Here is another thing NVIDIA is working on which I want to touch really briefly; a combo of Raytracing versus rasterization. Hybrid Rendering. There is a long ongoing discussion on the web whether or not we should move away from rasterization (the traditional rending method for games) towards raytracing.
Raytracing is way more expensive and just not ideal in certain circumstances, therefore the new symbiosis is a mix of the two techniques. Raytracing and rasterization. The two can be merged together with the help of CUDA. Gaming wise we are far away from actual games being brought to the market. Rasterization calls go through OpenGL, rasterization though through CUDA. Too far fetched, too far away .. and I don't even know if it can be successful. For now we'll leave it as is.
So there you have it guys and girls, a new can of options (I'd like to say whoopass there, but somebody beat me to the punch) will be opened up with CUDA. Especially the next one ...
GeForce PhysX aka NVIDIA PhysX
One of the new features for pretty much any graphics processors (that can handle CUDA) is NVIDIA PhysX processing - or as I like to call it - compute shaders.
You guys probably know Ageia, right? The company that brought you the physics card under the label PhysX. That company has recently been bought by NVIDIA and the good news is that PhysX as you know it is being ported, as we speak, into the graphics card driver for CUDA ready products. This means that GeForce series 8 and above will soon have full physics support right out of the box. So if a game supports Ageia PhysX, your Cuda ready graphics card (GeForce series 8 and above) is compatible.
This is being managed with help of ... there it is again ... CUDA. In very simple wording, physics functionality will not run through the DirectX engine (fingers crossed, maybe in DX11), yet makes a bypass through CUDA where the Agea PhysX API is now implemented for the bigger part. In games one can now fully utilize physics calculations. Your GPU shader engine will do the math for you.
The downside; obviously once you start using this feature you will forfeit some of the overall performance of the GPU. That's why in the future you could add your older CUDA ready graphics card as addon and use it as the physics card while your shiny new graphics card can render the game. The idea although not definitely new, is an interesting one. I hope that talk won't be cheap this time around and NVIDIA will get this ready drivers wise. We all want it.
If you think that in-game physics are far away ... think again. Though work in progress for most games, you can expect some titles to fully support the new technology and quite honestly it's pretty interesting. Any Ageia PhysX compatible game for example will work fine. On a recent editor's day we have seen a good number of titles already with fully working support, one of them you guys already know. In fact the most common one was the Unreal III gaming engine; which fully supports it and we have indeed seen some examples. Gaming will become much more dynamic due to this development. Great stuff for sure.
My theory here, Ageia as a standalone company did not have a lot of chance of succeeding. Now that the technology has been integrated into NVIDIA GeForce products, it opens up a new ballgame as over 70 million GPUs worldwide can all of the sudden handle PhysX. Think about that fact for a second.
So then, in theory any CUDA enabled GPU will run Physx. Some games we already saw running using PhysX:
Space Siege, gas powered games
Nurien, a social network platform
Bionic Commando, CAPCOM, GRINN
Natural Motion, Backbreaker game
APB Realtime worlds
Stalker Clear Sky realtime debris - cloth
Race driver - GRID - Phill Scott - cloth physics in flags
Gearbox software Brother in Arms - Hells highway & Aliens: Colonial marines and Borderlands.
So while it is hard to explain what exactly physics can do in your games I will give you a few examples. Imagine cloth or flags moving fluently, dynamic created force fields with changing geometry, when you shoot at stuff, loads of debris. Another good example we have seen live in action was the Game Space siege. Imagine you are on a space ship, when you shoot at objects, they now will move along with the same speed of the ship moving; all of them. More environmentally rich sceneries loaded with for example fuel drums. You can shoot at them, they explode, move, pushing other drums away, cascading .. everything will be moving & reacting the way the programmer thinks it should. So again, this stuff is really hard to explain. Just wait and see, once the PhysX driver is finalized, go play Unreal Tournament III and check it out with and without the PhysX options. You'll notice a distinct difference.
Screenshot from Bionic Commando (Capcom/GRIN) - right now being prepped for GeForce PhysX. We've already seen a live version, really impressive. The player will be able to swing around Ascension City and other environments such as canyons, which will feature multiple routes that will require players to use various swinging techniques. Spencer is also able to target enemies while hanging upside down, climbing a building or even in mid-swing, while using an implement called the Bionic Arm which can be used to attack enemies at close range. He can also use it to grab and launch objects such as boulders and cars at enemies.
Here we have a PhysX enhanced game that is under development, Shadow Harvest (Black Lion Studios)- it will be one massive title for sure. The early stage demo we saw was just brilliant. Being an ISA agent, the first character, Myra Lee,has a background in espionage and stealth operations, while the other character, Aron Alvarez, is a hard-boiled close combat specialist of US Army's Delta Force. Both characters are deployed as elite black-ops agents on various hot spots worldwide and behind enemy lines to cooperatively complete covert operations. To optimally achieve all mission goals, the player needs to combine Myra's stealth skills and Aron's direct open battle approach. In many situations the nail biting about whether to go in hot with guns blazing or to use supression techniques is up to the player. Thanks to its open level design with multi-paths and optional secondary objectives, Shadow Harvest offers great replayability.
Another title in soon to be released, PhysX optimized, Space Siege. The survival of the human race lies entirely in players hands in Space Siege, a brand-new action- RPG from Chris Taylor Taylor and Gas Powered Games, the creator of the award-winning Dungeon Siege and Supreme Commander games. Space Siege puts players in the shoes of Seth Walker, a robotics specialist aboard the Armstrong the only colony ship to survive a massive alien attack upon Earth.
As the aliens descend, Walker must fend off the extraterrestrial threat using his wits and weapons. To help his cause, he can choose to augment his body with a variety of cybernetic upgrades, but with each mechanical improvement he becomes more machine than man and he can never return to being fully human. In this spectacular sci-fi adventure, players must decide how far they will go to save humanity!
In total the press has been shown like 8-10 working PhysX titles (in development) already. Hopefully things will pick up and are here to stay.
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