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AMD Graphics Games

Game Devs Only Use PhysX For the Money, Says AMD 225

Posted by Soulskill
from the dem's-fightin'-woids dept.
arcticstoat writes "AMD has just aimed a shot at Nvidia's PhysX technology, saying that most game developers only implement GPU-accelerated PhysX for the money. AMD's Richard Huddy explained that 'Nvidia creates a marketing deal with a title, and then as part of that marketing deal, they have the right to go in and implement PhysX in the game.' However, he adds that 'the problem with that is obviously that the game developer doesn't actually want it. They're not doing it because they want it; they're doing it because they're paid to do it. So we have a rather artificial situation at the moment where you see PhysX in games, but it isn't because the game developer wants it in there.' AMD is pushing open standards such as OpenCL and DirectCompute as alternatives to PhysX, as these APIs can run on both AMD and Nvidia GPUs. AMD also announced today that it will be giving away free versions of Pixelux's DMM2 physics engine, which now includes Bullet Physics, to some game developers."
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Game Devs Only Use PhysX For the Money, Says AMD

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  • by EvolutionsPeak (913411) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:18PM (#31403034)

    Sounds to me like AMD just wishes they'd thought of it first. There's no reason AMD couldn't offer similar deals.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)
      But, should they? If a developer doesn't want to use PhysX, they shouldn't. If they're doing it purely for money, then chances are that it's damaging to the industry. Sure physics acceleration is cool for certain types of games, racing games and FPS, but the problem is that developers shouldn't be paid to use technology that isn 't helpful for creating quality games.

      Especially if it causes games to be less enjoyable on other hardware platforms. I could see a real problem with this in terms of anti-trust
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by NeutronCowboy (896098)

        Look at the alternative: instead of adding useless physics to a game that doesn't need it, they could be adding advertisements. Advertising dollars are dollars nonetheless, and I very much prefer a quick splash screen of "powered by PhysX" and some mindless physics interactions than an in-game billboard (possibly even updated over the Internet, shudder).

        • I don't think PhysX is doing anything to slow that particular vector of suffering. Those studios that would sacrifice goodwill for additional funds are almost certainly just waiting on the appropriate framework.
        • Games like GTA (at least San Andreas) already have billboards, would it be so bad if they had real companies instead of fakes? I wouldn't care.

          In fact, I modded some of those to look like real ones, using The Sopranos wallpapers :)

        • by kalirion (728907)

          I very much prefer a quick splash screen of "powered by PhysX" and some mindless physics interactions than an in-game billboard

          How about an in-game banner that realistically flaps in to the wind with the power of PhysX?

      • by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:08PM (#31403736)

        But, should they? If a developer doesn't want to use PhysX, they shouldn't. If they're doing it purely for money, then chances are that it's damaging to the industry. Sure physics acceleration is cool for certain types of games, racing games and FPS, but the problem is that developers shouldn't be paid to use technology that isn't helpful for creating quality games.

        The payment could just mitigate the risk associated with bearing the extra cost of adding PhysX to a game when not all of the market can utilize it and there is limited experience with it in the developer community. That doesn't mean its bad for the industry, or bad for the quality of the game.

        Especially if it causes games to be less enjoyable on other hardware platforms. I could see a real problem with this in terms of anti-trust actions.

        Really? Can you point to any provision of anti-trust law that this would violate?

        • Especially if it causes games to be less enjoyable on other hardware platforms. I could see a real problem with this in terms of anti-trust actions.

          Really? Can you point to any provision of anti-trust law that this would violate?

          Exactly - that's like saying that there's an anti-trust suit just because Modern Warfare 2 looks better on PS3 than on the 360 or because it looks better on a system running a 295 GTX than on a system running a 9800 GT.

      • Its all Hearsay (Score:5, Insightful)

        by KharmaWidow (1504025) on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:46PM (#31404202)

        We don't have any proof that developers don't want PhysX. What we have is spokes person from company A saying that no one wants company B's technology. There are no scientifically obtained statistics only one guy's - a competitor - opinion.

        Nor did the article state *why* it may be unwanted, or any specific why-nots for using PhysX

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Nikker (749551)
        The developers are getting paid to develop, so how is this a bad thing for umm developers? How do we know it's not a move on the part of the game house to hold out and make Nvidia pay their developers to add a bit to the game? And how is adding more features to a game a bad thing? Won't someone think of the poor developers who are given more money to do their jobs?
      • Especially if it causes games to be less enjoyable on other hardware platforms. I could see a real problem with this in terms of anti-trust actions.

