspects of calculus-based physics is teaching how to intuit it.

      One of the toughest apsects of calculus in general is the plethora of conflicting notations, none of which are very good.

    • by 4D6963 (933028)

      Hallelujah, if you want to understand orbital mechanics in an intuitive way, just mess around with a simulator like Orbit or even games such as Spacewar!

      Yes, Spacewar!, the first computer game, from 1961. It actually wasn't that bad in the physics department.

  • by Shadow of Eternity (795165) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @01:33AM (#28492275)

    When it comes down to it even a truly realistic game where even high explosives have difficulty rearranging the landscape I'm still going to find a way, one way or another, to do something that was either unexpected or unwanted.

    So you've either got arbitrary restrictions or arbitrary game ending scenarios because I just happened to collapse a skyscraper or fourty that the plot needs.

    • A common work around for that problem is to initiate a plot sequence at the beginning of a scene change. This method is more common for large world and 3rd person. Another approach is a penalty system where the player is punished for destroying a plot sequence. This method is used frequently in first person shooters where a mission is failed due to friendly fire. In both cases, the key to addressing this issue is scope management. As games get more complex I imagine tools will automate the relation between
    • by 0xygen (595606)

      I believe this actually is where gaming is going though, to a very real physics model which takes away the feeling of artificial limits.

      Where necessary, limits can be placed on the gaming through outside factors, e.g. in a military game, unacceptable civilian deaths leading to failure, or in a GTA type game, the feds arriving.
      I think to make the experience feel unlimited, these limits need to be applied through such in-game factors, rather than certain skyscrapers being magically indestructible.

      It should be

      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        i find vandalizing the sandbox to be the most enjoyable way of playing a game..
        • by 0xygen (595606)

          Admittedly, I often do too, but as a tangential activity to actually completing the game as originally intended.

          I always spend some time exploring the limits of the box when getting a new game! With Prototype and inFamous kicking around at the moment, it's happy times.

      • I suppose it depends on the game. If you went true realism in terms of destructive power players destroying buildings would very rarely be an issue even if they had grenades and RPGs. Without actual shaped charges and large quantities of high explosives it'd be difficult for someone to take out the average "Near-Future" reinforced structure of a game building.

        But then you'd have people screaming over how unrealistic it is that one frag grenade doesn't blow a 5 foot pit in the ground.

        • by 0xygen (595606)

          I think you're a lot closer to how the future will go with regards to sandbox gaming.

          There should be a lot of cosmetic and insignificant damage, for example the trees in Crysis, but there needs to be a level between destroying the lean-to huts with a single grenade and not being able to even dent the bigger caravan-type military huts.

          Hopefully as system ram sizes begin to skyrocket, these issues will disappear. I remember a time where racing games left only a 10 foot tyre track from your car, and now they'r

    • by grumbel (592662)

      So you've either got arbitrary restrictions or arbitrary game ending scenarios because I just happened to collapse a skyscraper or fourty that the plot needs.

      Well, do it like in the real world. If the bad guys headquarter gets blown up before some story mission, relocate him to a different building. Its not like reality stops working just because some building gets blown up, people work around it, construction workers repair it, police mean jail the person who did it and so on, a video game can do much of the same, especially when it is an open world game to begin with. Its also a simple matter of economy, blowing up big stuff requires lots of explosives, simply

      • by Dutch Gun (899105)

        Well, do it like in the real world. If the bad guys headquarter gets blown up before some story mission, relocate him to a different building. Its not like reality stops working just because some building gets blown up, people work around it, construction workers repair it, police mean jail the person who did it and so on, a video game can do much of the same, especially when it is an open world game to begin with. Its also a simple matter of economy, blowing up big stuff requires lots of explosives, simply don't give the player a way to obtain them or just rebuild stuff on the right side of the map, while the player is blowing stuff up on the left. A single player can't level a whole world.

        A lot of stuff like that is pretty simple to describe in a few sentences, but pretty hard to do in actual practice. At the moment, highly destructible environments will remain in the domain of a few specialized titles, because the entire game has to be *completely* designed and built around this concept - not to mention the technology.

