Irish firm Havok makes PC games more realistic

21 Mar 2006

Trinity College spin-out company Havok has joined forces with PC graphics card giant NVIDIA to create the PC industry’s first physics effect solution that runs completely on a graphics processing unit (GPU). The companies will be demonstrating it at the Game Developers Conference today in California, the annual powwow of computer game giants.

The solution is the result of an ongoing engineering collaboration between Havok and NVIDIA.

The Irish company’s new software product, called Havok FX, enables the simulation of dramatically detailed physical phenomena in PC games when powered by GPUs such as the NVIDIA GeForce 7 or 6 series and amplified by NVIDIA SLI multi-GPU technology.

Havok is planning to make the technology available to the computer games industry this summer.

Through Havok FX, GPUs can simulate the interactions of thousands of colliding rigid bodies, a fundamental technique of physics computation seen in today’s latest games. It’s now possible to compute the components of friction, collisions, gravity, mass, and velocity that form the basis of rigid body physics. Havok FX is designed for GPUs supporting Shader Model 3.0, including the NVIDIA GeForce 6 and 7 Series GPUs.

The combined technology enables games developers to implement sophisticated physical phenomenon such as debris, smoke, and fluids that add immense detail and believability to game environments.

“We are very excited about the quality and speed we are seeing on the NVIDIA GPUs. We’ve believed for some time that GPU technology had the potential to simulate physical effects and our collaboration with NVIDIA has proven that,” says Jeff Yates, vice-president of product management at Havok.

Game designers can include advanced physics effects without burdening the CPU and slowing game-play, since the effects are simulated and rendered on the GPU.

Tyler Thompson, technical director of video game developer Flagship Studios, explained: “With Havok FX we can explore new types of visual effects that add realism into [games such as] Hellgate: London.”

By John Kennedy