        It won't be. For one, NVIDIA is not a monopoly, and neither are the game publishers, so there are alternatives in both graphics hardware and in games. For two, "they are not allowing the creative process to organically produce the game through voluntary deals" is not the same as "they are causing the games to be worse". You would first need a reason why their of

    • by Draek (916851)

      But they shouldn't have to, that's the thing. Microsoft and Intel have already gotten in trouble for offering similar deals to OEMs to favor their products (the latter also in detriment of AMD), so it's not unconceivable that NVidia could be hit with a similar problem as well, as they also hold a significant share of the market in question and this could very well be interpreted as a move designed to keep a hold of it by unfair means.

  • Maybe (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hatta (162192) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:18PM (#31403036) Journal

    I wouldn't be surprised if most game devs wouldn't implement PhysX if not for a subsidy. Only half the market is going to be able to take advantage of it after all. It may not be that they don't want it, just that it's not an economical use of their time otherwise.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Vorknkx (929512)
      Exactly. Havok and in-house physics engine are perfectly fine for physics simulations in games. I don't see why we need another third-party physics engine. Flying boxes and wood splinters do not make a better game.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Flying boxes and wood splinters do not make a better game.

        Well - it's the little things that make the differences though. I mean, you wouldn't think that flying boxes and wood splinters don't make a game any more amazing, but those were basically THE core elements of the Force Unleashed, using the Havok engine. Not surprisingly though, Havok was strictly licensed to Lucasarts for all of 2009 - no one else could use it. It's only just recently become available. So - for most of 2009, PhysX was the best choice - not only subsidized for using it, but because its comp

        • by Improv (2467)

          I thought Havok has been used by SecondLife for years....

          • Re:Maybe (Score:4, Funny)

            by EvilMonkeySlayer (826044) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:46PM (#31403432) Journal
            No, you're thinking of the Furry engine. It offers ultra realistic fur simulation, I hear it's quite popular with the Second Life crowd.
            • I wish. All you can get right now is a flat texture. SL could really use a decent fur shader. And better support for quadrupeds and other types of avatars. And flexible tails that can move properly. That's just for a start.

              SL still has a long way to go in that respect.

        • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:55PM (#31403540)

          Intel owns Havok (since 2007) and licenses it out all over the place. There's a page that has all the titles using it (http://www.havok.com/index.php?page=available-games) and it is not a small list. Havok also runs on the CPU exclusively (and will probably continue that way since Intel wants to sell quad cores) so works no matter what your graphics card.

          It's also not just physics anymore, there's Havok animation libraries and so on.

          • I was mistaken, it was the DMM from Pixelux that was licensed - which AMD is also giving out, according to the article.

        • by DeadboltX (751907)

          It's only just recently become available.

          I haven't been able to confirm your statement about Havok being exclusive to Lucasarts for 2009, but the Havok engine has been around since 2000 and has been used by over 100 different games, so it is by no means just recently available.

          • Appears I was mistaken, the DMM by Pixelux and the Euphoria (for AI) was strictly to Lucas Arts, Havok is and was always available. My bad.

        • they are implemented good. so far what i have seen in all those 'physics' engine games (irrelevant of whose engine is it) has been geometrically constructed splinters and pieces flying around. it takes more away from realism than it delivers, because the visuals they create (ie the distribution and nature of the destruction) is generally unrealistic.

      • Re:Maybe (Score:5, Insightful)

        by blahplusplus (757119) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:41PM (#31403372)

        "Flying boxes and wood splinters do not make a better game."

        But dead guys laying 180 perpendicular off a cliff makes them awesome? Does no one here remember the good old days of early FPS where if you died on the edge of a ledge your body would lay flat over the edge? Does no one remember the time when you hit dead bodies with shots and they didn't move or flail around? What about mass effect 1 the anti-gravity at the end with the geth/dead bodies floating and flailing around, not cool at all?

        All that is physics and yes the do make a better game WHEN they are applied to things that need them and not over-used, especially not using physics as a gimmick.

        • by PhxBlue (562201)

          What about mass effect 1 the anti-gravity at the end with the geth/dead bodies floating and flailing around, not cool at all?

          I thought that was a feature. Gravity on the Presidium was 0.3G, and you're fighting on the outside of the station, so nailing a geth or krogan with high-powered biotics might be enough to accelerate it to escape velocity.

