PhysX by NVIDIA - A review of what to expect

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1 - Let's Get Physical

GeForce PhysX - Copyright 2008

An introduction to GeForce PhysX

Ever since a company called Ageia profiled itself into the 3D graphics market, a lot of buzz has been made about bringing physics computing into games. See, physics calculations allow for a more extreme and real visual experience. But where to start, and how to get support for it, and what exactly is it ?

When you blow up stuff, you can see loads of scattered particles instead of a big texture doing weird stuff, fluid dynamics and other pretty cool stuff. Ever considered how nice it would be to see a perfectly simulated waterfall? Or think of a girl walking around with her dress not static but dynamically moving along with her body. That's what Physics in games can do for you. But we'll get a little deeper into what Physics exactly does in a minute though. Though the idea from Ageia was a really interesting one as a pioneer it had disadvantages, unfortunately the cards were put into the market way too expensive and received way to little industry support. They tried, and tried really hard. Next to that their marketing to the press was way below average and all they seemed to do was focus on the industry end to get support, and in the end they failed pretty badly.

See, to get PhysX support on a wide scale, you need a broad userbase to receive industry acceptance and actually get the software developers need to spend money on implementing the cool new features so they will insert "PhysX" functionality into a game. Implementing such features takes up time, and thus has an effect on the overall budget of the programmers. With a limited userbase it was just not happening with a few exceptions here and there.

Late last year NVIDIA figured "okay enough is enough .. darn it". NVIDIA had invested heavily in this nice open standard called CUDA, and it should be relatively easy to move over and implement the PhysX API onto their CUDA ready GPUs. And that's where the advantage begins. So NVIDIA waved 30 million USD at Ageia, bought the company and hired their leading staff to get Ageia's PhysX API ported to CUDA which on its end can compute on the GPU.

From there on things got interesting. All new kinds of possibilities and ideas all of a sudden surfaced. More importantly, the best idea was this: any CUDA ready GeForce graphics cards, read: GeForce series 8 and newer, can now (starting from the 12th of August 2008) take advantage of PhysX without the need to install a dedicated PhysX card.

See, that GPU of yours can do PhysX in a multitude of options which we'll discuss today. So with a flick on your fingers, instantly (though slightly delayed) with the release of the new PhysX drivers in mid-August 2008, over 70 Million gamers now have the possibility to use PhysX on their machine.

Now let's revert back to my introduction where I mentioned that the userbase needs to be big for it to get broad industry (game developer) support. That user base all of a sudden has 70 million potential little PhysX GPUs ready and waiting to be used. To get you guys warmed up, NVIDIA is going to release a set of drivers and what is called, a PhysX pack next week. We'll have a look at some titles from that pack and I'll share with you my opinion on the PhysX experience anno 2008.

Today we'll have a look at what PhysX is about, what it does for you, how to install it, how you can use it. Yet most of all, the options available to you with several GPU combinations.

Next page please.

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