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nVidia hosts developers round-table

April 29, 2009

nVidia hosts developers’ round-table
By Michael Lafferty

Dev teams get to talk about use of PhysX technology in upcoming titles during teleconference

When nVidia acquired AGEIA and the PhysX graphics accelerator, it marked an opportunity for the video chipset manufacturer to meld two perfect graphical partners into one seamless entity. Still, it was a matter of convincing developers that using the PhysX accelerator was worthwhile and could create worlds that were much more alive.

Ok, that really wasn’t a hard sell. There are currently eight games on the market that were built using the PhysX technology and nVidia plans on announcing four more this week. As part of the program to increase awareness and promote the games using the technology, nVidia is sponsoring developer chats with the media – teleconferences that give the dev teams a quick chance to say hello and talk about their games.

On Friday, April 24, GRIN and 8monkey Labs hopped on the phone lines to talk about Terminator: Salvation and Darkest of Days.

Terminator: Salvation

Ulf Andersson, GRIN founder/director and Niklas Fyrkholm, lead designer, detailed some of the elements about the next Terminator title to hit the shelves. In Salvation, players take on the role of John Connor and “the game leads you up to where to the movie begins. You get to see how John Connor becomes the man he is.”

Slated for release the second quarter of this year, Terminator: Salvation keys on the atmosphere of the fights and the environmental effects and the PhysX technology played a big role in creating a sense of dread as well as creating believable environments.

“There will be realistic interactions within the environment, like interactive debris (trash and clutter), smoke, fog and steam, destructible environments,” Niklas said. There will also be “realistic weapon effects.”

While Ulf admitted that the dev team was having a lot of fun, he also pointed out that “We had the PhysX stuff working for years now. We did a lot of work with AGEIA way back. It was used in Bionic Commando and now in Terminator.

“We are going to keep using the PhysX engine. We will be integrating PhysX into the engine and using that for future titles.”

With Bionic Commando and the Terminator title, GRIN has been rather busy, but that’s a good thing, according to Ulf.

“You really can’t complain if you are busy in this industry. It’s cool to work with different things; we like changing it up and trying different things. It’s been a great experience.”

Ujesh Desai, of nVidia, pointed out that “the game will launch in May. There will be a GPU-accelerated PhysX-based fly-through when the game first comes out. But the full implementation of GPU-accelerated PhysX for the PC won't come out till the first downloadable content pack."

Darkest of Days

Darkest of Days is a first-person shooter slated for release in the third quarter of ’09. The game revolves around two groups vying for control of history and with the ability to send agents back into time, players (as the agent) will get to experience some of the benchmark moments in human history. There are 20 levels of gameplay with the initial launch, and players will get to use not only historically based weapons, but futuristic weaponry as well.

“Players must solve time puzzles, engage with other agents, but then preserve their time,” the developers said.

As for the implementation of the PhysX technology, they said it was a “vital part of our engine, which is proprietary to 8monkey Labs.

“It’s a very good fit to what we are doing. We used it for battlefield haze, smoke from muskets, mustard gas from WWI, volcanic ash from Pompeii …”

To immediately immerse players into the feel and spirit of the game, the player starts as a member of Custer’s force at Little Big Horn. Other benchmark moments will include the Civil War and the Eastern Front of a world war.

“The world is very, very large, but the action will pull the player through,” the dev team said. “It’s non-linear in the fact that we’ve given players the ability to choose at certain points in the game where they want to go. It’s non-linear to a degree, but to complete the game, you have to complete all the levels.

As for the utilization of the PhysX technology … “We started with PhysX from the ground up. I was very surprised with how fluid it is so far.”

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