What does “Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter”, “Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends”, and “City of Villians” have in common? They are the only games that currently support AGEIA’s new PhysX card, a physics accelerator.
Like what a 3D accelerated video card does for graphics, the PhysX card does for aiding in the calculating of game physics such as explosions, fallen bodies, fluids, and other object interaction. The intention is for the PPU (Physics Processing Unit) to take the math calculations off the CPU so it can spend more time on the game, while also adding more realistic effects and more interesting interaction. (to be drawn by the GPU… it’s like alphabet soup.)
Picutred here is BFG Tech’s box using AGEIA’s PhysX PPU.
So I know you’re wondering… aside from only having 3 games to play with that will take advantage of this $300 PCI card, what are some other good reasons not to run out and buy one?
Well, for one, it doesn’t work. Initial testing shows that while the additional objects that fly around the screen when your “Evil Pink Bunny” villain smashes a crate looks pretty cool, there is apparently some type of bottleneck between the PPU and the GPU that introduces latency, and therefore a significant, sharp, drop in the rate frames get drawn to the screen.
There is also the issue of support. (I can’t get a job without a resume; and I can’t write a resume without a job) The developers want to support such a card, but not until a significant portion of consumers own one, and consumers don’t want to buy one until the developers are writing for it. This scenario reminds me of my 3DFX Diamond Monster VooDoo 3D card. (I still have one in my attic, a.k.a. computer graveyard) It was a daughter graphics card that took over for running 3D games. There were only a handful of games written for it but the speed and beauty of it were quickly realized by everyone, and the rest is history. (“Whiplash” rocked)
What needs to happen…
History needs to repeat itself. What happened to 3DFX (consumed by nVidia) needs to happen to AGEIA. I’m not saying it needs to be integrated into the video card, though that may well be the best solution, specifically for the latency problem. I’m thinking more in terms of the API. Developers don’t write to nVidia, or ATI, or Matrox, etc, but rather to a common standard like Microsoft’s DirectX or OpenGL. (one of the things that makes standards so nice is that there are so many to choose from *rolls eyes*)
Then, the ability, or inability, of your computer to be able to handle the extra physics calculations can be handled just like video cards that may or may not be able to handle, say, anti-aliasing. It’s either there and you can experience it, or it’s not, and you don’t get the added experience. How this factors into multiplayer experience is another whole issue which I’ll save for some other time.
I’m looking forward to more, real, physics in games. Half-Life 2 showed that it can really affect the gaming experience.
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