    • Re:Maybe (Score:5, Informative)

      by hedwards (940851) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:25PM (#31403124)
      If you noticed in the summary, AMD is advocating for a similar technology that works on their hardware as well as on nVidia's, seems like developers would prefer that for practical reasons.
      • by Hatta (162192)

        Is PhysX just an API or is there hardware underneath supporting it? If it's hardware, then I'd say PhysX would be the better option practically. i.e. turning PhysX on would essentially be free in terms of resource usage. If it's just software then turning it on would take resources away from the rest of the rendering.

        In any case, I've played a few games with PhysX. It's pretty fucking cool. Not cool enough to make a shitty game worth playing, but it makes a good game that much better.

      • by Aladrin (926209)

        Everyone seems to be glossing over a nice little fact:

        Physx works on -all- modern Windows computers, whether they have a graphics accelerator or not. So yes, only have the market can use the hardware accelerated Physx, but the other half isn't barred from the game. They get to play, too.

        • But the hardware acceleration only works in nVidia products, which is what the point of the article is. Then again, I'm still waiting on OpenCL drivers for my Radeon HD 5770, but DirectCompute is there.
      • Re:Maybe (Score:5, Funny)

        by MobyDisk (75490) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:54PM (#31403528) Homepage

        Open standards always win out over closed standards. Like OpenGL -vs- DirectX.... oh... wait... :-P

      • Re:Maybe (Score:5, Informative)

        by ASBands (1087159) on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:24PM (#31403946) Homepage

        I've done some work with both PhysX and the things that AMD is pushing for. I try to keep with the Physics Abstraction Layer [adrianboeing.com], which lets me plug in whatever physics engine as the backend, which gives a pretty damn good apples-to-apples performance metric. Personally, my ultimate choice of physics engine is the one which exhibits the best performance. My experience may differ from others, but I generally get the best performance from PhysX on with an nVidia GPU and BulletPhysics with an AMD GPU. Sometimes, the software version of PhysX outstrips the competition, but I have never seen anything beat PhysX in performance with GPU acceleration turned on. And with PAL, it is easy to check if there is GPU support on the machine and swap in the physics engine with the best performance (PAL is awesome).

        Here's the thing: GPU-accelerated physics are just plain faster. Why? Because collision detection is a highly parallelizable problem. Guess what hardware we have that can help? The GPU. Another great part of using the GPU is that it frees the CPU to do more random crap (like AI or parsing the horribly slow scripting language).

        AMD is working on both BulletPhysics and Havok so they can do GPU acceleration. But I have a feeling that PhysX performance will remain faster for a while: PhysX was designed to natively run on the GPU (technically, a GPU-like device), while these other libraries are not. Furthermore, nVidia has quite a head start in performance tuning, optimization and simple experience. In five years, that shouldn't matter, but I'm just saying that it will take a while.

        So here is my message to AMD: If you want people to use your stuff, make something that works and let me test it out in my applications. You've released a demo of Havok with GPU acceleration. PhysX has been and continues to work with GPU acceleration on nVidia GPUs and will frequently outperform the software implementation. I'm all for open alternatives, but in this case, the open alternatives aren't good enough.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by fast turtle (1118037)

          The problem is, Nvidia bought the company that created the PhysX chip. The then incorporated the capabilities into their GPU and their drivers while refusing to allow a true PhysX card to work with anything except an Nvidia GPU in the system. In this case, Nvidia has done a major Dis-service to everyone as the original PhysX did run on anything that supported it but now it's a closed sorce, Nvidia only app/feature.

    • Well most devs would want to use their version because of pride in their work.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BikeHelmet (1437881)

      Only half the market is going to be able to take advantage of it after all.

      1) PhysX runs on the CPU if no nVidia GPU is present. A $100 quad-core CPU easily handles it for most games.
      2) According to the Steam Survey, nVidia is approximately 66% of the PC gaming market. Two thirds.

  • "You're so ugly the only way to get the dog to play with you is to tie a steak around your neck."

    Says the kid the dog without a dog to play with.

  • by DarkkOne (741046) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:34PM (#31403268) Homepage Journal
    Even before hardware accelerated PhysX was on CUDA and you only got it with the standalone card, I always thought PhysX looked a bet nicer than Havok in action. I've been wishing more games used PhysX for a while, but it seems that if a game is going to be cross-target to the consoles as well, Havok is just a lot more likely. It may just be my own perceptions, but things seem to have a bit more consistent behaviour in regard to momentum and mass in PhysX whereas Havok seems a bit "floaty" a lot of the time. This may just be a result of constants designers pick, or something, I don't really know the details. But I personally just like PhysX better, from a player standpoint, hardware accelerated or not.
  • It seems a lot of people are kvetching at AMD for this because they're criticising a competitor. I think it's really more relevant to consider if what AMD says is true - if nVidia is paying people to use their proprietary stuff and then claiming it has broad industry adoption (and therefore is good), that's pretty shady.

