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6 - NVIDIA PhysX
GeForce PhysX aka NVIDIA PhysX
One of the newer features released a couple of weeks ago is also using CUDA. Any graphics processors (that can handle CUDA) can be utilized for 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 now 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.
In very simple wording, physics functionality will not run through the DirectX engine (DX11 will do this though), yet makes a bypass through CUDA where the Ageia 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 utilize your older CUDA ready graphics card as an 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.
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 ball game as over 70 million GPUs worldwide can all of a 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.
We recently wrote an article on GeForce Physx, you can read it here.
Screenshot from Bionic Commando (Capcom/GRIN) - right now being prepped for GeForce PhysX.
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