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Mark Rein on PS3, PhysX and Pwnage

Talking Tech

Finally, I had enough – I’m a PC gamer predominantly, goddammit! I didn’t want to hear any more about the PlayStation 3 version or the Xbox 360 port he assured me would be on the way sooner or later. I wanted to know about the PC version and here details of the pure, glorious technology.

Over the course of many minutes I tried to turn the tide of the conversation. In the end though it was easiest just to interrupt him mid-sentence with one word.

PhysX?

Luckily, Mark took the bait and launched off on another (actually quite interesting) diatribe. The PhysX PPU from Ageia has been incorporated into Unreal Tournament 3 not as a requisite but as a series of mods and custom levels which will launch alongside the game. I asked Mark why it had been launched in this manner.

Yeah, the PhysX. You know, the problem with that is that the guys at Ageia are trying to make a game which is aimed at the above-high-end market. They’re for early adopters and the tech-heads. We’re trying to make a game which is hugely scalable though, so that if you had a PC which was reasonably good four or five years ago then you’ll be able to play this game now. It may not look as great as it can, but you can play.

Mark Rein on PS3, PhysX and Pwnage PhysX and Tech
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The PhysX stuff is pretty cool though. I mean, visually the tornado level isn’t the best thing in the default game. There’s crap flying all over the place. In terms of gameplay though I suppose it’s pretty good, so we just wanted to give PhysX card owners a little something extra. There’s no sense in us making a game which is aimed at a very small subset of PCs in the end.

Making this game run on high-end machines is hard, but getting it to run on low-end machines is even harder and doing that with a PhysX card is kinda unrealistic.

The great thing about this engine though is that it’s already so popular. Just look at games like Undertow on XBLA and BioShock – both of which use our engine. Undertow is a 2D underwater shooter and BioShock won a BAFTA. That’s just awesome,” Mark said.

Mark Rein on PS3, PhysX and Pwnage PhysX and Tech
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In my opinion though the most awesome thing was Mark’s broken pronunciation – saying BAFTA as BARFTAR and ‘awesome’ as ‘ass-sum’. Obviously worn out from talking and maintaining a sense of perpetual excitement for the press, he blushed and quickly corrected himself.

I took the pause as a chance to ask about DirectX 10 support in the game, but my reaction may as well have been a second blush. For once, Mark was a man of few words.

DirectX 10 lets us do some things in the engine we can’t normally, but we won’t be using it at launch. Maybe a patch later, I suppose.

I was aghast and wanted to know a bit more – by ‘things’ did he mean finding a way to use anti-aliasing in the Unreal Engine 3 as well as using Multiple Render Targets? This seemed to be what we saw in Gears of War PC

Ha! Um, that stuff is all a little over my head nowadays. I guess you’d have to ask one of the tech guys or programmers.