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AMD to demo GPU physics at GDC next week

AMD to demo GPU physics at GDC next week

AMD says that the Havok physics API can sit on top OpenCL and Stream.

AMD might have publicly declared its support for Havok’s gaming physics technology, but the company has been curiously quiet about GPU-accelerated physics since Intel bought Havok in 2007. Since then, AMD has revealed that it’s still working with Havok, but has only really talked about running Havok on AMD’s x86 CPUs. However, AMD has now revealed that it plans to demonstrate its own GPU-accelerated physics technology at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) next week.

AMD’s Catalyst product manager, Terry Makedon, revealed on his Twitter feed that AMD would reveal its “ATI GPU Physics strategy,” and added that there may also be “a demo being thrown down next week at GDC.” Makedon also said that "Havok is indeed our partner of choice," when asked about the talk. The 60-minute talk, called “Having Your Cake and Eating it Too: Increasing Game Realism, Scale and Reach” will take place at GDC on 26 March.

The summary for the session says that AMD will discuss “the latest on game computing featuring open, standards-based physics with OpenCL and ATI Stream.” AMD’s stream computing director, Patti Harrell, explained to us a while ago that “the beauty of Havok is that ultimately we would expect it to sit on top of these industry standard APIs as they become available. So we’re working with them, and in fact there’s a team in our consumer group who works very closely with them on a daily basis.”

AMD found itself in a difficult situation after Intel bought Havok and Nvidia bought Ageia, and the company claimed that talks about GPU acceleration using the Havok FX API effectively broke down after Intel bought Havok. Since then, the focus for AMD has been CPU support for the physics API. At the time, Havok’s managing director, David O’Meara, explained the priority for CPUs, saying that “the feedback that we consistently receive from leading game developers is that core game play simulation should be performed on CPU cores.”

However, he added that GPU physics acceleration could become a feature in the future, saying that “the capabilities of massively parallel products offer technical possibilities for computing certain types of simulation. We look forward to working with AMD to explore these possibilities.”

Is GPU-accelerated physics going to play a major part in the future of PC gaming, and should AMD be working on accelerating Havok with Stream and OpenCL rather than using Nvidia’s PhysX API? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

13 Comments

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amacieli 20th March 2009, 10:41 Quote
While I'm sure AMD may make some headway, it is so late to the game. nVidia has a well-defined GPU strategy, has had one for some time, has been executing on it (e.g., desktop supercomputers), and is targeting multiple markets. Also, the inreasing number of applications (other than Folding@Home) that use nVidia acceleration - Adobe being a good case in point. AMD has a long road ahead of it to get that sort of credibility and number of successes. I do think, though, that nVidia needs to do a better job of black-boxing its functionality, so that you get acceleration regardless of the card chosen - this thing of "you have to have a specific workstation card" is somewhat lame (as the Americans would have it), when it comes to the Adobe CS4 acceleration.
Evildead666 20th March 2009, 10:41 Quote
Well at least that will be intel and AMD doing Havok on their respective Video hardware adapters..Just leaves Nvidia and PhysX alone....
Kúsař 20th March 2009, 11:03 Quote
I've been wondering why EA pushed devs to use PhysX. Every PC is capable of running havok and these two physics APIs seems to be on the same level. Johny Carmack was right about Ageia. Without agressive PhysX brainwashing of game devs/publishers, nVidia will probably end up integrating havok API into GPU...
dec 20th March 2009, 11:49 Quote
is larabee going to support havok? AMD should support physx and havok on their cards so no matter what side game developers choose AMD cards will have some kind of physics capability. I think someone is going to make a unifed API for physics, like directx is to graphics. until that happens AMD should be smart enough to provide support for all physics API's....
amacieli 20th March 2009, 12:12 Quote
@dec: there already is unified standard - OpenCL, I think. It's not going to take much for nVidia to port their CUDA code to it.
wuyanxu 20th March 2009, 12:14 Quote
OpenCL...... doesn't that mean ATI's hard-work will end up being usable by nVidia cards?
wiak 20th March 2009, 12:21 Quote
i think so
and HAVOK is used by ALOT of games, so if they can find away to enable gpu physics with those games the possibilities are endless and everyone will be happy :P
zabe 20th March 2009, 13:05 Quote
even though i own a gtx 260-216 and a 9600gt for physx, i'm just prepared for the future when nvidia pushes more physx content in games like those from EA. right now, i'm noticing a very nice speed bumpt in all my games using physx (which are already about 8-9).

however, that doesn't exclude the fact that i think it's really lame that nvidia uses physx as a proprietary API, when they could open it to anybody who would want to use it for free. it seems to me they just want to make some money to palliate the losses of the mobile 8 and 9 series gpus and the money spent to buy ageia.

wouldn't it be SO much better for the industry if amd and nvidia worked together on physx, and brought the tech to all gamers and devs? everybody would use it since every card maker would have the tech, and gamers would be happier.

seriously, competition is good, but how about leaving it aside from time to time for the greater good?
Sebbo 20th March 2009, 13:37 Quote
PhysX will likely die soon anyway, at least the CUDA (and thus nvidia cards only) part of it anyway. OpenCL is already available, and provides a single API to GPU computing for all capable cards, and DX11 is around the corner, which again provides a single API for GPU computing on all capable cards. The only chance PhysX will have when OpenCL and DX11 really kicks off is by being ported into OpenCL and DX11's Compute Shader, thus no longer being nvidia only. Unless some dodgy tactics come in to play (ie. exchanges of funds under the table etc) the most popular physics solution under these APIs will be the ones that will run on both nvidia and ATI (and S3 too if you really want to mention them) hardware
Saivert 20th March 2009, 14:41 Quote
@zabe: Sorry but companies don't work to give you a better gaming experience. They are only in it for the money. Which means they have to give you a better gaming experience from time to time to earn a buck. And now they could care less about open standards if it doesn't immediately yield increased income.

