E3Expo 2005 Friday’s Report Day 3 Page 5

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Land Combat

by Tom “20mm” Hayden

The only thing I am going to add here, other than being blown away by what Bohemia Interactive is doing with their working title OFP 2, is the opportunity I had with Chunx to engage in the America’s Army Shoothouse. Very cool using the M4 and the pintle-mounted M249 machine gun through the streets with a virtual street convoy, all the while being attacked from all quarters by the bad guys. Much enjoyed.

Naval Combat

by Tom “20mm” Hayden

Two words: PT Boats: Knights of the Sea.

See? I can’t count or fly.

Motorsports

by Chunx

While it was clearly obvious that the pace of development for challenging and rewarding or “hard-core” PC game titles is in a state of decline, I was very pleased by what I saw from new or upcoming racing simulation titles like GTR, R-Factor and GT Legends. Although these titles all share basic game code elements from earlier ISI work, they each offer unique and challenging high-fidelity representations of various racing series and car types. Driving GTR and R-Factor on the Virtual GT simulator was quite an adrenaline rush, and was so addicting that WKLINK often found it a difficult and frustrating experience to pry guod’s and my hands from the wheel and hustle us off to our next meeting. Of particular note was ISI’s R-Factor. Even though the game does not per-se represent any real world car models, the weight transfer physics in this new title are so impressive that you’d swear you were driving a real car. It really is that good. In the past we’ve said that ISI sims weren’t really convincing until the 3rd party world got a hold of them and created mods with tweaked physics (such as RH 2004). All that’s changed with R-Factor. This game is superb right out of the box, and our hats are off to ISI for raising the bar with this latest effort, and for coding R-Factor specifically to facilitate plug-in mods either as payware or freeware.

We’re also hoping to see SCi find some success in marketing Richard Burns Rally here in the USA, and that VW Golf Racing will flesh out into a title that the hard-core crowd will also enjoy.

Motorsports

by Tom “20mm” Hayden

I really enjoy watching people who are having a blast playing a simulation. And that certainly describes Chunx and guod as they ran their laps on the Virtual GT simulator cockpit using SimBin’s GTR and ISI’s R-Factor hard-core racing simulations. It took WKLINK and myself and a very large security guard combined to pry those guys out of there, they were that hooked. I understand, I took a ride myself, and it was awesome. If you ever get a chance to experience the thrill, we definitely recommend it. And the sims are darned good as well, but with the overall package, to quote someone I know, W00T! Pricey, yeah, very. But if we start taking up donations and give till we hurt and bleed to the “Send guod and Chunx a Virtual GT racing sim cockpit” now, they’ll have one before you know it!

Technology

by Chunx

At 10:30 AM guod, 20mm and I knocked on the door of Ageia’s meeting room in the convention center’s Kentia Hall. We were there to get a brief on a new type of PC expansion card that could potentially have dramatic improvements on the development of future simulation titles. This new technology is centered on what’s being called a “physics processor unit” or PPU,

Ageia is a semiconductor company based in St. Louis, Missouri. Our meeting was with none other than Curtis Davis, President and COO of Ageia, who gave us the full briefing on this new technology, which eventually transformed into an in-depth discussion of physics modeling in high-end simulations. We were certainly pleased and honored to have the chance to meet with the leader of this cutting-edge technology developer.

What Ageia has done with the PhysX chip is create the architecture for processing only the physics calculations in a game (the movement and interaction of objects), thereby unloading the CPU from this chore and thereby enhancing the CPU’s ability to manage and orchestrate the other tasks the computer is performing. This concept is quite similar to the approach taken with the modern video graphics card, the core of which is now referred to as a “GPU” and performs most of the rendering and display calculations for the computer. With a PPU in a PC, the CPU is left to do what it was intended to — to think and orchestrate the actions of the entire PC. The PPU can do all this with the help of its own code and the code resident in Dx9 with shader 3.0.

Normally a modern game expects to task a modern CPU with about a maximum of 10,000 particles for motion physics. Ageia expects their PhysX PPU to relieve the CPU of that burden, and since the PPU is only doing the physics calculations, it should be able to handle upwards of 32,000 to 40,000 particles in its calculations. That’s a pretty significant increase in the level of detail that a game developer will be able to devote to the fidelity of their game’s physics model. To demonstrate the concept, we saw a video clip of a computer-animated building blowing up. Using current physics processing onboard a CPU, the building blew into about 20 pieces and looked, well, like a video game. With PPU support, the building blew up into 800 pieces, and looked very similar to the famous film of a test house being destroyed in an atomic blast test in the 1950s. Very impressive for a video animation. You can download the DivX wmv video here (285 kb).

In addition to making better explosions, the PPU can also perform rigid body and fluid dynamics calculations. In another demonstration, the PPU modeled a sloshing tank of water, with a crate bobbing realistically on the water’s surface, while another showed a stream of water bouncing off the hood and windshield of a car. It all looked very convincing. Finally, we learned that the PPU could perform “anti-tunneling” techniques, allowing for full flight modeling of bullets from muzzle to target, including their reaction to various surfaces.

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