NVIDIA PhysX Interview

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Wednesday, February 11, 2009

While it initially started off with a small following, AGEIA’s PhysX middleware that dramatically enhanced physics in games (much like the Havok engine) has been added in more and more games over the past year or so. AGEIA would go on to be acquired by NVIDIA, who is now in charge of continuing to advance the engine and provide updates. We had the chance to speak with Nadeem Mohammad of NVIDIA to find out more about the engine and the titles it supports.

Please tell us your name, your position at NVIDIA and how you have been involved with PhysX so far.

NVIDIA: My name is Nadeem Mohammad. I am the Product Manager for PhysX at NVIDIA. I was formerly at AGEIA Technologies, the creators of PhysX, which was acquired by NVIDIA last year.

How many PC games currently support the technology, and by how much do you expect this number to increase by the end of this year?

NVIDIA: PhysX is a complete physics solution supporting a very wide range of platforms including PS3, XBOX360, Wii and PC in software as well as PC with hardware acceleration. There have been well over 150 titles which have been shipped using PhysX technology on these platforms including about 6 which offer hardware acceleration. We recently announced EA Games, 2K Games and THQ have obtained publisher wide licenses to enable all their studios to use PhysX – and we are very confident that many more PhysX titles will be hitting the streets during this year and beyond.

Speaking of games that support the title, what are some games that are close to release date that support the technology? I know Mirror’s Edge is one very recent example, but what do gamers have to look forward to in the near future?

NVIDIA: Unfortunately I cannot discuss anything about future titles without permission from the developers and publishers – but please believe me there are some serious cool titles in the works – watch for some new announcements during the coming months.

Give us some examples of recent titles that use PhysX, and how a player’s experience might differ from someone who is playing with the option turned off.

NVIDIA: Mirror’s Edge is still fresh in people’s mind – so I’ll use that game as an example. With the PhysX option enabled, the user gets to enjoy a much more immersive experience – they will see banners which turn in the wind and can get torn when shot or objects are thrown through them, and they flag wildly as the helicopter gets close. Sparks and debris fly off walls and bounce on the floor, glass shatters in tiny pieces which shoot all around you or flow gradually off the roof. There are also smoke filled colliders which move and stir with every movement and there are chandeliers that can be shot that shatter and take out the enemy below. It’s really quite impressive!

A number of games in recent memory have been built from the ground up using PhysX. Has NVIDIA been directly involved during the development of these titles, or have they simply licensed the technology out and let the developers use its features how they see fit?

NVIDIA: The use of lots of physics is still relatively new – and as with any new technology, developers do need help. NVIDIA has been involved to varying degrees with these titles, but every time we have we have found that the developers with whom we have worked are much more eager and capable of making the next title even more PhysX-enabled.

From what I can tell, PhysX has typically been used in single player titles and ones that support deathmatch and other forms of multiplayer that make use of a lobby. But is there room in the future for an MMORPG that makes use of PhysX technology, or if there already is can you give us some details on it?

NVIDIA: There is a Patch coming out for Sacred 2 which enabled hardware PhysX. In addition, we have a very good integration with the Hero’s Engine which is designed specifically for MMORPG games – so I would say there is a lot of opportunity for PhysX in this genre.

As with most technologies, PhysX is always being worked on and patched in order to add new features. Can you give us any details on some of the things that will be added in the future and what else the development team wants to improve on?

NVIDIA: We told developers a while back that one of the focuses was to create amazing clothing and destructible environments and rest assured-we have new technology in the pipeline which will make both of these technologies very easy to use and accessible.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

NVIDIA: We believe in the concept of Graphics Plus. Meaning, that our GPUs do more than just plain old graphics rendering. Only those users with a GeForce 8800 or higher GPU will be able to take advantage of some of the coolest immersion features that we provide, including of course support for applications that are accelerated through our CUDA architecture, stereoscopic 3D gaming through our 3D Vision technology, and of course, PhysX. In short, it’s never been a better time to be a PC gamer!

For more information on PhysX, visit http://www.nvidia.com/object/nvidia_physx.html.

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