    I'm not sure how we really can tell if the criticism is valid unless we're in the industry though.

  • by obarthelemy (160321) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:50PM (#31403488)

    GPU makers are in a bind:
    - IGP are now enough for 90% of users: office work (even w/ Aero), video, light gaming, dual-screen... all work fine with IGPs
    - the remaining 10% (gamers, graphic artists) are dwindling for lack or outstanding games: game publishers are turned off by rampant piracy, mainly online games bring in big money nowadays
    - GPGPU is useless except in scientific computing: we already have more x86 cores than the devs know how to use, let alone use a different computing paradigm
    - devs have to target the lowest common denominator, which means no GPGPU for games

    I'm actually think of moving my home PC to one of the upcoming ARM-based smarttops. They look good enough for torrenting + video watching + web browsing, consume 10 watts instead of 150...

    • by Ironhandx (1762146) on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:11PM (#31403766)
      Tell that to AMD who have sold 2 million directx11 GPUs since release. (http://www.dailytech.com/ATI+Sells+Over+2+Million+DirectX+11+GPUs+Celebrates+With+Radeon+Cake/article17349.htm)

      IGP are sufficient for 90% of users... but that hasn't changed since back in the Pentium 1 days. Many PCs were equipped with IGP or something that amounted to the same thing but in card form even then.

      Also: GPGPU is NOT meant for gfx processing on the fly at all, so it has absolutely nothing to do with devs having to target the lowest common denominator. You even state that its useless except for scientific purposes in your own comment. The entire purpose of the GPGPU move is towards scientific purposes where vast quantities of repeated calcs have to be done. Something that GPUs excel at.

      At least get SOME of your facts straight before spouting FUD.
      • by obarthelemy (160321) on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:39PM (#31404110)

        There are about 25 million PCs sold per month. I guess ATI is happy to have sold 8% of that monthly amount over the several months their 5xxx have been available, that's 3-4% of PC sales. Congrats to them, but still, fairly marginal.

        Discrete cards have always been better than IGPs. I don't really get your point. Only recently (definitely way after the pentium 1) have IGPs become good enough to display all video files, or handle Aero.

        PhysX is about making physics computations, not directly putting pixels on screen, so it's a kind of specialized GPGPU.

    • While I don't think it's super dire, it's certainly a concern. I can add another point. Steam confirmed for Mac [nyud.net].

      Problem? Macs don't take the latest and greatest off-the-shelf graphics cards, and generally are a fair bit behind the curve, way back in 'casual land'.

      On the other hand, maybe if Apple open up a bit this is a way to sell more and better cards rather than another spike in the coffin.

      • Yeah... this is more of a solution than a problem, any way you slice it. Why? Simple ... Many of the games they'll deliver to Mac users via Steam will offer cross-platform network play. So regardless of the specs they're constrained to for a native Mac version of the game, it will help keep a title popular having more people playing it. They can always support higher-res graphics capabilities in the Windows version, if they so desire. And if they do? All the more incentive for Apple to start releasin

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      "GPGPU is useless except in scientific computing: we already have more x86 cores than the devs know how to use, let alone use a different computing paradigm"
      Well maybe for games but GPGPU will mean a lot for transcoding.
      Home HD video is going to be big soon and it takes forever to transcode. However you can do that with an ARM. The TegaII and the OMAP line have enough GPU power to use it for transcoding.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mxs (42717)

      I wonder why you attribute the lack of outstanding games to piracy being rampant -- the industry has been bitching and moaning about that for over 20 years now. That can't be the reason or we would not have a videogame-industry at all.

      Few game developers are willing to do risky things though, and countless remakes of the same games just don't really appeal to all that many gamers -- add to that that gaming itself is being transformed (or rather, the marketplace is changing with mobile games becoming a pasti

  • by mpapet (761907) on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:04PM (#31403680) Homepage

    This kind of incentive is anti-competitive.

    1. It eliminates competition by feature/functionality.
    2. It meaningfully constrains innovation. A novel product without capitalization to participate is shut out. (That's the goal anyway)

    That said, this kind of incentivizing is everywhere. (game consoles, mega-retailers, mobile phones) No one seems to care about the increased costs consumers assume or constraint on innovation.