        Current game dev pipelines are set up around the concept of creating and importing geometric meshes, and applying textures and shaders to those to simulate a real-world mater

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      No matter how realistic they make the game, when you come to a locked door, you won't be able to get through it, despite the fact that you're carrying a crowbar/shotgun/friggin' rocket launcher, etc.

      Fences that are taller than waist-high will post a problem, too.

  • Garry's Mod (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SnakeEater251 (872793)
    This is why games like Garry's Mod have become so popular. You can run (basic) physics simulations on your home computers without needing to shell out too much cash to do so.
  • No more (Score:5, Interesting)

    by elashish14 (1302231) <profcalc4 @ g m ail.com> on Saturday June 27, 2009 @01:48AM (#28492365)

    Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I preferred the simpler games, the ones that didn't have as rigid physics and things of the nature. Compare modern first-person/third-person shooters and compare them to the classics like Perfect Dark, The Legend of Zelda or Goldeneye. They were so much fun because handling was so easy, you could move, you could strafe, etc. It was so much better! And yet, as games become more realistic, all that happens is that your character becomes more sluggish and less powerful, harder to manipulate. All for the sake of reality, and graphics which will always get old. But the gameplay never gets old. That's why classics are what they are - they're acceptable graphically and a hell of a lot of fun to play.

    Want proof? They still have Street Fighter tournaments, Melee tournaments, etc. if you look around in the right places. On the other hand, who cares anymore about Metal Gear Solid 4? Man, even playing Super Mario World is much more fun than the New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, simply by virtue of the fact that the older one is simpler, freer, gives you more control, more imagination, more room to enjoy it.

    Seriously? It's gameplay that makes you come back, not reality. I wish we'd drop the reality of things and just make games fun. But I guess now I'm old enough to just make my own games. Sigh. It had to come down to this, didn't it?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I would agree with you that the 3D obsession in the past 10 years was kind of silly. It all had to be 3d all of a sudden, and it ruined many games. For example the old Worms was fun, the 3D version sucks so bad.

      However, the introduction of physics is actually something that I am not complaining about. I love too see how debris tumbles down and stuff. And I like the current trend of 2D gravity games as well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by banffbug (1323109)

      ...the classics like Perfect Dark, The Legend of Zelda or Goldeneye.

      I was hoping you'd mention games from the commodore 64, not the other 64!

      • by turing_m (1030530)
        What, like Bubble Bobble? Last Ninja? International Karate or International Karate Plus? F14 Tomcat wasn't too bad I thought. I think the most accurate in physics was probably "Thrust", albeit only in two dimensions.
    • by Jurily (900488)

      Mod parent up. Games are supposed to bring a break from reality, not emulate it badly.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I agree, and I'd go stronger than just less-high-fidelity 3d simulations. How about deliberately cartoony? 2d? Anything with a style and interesting gameplay is good as far as I'm concerned. Would Braid have gained anything by being 3d? To the extent that games are visual art as well as games, high-fidelity 3d simulations actually seem like they limit the degree of distinctive style that a game can bring. And a focus on them doesn't usually help gameplay either, because all sorts of cool ideas become too co

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by KDR_11k (778916)

      Oh, physics can add fun. While Crazy Machines didn't benefit from improving the physics over The Incredible Machine games like Red Faction Guerilla turn the physics into a major gameplay element, letting you disintegrate the ground under an enemy's feet or enter a building through a wall with your sledgehammer (or vaporize an enemy in cover along with what he's hiding behind). I also really liked NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits (formerly Icarian) with its puzzles about moving blocks around your character.

      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        but crazy machine did benefit from running properly on a modern OS. it isn't as good, but it's a damned good substitute compared to nothing at all.
    • On the other hand if you looked at ultima underworld which was one of the best games in the 90s to integrate physics, the game is a classic and everything afterwards in first person perspective after it was more or less a step back...
      The main issue nowadays is that physics in most action games is only integrate the way you can blow up things, it becomes more interesting as soon as they get out of this stage by utilizing it as puzzle part or simply by trying to make a virtual world within the game like the u

    • by gnud (934243)
      Well, a game like Deus Ex (which is a GREAT game) could have benefitted enormously from the player being able to, say, create a new door with some c4.
    • by selven (1556643)
      I don't really like advanced realistic-explosion-simulate-every-water-molecule physics myself. It seems like a substitute for gameplay these days. And god forbid the physics requires a whole bunch of libraries on operating systems I don't actually use.
    • It's gameplay that makes you come back, not reality.

