If this year's crop of rocky video game launches has taught us anything, it's that coding video games is hard. Sit through the 30 minute scroll that passes itself off as a credits screen these days and you'll see just how many moving parts go into making today's games. With gigabytes of art assets to create, pages of story to write, hours of dialogue and sound to record, a tangled web of complex behaviors to script, and, oh yeah, actual levels and gameplay to design, one thing is clear: making games isn't all fun and games.
Yet despite the ever-increasing complexity, the creation process is more streamlined than ever. Why? Licensable game engines, tools, and middleware. From specular maps to dynamic shadows, high dynamic range rendering to cloth simulation, from pathfinding to AI reaction behavior, game engines take care of all the nitty-gritty graphical and scripting groundwork and provide a solid (hopefully) codebase for our beloved games. And just like you wouldn't throw a HEMI into a Smart Car, or a power-saving hybrid into a monster truck, knowing which engines excel at which tasks is crucial. So here's a quick look at a cool dozen—a V12, if you will—of the biggest engines and middleware tools in use today.
At this month’s GDC AMD and Havok teamed up to show off the latest advances in their development of OpenCL, a new programming language that will allow physics processing to swap from the CPU to GPU on the fly.
The concept behind OpenCL is simple; it’s a system that will allow the load from physics processing to shift from different pieces of hardware on the fly. For example, if a gamer has a high end GPU but a slower processor, OpenCL can detect this and move a bulk (if not all) of the physics processing to the GPU, alleviating some of the stress from the CPU. And this system works vice versa, for slower GPUs but high end CPUs.
What’s even better is that OpenCL will work across all platforms. While PhysX currently only works with Nvidia GPU’s, OpenCL will work with AMD and Intel processors, as well as Nvidia and ATI GPUs. So, no more concerns about compatibility!
Sadly, at GDC the demo that was on display was only on an individual piece of hardware, the switch between CPU to GPU wasn’t shown. AMD was clear to state that their demo was only a proof-of-concept, and that the development process is still ongoing.
Those Microsoft’s internal studios and development partners that license Havok Physics will also get Havok Animation. If this agreement provides easy access to Havok’s innovative products to Microsoft’s game developers, it also guarantees a loyal consumer base to Havok, which will allow it to push its new and lesser known products – other than Physics - far more easily.