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Games Entertainment

The State of Video Game Physics 170

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 Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @02:33AM (#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.

  • by MrMista_B ( 891430 ) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @02:52AM (#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 AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @03:19AM (#28492539)

    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.

  • Re:No more (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 27, 2009 @04:13AM (#28492813)

    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 complicated to implement if you have to integrate them with some crazy physics engine with all sorts of edge cases. I've heard of even relatively simple stuff getting cut, like dumbing down NPC AI because it screwed up the pathfinding algorithm.

    I'm not saying there's no place for the style of game that is basically an accurate physics simulation in which you can do things. But it's not clear to me that it's where the current best cost/reward tradeoff lies.

    It seems at least a few other people agree, because many of the recent games that have created buzz have been based around something cool other than more-realistic graphics and physics. World of Goo was based heavily around a physics engine, for example, but a totally unrealistic one that gives it its characteristic style (and, incidentally, one they built with $10k).

  • Am I the only one (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@gm ... minus herbivore> on Saturday June 27, 2009 @04:52AM (#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.

  • by 0xygen ( 595606 ) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @05:05AM (#28493079)

    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, rather than three, plus the torsion of the rolling action.

  • Re:No more (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Twinbee ( 767046 ) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @06:01AM (#28493325) Homepage

    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) orchestral stuff, rather than a melody which is fun and memorable to listen to like many of the older games.

  • Re:No more (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eulernet ( 1132389 ) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @07:42AM (#28493713)

    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 1985, who dreamt about a 'game' where you could walk into a city.
    I guess he should be happy with Shenmue: []
    But I still wonder what is funny in doing this ?

    Real life is so fucking boring !

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

    by xjimhb ( 234034 ) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @09:17AM (#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 hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@gm ... minus herbivore> on Saturday June 27, 2009 @09:26AM (#28494183) Journal

    I don't agree. If they list WinXP and WinVista as separate platforms who cares if the controls actually work? By contrast a "multiplatform" game that has console controls without even the slightest thought to the PC is nothing but an expensive paperweight. let me give an example-

    I picked up Turning Point:Fall of Liberty for the PC at Gamestop for $10 (I refuse to buy any game that hasn't been out for awhile because I am on XP X64 and their shitty DRM doesn't work on my system so I have to crack my games, but that is another story) and when I get it home and fire it up the FIRST thing I am greeted with is a menu screen with NO mouse cursor, instead there is a pic of an X360 controller with buttons labeled for which to push to change menus! I thought I was buying a "multiplatform" game? If I wanted to use an x360 controller I'd buy a 360! And it went downhill from there. It was quite obvious that nobody on the development team actually bothered to play their game with anything but an x360 controller, as even the simplest commands like scrollwheel=switch weapons would lag so badly that often you wouldn't even know if the game had received the command or it would spin back and forth past the weapon you are trying to use.

    I could go on and on listing "multiplatform" games with controls so horrible on the PC that the developers should be ashamed of themselves. Cold Fear, hell even GTA:SA, which was inexcusable as GTA3 and GTA:VC had great controls! Considering how much money it costs to develop a game you'd think they spend five fricking minutes to make sure their controls work. No wonder so many game developers are going out of business. Quite putting out lame console ports as "multiplatform" without even bothering to give us functional controls and you'd see more folks buy your damned game!

    Between this and the epeen graphics and physics cutting huge chunks of the market out while the AI is so laughably bad makes me wonder if the game industry isn't being run by the PHB from Dilbert. They certainly are incompetent enough.

  • by SpectreBlofeld ( 886224 ) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @01:11PM (#28495781)

    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.

  • by grumbel ( 592662 ) <> on Saturday June 27, 2009 @01:17PM (#28495811) Homepage

    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.

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