      100% true. But major game titles are big business, and what they want is for you to play a new expensive game for a short while, then buy another. Your going back and playing games you already paid for gives them nothing, or worse than nothing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Twinbee (767046)

      I'm the first person to dream of games made of trillions of individual atoms and realtime raytracing, but sad to say, I agree with you. I think games can have the best of all worlds - simple control mechanics, luscious, AND clearly defined, detailed graphics (rather than greyish, over texture-mapped, cookie cutter style 3D objects), and 'abstract realism' which looks convincing and often colorful, rather than just trying to imitate this world.

      Music in games is the same now. It must be 'real' (usually bland)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eulernet (1132389)

      The real problem is that most of the big videogame companies would like to mimic big movie companies.

      When they meet investors, they explain that they want to provide an experience similar to a movie, even though in my opinion, these are quite separate domains, but this makes the investors dream (and take out their cash).

      I was a game programmer, and I stopped working in videogames mostly because the games I worked on were less and less funny to play as I was going older.

      I remember one of my colleagues in 198

    • by Quothz (683368)

      Want proof?

      Forgetting something? Maybe half-forgetting something?

    • by morari (1080535)

      Compare modern first-person/third-person shooters and compare them to the classics like Perfect Dark, The Legend of Zelda or Goldeneye. They were so much fun because handling was so easy, you could move, you could strafe, etc. It was so much better!

      I would not, ever say that a console-based FPS handles easily... especially not one using that hideous N64 controller.

      Still, your point stands. Gameplay is more important. That said, extensively thought-out physics could go a long way in making or breaking the gameplay in some titles.

    • There are some modern games that seem to have figured out how to have more realistic (in some ways) physics and outstanding control schemes.

      Prototype is one example - you're capable of doing some REALLY crazy and physics defying stuff, but when you don't use any of the "special" powers or moves the physics tends to be more or less real. The engine lends itself to some emergent stuff. Another example is one of the Hulk games - I don't even bother with the missions in that one, I just piss the army off to the

    • by Xest (935314)

      I don't think that's true.

      It's the same with everything, there are good implementations and bad implementations, age of game IMO has nothing to do with it.

      In terms of FPS games, Quake 1 was always my favourite online for the reasons you state, the physics just felt nice, the game was fun to play with it's rocket jumping and the likes, it didn't need complex physics.

      Yet whilst Half-Life 1 was an excellent game I always felt the physics in it absolutely sucked, compare it to something like Crackdown on the XB

    • Ok /. people, get to work on turning this post into an old curmudgeon meme:

      Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I preferred the simpler games, the ones that didn't have new technology and things of the nature. Compare modern genre and compare them to the classics like example, example or example. They were so much fun because handling was so easy, you could move, you could strafe, etc. It was so much better! And yet, as games become more realistic, all that happens is that your character becomes more sluggish

  • by MrMista_B (891430) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @01:52AM (#28492401)

    Indeed, some of the most physics-accurate games I've played, have been some of the most generic and dull in memory. Greater physics can add to a game, but /designed/ physics, is what makes a game /fun/.

    • by kestasjk (933987) *
      Watching a zombie realistically fall over onto a handrail, then slowly slump backwards and fall off, isn't what makes L4D fun, but it'd be a less enjoyable experience without it. Constant reminders you're playing a game aren't a problem for some types of game, for others they are
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AuMatar (183847)

        Disagree. I'd find the game more enjoyable with more time spent on important gameplay elements rather than junk like that which I won't really notice after the first time. Better yet, if they don't have to worry about silly stuff like that they can get the game out faster, cheaper, and move on to make another game. Unless you're writing a simulator, increasing the realism rarely makes the game better.

        • by morari (1080535)

          I don't think you have to worry about them getting another Left 4 Dead out "faster and cheaper".

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mad_minstrel (943049)
      While I believe that's true in most cases, there are some games where realistic physics actually do make them more fun. Just play Red Faction: Guerilla.
    • by Dahamma (304068)

      Reminds me of a great parody of Trespasser that involved a futile (live action) attempt to stack coke cans... wish I could find the video, Google is failing me... anyone?

