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It's been six months since I first laid my hands on an Ageia PhysX card, for a review published in our July issue, and I still don't see any reason why Maximum PC readers should buy one.
A recent meeting with Ageia's new VP of marketing, Michael Steele, did little to change my mind: the company has yet to bridge the yawning gap between hype and reality that I spoke of in that review. But that doesn't make me any less of a believer in the potential benefits of physics acceleration, and I remain convinced that dedicated hardware is precisely the right way to do it.
The good news for Ageia is that they seem to have finally realized that it doesn't matter how many low-profile game developers they sign up to use their software development kit, they only need one or two great games that rely on the presence of a PhysX PPU to deliver a stunning user experience.
To that end, they've stepped up to fund Artificial Studios to turn their Cell Factor tech demo into a real game. It will likely be only a few levels in length, but it should whet the market's appetite for what physics acceleration can be. Steele told me Ageia is also supporting the development of a "couple more" independent games.
They're also continuing to work with other developers who are adding PhysX support into patches for existing games, including Big Huge Games' Rise of Legends and NCSoft's Auto Assault. In fact, Steele told me that PhysX is the physics engine beneath Rise of Legends, but the code in the boxed copy doesn't expose the hooks the hardware needs.
The company is also moving to address one of our other major complaints--that the PhysX card's consumption of a PCI slot forces upgraders and system builders to choose between the PPU and a sound card--by developing a PCI-Express version of their reference design.
So, there's still no reason you should run out and by a PhysX card--or to give up the soundcard to get one in a preconfigured system--but I hope Ageia lasts long enough to change that situation.