    I have my bias, what is yours?

    • by KillShill (877105) on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:32PM (#31404032)

      Nvidia is very anti-competitive and has been for a very long time.

      The recent "making physx stop working when AMD gfx card is present" is just one of the more public outings of their unethical behavior.

      I wish someone would expose all of their shenanigans and anti-competitive practices so people can realize how badly these things affect the industry and consumers (ugh, hate that word).

      The most recent thing I read about their practices is from the upcoming PC game, Just Cause 2. There's a trailer showing off Nvidia-only effects ...(something which is dead standard DirectX code) and artificially blocking out AMD/others from getting the benefits. The Batman Arkham Asylam scandal was one more people may recall. They claim (and their users/shills) that TWIMTBP is just "marketing"... more like bribery and blocking out the competition. They've been caught on many occasions but the public rarely sees anything negative about them.

      Nvidia is the Intel/Microsoft of the video card industry but unlike them, isn't quite as dominant (thankfully for us) but they still do a hell of a lot of damage. (The Jupiter of the computer industry... too small to become a sun but still an 800 quadrillion ton gorilla).

      I've stopped buying Nvidia cards since the Geforce 2. At that time for performance reasons but since then I vote with my wallet and let others know to support fair and legal competition.

  • by SharpFang (651121) on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:33PM (#31404038) Homepage Journal

    A friend told me about his experience with Utopia. It implemented GPU-accelerated physics in one of recent patches. But try hard as you wish, he failed to notice any difference for weeks of gameplay. Until he entered the central city. With flags by the entrance fluttering smoothly in the wind, instead of the old static animation.

    Yep, that's it. Many megabytes of a patch, a game of hundreds of miles of terrain, hundreds of locations, battles, vehicles, all that stuff... and physics acceleration is used to flutter flags by the entrance.

  • Nvidia has failed to engage the coding community in the right way. Any hardware-accelerated physics API needed to be openly available at the DirectX/OpenCL level from the begining. AMD has kind of seen the light here.

    The original intention of Ageia and their PhysX set up seemed to be just to sell the company, rather than try to make a viable business model of selling hardware. Ageia would have been more open with API and code right from the start if they intended to make a business selling hardware.
  • by rgviza (1303161)

    "They're not doing it because they want it; they're doing it because they're paid to do it."

    Doesn't this describe just about any paid project? Just sayin'

  • The game development cycle is already airtight, because competition is fierce, and every new feature is old news in a few months, when your competitor games catch up. They hardly have time to test games, these days. Every day the game isn't on the market is money lost. And it's hard enough to debug a game with all the standard set of PC's, now add to that specific hardware configurations with specific feature sets, and you've got a testing nightmare. And what if there's a bug? what sort of support comes, if
  • Ageia's innovation wasn't their technology. It was their business model. Havok gets a fixed fee per title. Ageia's "physics chip" got revenue for each graphics card. Both Havok and Mathengine had serious revenue problems as standalone companies. The original investors did not do well. Both were eventually acquired. The basic problem is that game middleware isn't a good business.

    Physics in the GPU is mostly useful for visual effects like water, snow, fire, explosions, etc., where the motion doesn't f

  • They're not doing it because they want it; they're doing it because they're paid to do it.

    I can say the same thing of just about everyone who is employed, even the folks at AMD. Though, it's only in the "creative" arts where there's always this odd shiny coating of "fidelity" that seems to be desired and added on as a last step. In reality, this coating is as faux as the images and sounds that these arts provide. The bottom line - it's a business, any art is just an afterthought. If they can make more

  • by unity100 (970058) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:05PM (#31405258) Homepage Journal

    i wouldnt even care if physx was the biggest software innovation of the century - in gaming, especially in regard to graphics, we have suffered a lot because of proprietary shit in the last 2 decades. i dont want to see that again. even if its coarse, inadequate at the start, everyone should push for open standards so that we wont get in deep trouble later.

  • Um, don't game developers only develop _games_ for the money?
  • by Roger Wilcox (776904) on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:12PM (#31407312)
    I have to disable PhysX in the nVidia control panel to get HL2 or any of the Source engine games to run properly! I had no idea what was causing these games to crash. After disabling PhysX they work right every time!

    Apparently it doesn't do anything crucial or even noticable as my games run just fine with it turned off. And now I'm told the game devs don't even want to use it?

    This "feature" has caused me nothing but grief!

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