  • Well, I hope these guys working in a similar area are invited to be part of the panel: http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/new_video_game_technology [theonion.com]
  • by corsec67 (627446) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @02:05AM (#28492471) Homepage Journal

    Breast physics are important for making characters look more realistic. (Well, the same math could be applied to other fatty parts of character models, but that isn't nearly as interesting)

    Of course, having fully interactive character models would require tons of collision detection, math to compute the results, and keeping track of the deformation of the model relative to the possible deformations. Until it is perfect, it seems that we are headed into the depths of uncanny valley [wikipedia.org].

    Plus, this least to the best job title ever: "Breast Physics Researcher"

    • All boyish giggling aside, body motion physics do take a lot of the plasticity out of characters and make things more fluid. Why doesn't someone's leg deform when kicked in a fighting game though? Why don't people keel over when punched in the stomach (okay, so they do in Drake's Fortune), etc.

      The new natural motion [gamershell.com] engine generates character impacts and animations in real-time for example, taking into account body structure, weight, strength and a neural AI simulation to create animations on the fly base

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @03:24AM (#28492877) Journal

    Realism won't work any more than it works in Hollywood movies. They need a "Hollywood Physics Engine", with a bit of ACME cartoon logic tossed in. Examples:

    1. Fruit stands are magnetic: every thing comes toward them.

    2. Things fly strait up and spin end-to-end when they are blasted or exploded in any way. (see also #9)

    3. Cars hitting a bail of hay or lump of garbage fly 300 feet. Good guys always land upright while bad-guys always land top first.

    4. Sexy breasts jiggle slow and long

    5. In space, everyone can hear you scream.

    6. Sparks are the most common element in the universe. Every nick and prink causes vast amounts of sparks.

    7. Space explosions are usually poofy despite no atmosphere. If it's really big, then an expanding bluish saturn-like ring spreads out from the center.

    8. If slow-motion is used, then the bullets are 500 times slower for every 1x speed reduction in human movement.

    9. People fly almost strait up in the air if within 200 feet of any explosion. The exception is if they are near a metal hand-rail, in which case they rotate around the rail during the explosion, until facing downward.

    10. Poor tire traction, AKA "skidding", actually makes cars go faster. Heroes never win unless they skid a lot. The more smoke from the skid, the faster the car.

    11. When jumping between buildings or platforms, nobody ever has a good margin: they always barely make it. Physical laws expand the width to be barely below the maximum of the hero.

    • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @08:50PM (#28499839)

      You forgot a few:

      12. Every car that crashes will explode.
          12a. Exception - if the hero is in the car, it will only leak gas.
          12b. In such a case, there will always be an ignition source nearby.
          12c. The gas will always run toward the ignition source.
          12d. The gas will ignite only when the hero has just gotten free of the car, and is running away.

      13. Heroes can outrun an explosive blast

      14. Bullets don't fly straight for bad guys.

      Optional Cartoon Physics Module:

      1. You won't fall off a cliff until you realize there is no solid ground beneath you.
          1a. Attempts to run back to solid ground will be successfully unless you look down
          1b. Bonus points if you are the one to point out to your adversary that he has no ground beneath him.

      2. Getting crushed by massive objects results not in death or serious injury, but an overall bodily compression with a look strikingly similar to an accordion.
          2a. Bonus points will be awarded if victim puts up a tiny umbrella shortly before impact.

      3. Accidental exposure to high explosives will result in no injury except for a blackening of face, mussing of hair, and tattering of clothes.

  • When a developer creates distructable scenery and lots of alternate routes, it means that they have to produce a lot more content, that the user won't see on every run-through. This means games get shorter (or development times get longer). Admittedly, one sees higher replay value, but generally that's not considered as valuable. Personally, I miss the epicly long singleplayer games of old (Half Life 1 anyone?), and would like to have the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, the tendancy is towards very shor
  • Am I the only one (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <.bassbeast1968. .at. .gmail.com.> on Saturday June 27, 2009 @03:52AM (#28493007) Journal

    Am I the only one that is tired of all these epeen graphics and physics that make any machine that costs less than a grand run like a slideshow while the AI makes Forest Gump look like a genius? I swear the AI was better 5 years ago than it is now.