NVIDIA was right at the time to purchase Ageia and make it run on their GPUs. If they could buy Havok instead they would have done so, but Ageia was made from the start to run on dedicated physics processing hardware which Havok was not. Old games using Havok can't automatically run it's physics on the CPU. They would need to be patched for this to happen and I doubt most games would receive "GPU physics updates". Games that are 2-3 years old rarely receive feature upgrades, seldom bug fixes.

Also I don't get why people are focusing so much on a single physics middleware. When DirectX 11 Compute Shader comes about I'm sure this will be the standard instead and the other middleware will be rewritten to take advantage of this if they have to.

There are multiple layers here.
Game <--> Physics middleware --> GPU API: CUDA, Streams, OpenCL --> GPU hardware itself
alwayssts 20th March 2009, 17:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saivert

NVIDIA was right at the time to purchase Ageia and make it run on their GPUs. If they could buy Havok instead they would have done so, but Ageia was made from the start to run on dedicated physics processing hardware which Havok was not. Old games using Havok can't automatically run it's physics on the CPU. They would need to be patched for this to happen and I doubt most games would receive "GPU physics updates". Games that are 2-3 years old rarely receive feature upgrades, seldom bug fixes.

Also I don't get why people are focusing so much on a single physics middleware. When DirectX 11 Compute Shader comes about I'm sure this will be the standard instead and the other middleware will be rewritten to take advantage of this if they have to.


There are multiple layers here.
Game <--> Physics middleware --> GPU API: CUDA, Streams, OpenCL --> GPU hardware itself

Agree with bolded part.

Havok has had GPU physics since HavokFX, which if I recall correctly, was built to use with the DX9 API. The future will be the same, using OPENCL/DX11. I disagree Ageia was a smart business choice, rather a snap judgement to establish the market and corner it, which will fail. The compute shader in DX11 will allow it to be used RATHER than stream/cuda, right? Therefore companies could bypass the propriatary APIs and build (ex: physics) engines using it. Since the key to success is always the lowest common denominator, OpenCL/DX11 will be the future of these engines, as they will run on all upcoming hardware, rather than a proprietary API by a gfx company or subsidiary, such as physx using CUDA, or even HAVOK using OpenCL through stream (and possibley CUDA). OpenCL can run through cuda/stream, but dx11/compute shader will be it's own thing. If anything, OpenCL is the "now" for current gpus, and DX11 is the future, as it will allow for less layers.

I know you don't, but I think many don't realize physX was NEVER about dedicated hardware. It's all about a closed API (software SDK) and charging licensing fees to use it, no matter what Ageia or nvidia WANT you to believe. All they have done is code it in a way unusable to those whom they don't want it to. This is why we see it now available on the Wii/PS3, neither of which use CUDA or some kind of dedicated hardware. With how quickly it was ported to CUDA from whatever Ageia used for their chip, it is even more apparent. With the upcoming programability of more open APIs, physX will be forced to include its self to be programmed using OCL/DX11 or die, as it would, as you said, be replaced by a more open standard...Such as what Havok is, and has always done.

As such, as soon as this hits market, I imagine that nvidia will both license the tech from havok to run through cuda->opencl, and try to license physX in the same way (stream->opencl). These are only stepping stones to dx11 though.

This is not unlike sli and crossfire. Nvidia likes a closed standard only usable on their hardware to drive sales and marketshare, and will do whatever they can to keep it that way. ATi (and AMD) have ALWAYS been about open standards, as fanboi as it may sound. Just as ATi allowing crossfire on Intel boards opened the way to SLI on non-nvidia motherboards, this will open the way to physX without the requirement of cuda.

You can call it a smart business decision on nvidia's part, I just call them *******s.
erwincoumans 23rd March 2009, 01:16 Quote
Quote:

Therefore companies could bypass the proprietary APIs and build (ex: physics) engines using it.
Exactly. PhysX and Havok are not the only physics engines that benefit from GPU and other parallel hardware. Physics will go the same as graphics: in the beginning everyone was writing their own software rasterizer, until OpenGL and Direct3D provided a low-level API for hardware 3D rasterizers.

We optimized the open source Bullet Physics SDK for CUDA and PLAYSTATION 3 SPUs, and are collaborating with Intel on Larrabee optimizations and AMD on an OpenCL version. Bullet is used by several commercial game companies, including Rockstar on GTA IV, Sony Computer Entertainment, and Disney Interactive to name a few.

These optimizations will be available for anyone to use, and we target for a low-level Physics API, similar to OpenGL/D3D. This way, anyone can benefit from new hardware, not just PhysX and Havok developers.

We are discussing these topic at the Physics Tutorial on next weeks Game Developers Conference.
HourBeforeDawn 23rd March 2009, 23:34 Quote
again as I have always stated physX will die and probably havok too once DX11 and OpenCL hit the scene.
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