    I picked up MoH:Airborne in the 10th anniversary pack and by the second level it was just sad how fricking awful the AI was. Sure the game looked nice and all, but when you have Nazis lining up to hide behind the EXACT SAME COVER that you have already piled corpses by like fricking firewood, I mean come on now. And if you crank the difficulty on high in the new games all it does is give you EA style cheating where you can be in the perfect cover and everybody knows exactly where you are, or you get a green ass grunt that can snipe you from a half mile away with a crappy bolt action without even an optic scope, meanwhile you pound bullet after bullet into them and they act like they are the Terminator.

    So if any game designers are reading this, enough with the epeen graphics and physics already. They graphics and physics were good five years ago. Nobody cares if in the heat of battle every stick falls correctly when you blow a building up, but they sure as hell notice when the bad guys just tiptoe through the tulips while walking through a killing field where you have piled up bodies all over the place. And please don't say online makes up for your shitty AI either, because it doesn't. If I wanted to deal with a bunch of campers, lamers, turtles, and teabaggers I would be playing Halo. There were plenty of games in the past like the original Far Cry that would give you a decent fight. Build on that instead of turning our PCs into slideshows.

    Oh yeah, and quit calling them "multi-platform" when you try to pass off some lame ass console port as a PC game without even taking a second to think about a decent PC control scheme. Thanks.

    • What pisses me off is the ability of Engineers or repairers to have abilities that Human players don't have.
      For instance in CoH:ToV you can't repair your own HQ. The AI can and does exactly that.

      • by tcolberg (998885)
        What? In Company of Heroes, you're just as able to repair your HQ as the AI is. Maybe you're playing one of the special gamemodes in ToV that might restrict your abilities (I wouldn't know, I just have the two previous iterations)? Or maybe you're trying to repair with the wrong unit?
        • I used Engineers to repair the HQ.
          Nope.
          Its as if nothing is happening.
          And no, am not playing any mods.
          And FYI i have been playing since 2006 from the first CoH.
          So i guess i know something about what repairs or not.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Quantumstate (1295210)

      I think AI's are gong through a transition period where before they were almost entirely scripted so in an fps they wander around a set route until you spot them and then they perform the attack action. Now they are trying to make the AI think more for itself so that you can get more interesting game play that adapts to what you do. The problem is that the new stuff is pretty difficult so you get quite a few issues like you say because the testers cannot pick out and fix all of the little problems because

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        If your AI is Forest Gump, you are going the wrong way. I personally would rather have a script or whatever they used in Far Cry or FEAR than what most are using now. As I said I have watch bad guy go and hide under the SAME cover that leaves their heads sticking out a foot and where their friends blood has literally stained the fricking box and their bodies are draped all over it, and they trip over themselves to hide behind it.

        I personally think they are all in an "my epeen is bigger then yours" stage and

  • I hear a lot of talk that videogaming has moved beyond the adolescent male mentality...

    "Many of those tools are being put to work these days to find more realistic ways of breaking things"

    I rest my case. [youtube.com]

  • Who Gives a Damn? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xjimhb (234034) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @08:17AM (#28494137) Homepage

    Why is the physics of the game world important? The thing that really counts is the plot and the game-play. Requiring super-duper CPU power (or GPU power) for the physics and the graphics is another big waste. Looking at all these new ... and expensive ... games makes me want to dig out my old Sega Genesis and play some of the old games like the Phantasy Star titles. Kindergarten graphics, no real attention to physics, but those games were FUN!

    I'd love to see a Linux port of those games!

    • by mqduck (232646)

      I'd love to see a Linux port of those games!

      What's wrong with using an emulator?

      • by xjimhb (234034)

        An emulator would be fine, except I don't know how to get the game into my PC. Those games came on "cartridges" and there is no matching socket to plug it into. Somebody would at least have to figure a way to extract the code into a readable file.

        • by hplus (1310833)
          Just this week on Hackaday they posted a cheap DIY device that can load SNES carts onto your computer via USB. The creator said that he is looking at making Genesis version next.
        • by mqduck (232646)

          Do you have moral qualms with obtaining those extracted files online, pirate-style, even though you own the original cartridges?

          • by xjimhb (234034)

            Do you have moral qualms with obtaining those extracted files online, pirate-style, even though you own the original cartridges?

            Of course not! If I bought a legal copy of the game, I believe I am entitled to time/space/format shift it ... and I consider obtaining a copy on-line to be ethically and morally equivalent to ripping it myself. I know that certain media interests may not agree with me, but they can go f*ck themselves!

            Downloading things I don't own is different ... I will only get stuff that is easily publicly available (like a YouTube video).

            • by mqduck (232646)

              So what's stopping you from downloading ROMs of the cartridges you own on BitTorrent or whatever?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grumbel (592662)

      The thing that really counts is the plot and the game-play.

      Yeah, but physics changes and enhances gameplay, as it allows the environment to react dynamically, instead of just in the few ways the designer intended. When done right, physics give you a more believable and interactive world. Of course when done wrong you end up with a stupid gimmick that is fun for five minutes and then gets boring.

    • Because with really good physics you can expand the gameplay options a LOT.

      I was playing one game where I needed to kill someone who was protected inside a really well-guarded building. Every time I tried to get in through the only entrance to the building I wound up being killed before I could even take down half of the guards (I suck at those kind of scenarios). There was no way to get to the roof of the building - I tried going to all the buildings around it, but the jump distance was *just* too short. T

  • I think the problem with modern gaming is that basically designers just go "OK, now destructible environments are getting pretty good, let's just slap that into our game cause that's the way to go".

    What I think they should rather do if they took a more artistic approach to game design would be "It would be cool if we could make a game that would consist in blah blah blah" then see if it can currently be done and then do it.

    Game designers do what they can, not what they want.

  • Download the Trine game demo from Steam and then lets talk again..

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @02:05PM (#28496551) Homepage

    A dozen years ago I developed and demoed the first ragdoll physics system that worked. [animats.com] Among other things, I'm responsible for the "ragdoll falling downstairs" cliche; that started with a demo I did in 1997. I looked at ragdolls as a first step. I was expecting game development to go in the direction of physically-based characters driven by active control of character muscles. That hasn't happened.

    The problem is partly technical and partly dramatic. The dramatic part I encountered in dealing with Hollywood types. What directors want is to specify the start and end conditions; the job of the system is to realistically get the character to the desired ending mark. In real-world stunt work, there are wires, guides, and rails that make things go the way the director wants, even when that's not physically realistic. When that's not enough, cuts are used to conceal the lack of realism.

    Physics systems are inherently unidirectional - you keep working forward from the current state. This is fundamentally incompatible with directorial control. As a result, the trend in character animation has been to get enough motion capture data to cover the things you want the character to do, and use a motion splicing engine to patch the pieces together. (This, incidentally, was first used in Godzilla, the movie, for the baby 'zillas). That's become more or less the standard approach for games.

    Using a character control AI to drive the character's muscles realistically has been attempted, but with modest success. Motion Factory tried this in the 1990s; their system was only kinematic, and not too successful. Havok is trying it now. For this to work, you need computerized muscle control good enough to drive a real-world robot, like Big Dog. And then it has to look good from an aesthetic perspective. It's really a hard robotics problem, which is why I was interested in it in the first place.

    From a gameplay perspective, if you take the physics seriously, you lose the "superhero" capabilities of game characters. Jump off a balcony, and don't expect to land on your feet. Jumping up to a balcony? Forget it. Hand-to-hand combat works about as well as it does at the dojo. ("Your left foot was too far forward for that throw. Again!" "Yes, sensi.") Trying to control a physically realistic character via a joystick is nearly hopeless. You can't even drive a real car very well through a remote joystick, let alone a game pad. (I've actually done that; using a remote steering wheel is a huge improvement over a joystick.) In driving games for consoles, the physics is tweaked to make the car incredibly stable. (Lowering the center of gravity to below ground is a common trick.)

    So what do we have? Ragdolls. "Infinitely destructible environments." Some skin deformation. Cloth. Plus rain, snow, water, and explosions that don't feed into the game play at all. (That's mostly what the "physics cards" do.)

  • Way back when I was playing Syndicate for the first time and marveling at how awesome it was, I was still struck by how much cooler it would be if I could level buildings. Even these days, games like GTA would be even cooler if buildings could be as thoroughly trashed as the cars are. Real world physics has come a long way in games these days but there's so much more that could be done.

"Out of register space (ugh)" -- vi

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