AMD says PhysX will die

Written by Tim Smalley

December 11, 2008 // 5:42 p.m.

Tags: #amd #ati #cheng #compute #directx-11 #godfrey #graphics #group #havok #nvidia #opencl #physx #product #shader

Godfrey Cheng, Director of Technical Marketing in AMD's Graphics Product Group, has said that PhysX will die if it remains a closed and proprietary standard.

"There is no plan for closed and proprietary standards like PhysX," said Cheng. "As we have emphasised with our support for OpenCL and DX11, closed and proprietary standards will die."

This was part of AMD's response to our questions about EA's and 2K's decision to adopt PhysX across all of their worldwide studios earlier this week.

When asked what impact major publishers adopting PhysX across all of their studios would have on the PC gaming industry as a whole, Cheng responded by saying:

"We cannot provide comments on our competitor's business model except that it is awfully hard to sustain support by monetary incentives. The product itself must be competitive. We view Havok technologies and products to be the leaders in physics simulation and this is why we are working with them. Games developers share this view. We will also invest in technologies and partnerships beyond Havok that enhances gameplay."

It's interesting that Cheng says game developers share the view that Havok is the market leader in physics simulation - does that mean both Electronic Arts and 2K Games adopted PhysX against their development studios' wishes? Cheng pointed out that "People need to scrutinize various announcements on what is being "licensed". Is it to replace the whole physics simulation / tool stack within a game or within the whole studio? Is it for a specific physics simulation product or just a couple of titles? Remember PhysX also has game physics libraries in addition to its new GPU based products.

"An agreement to support PhysX may be for a limited portfolio of features. If you recall, Ageia had tremendous difficulty giving away its technologies and products for free whereas Havok could charge licensing fees. The quality of Havok's product and support hasn't changed nor has the preference by the developers for Havok. Games developers and studios are always interested in NRE and co-marketing deals which may be the catalyst for recent PhysX announcements."

So, what about the promise of GPU-accelerated Havok Physics on ATI Radeon graphics cards? It's still coming apparently and Cheng said that "[AMD] will provide more clarity to our work once more milestones have been achieved between AMD and Havok."

"Our guidance was end of this year or early next year but, first and foremost, it will be driven by the milestones that we hit. To put some context behind GPU based physics acceleration, it is really just at the beginning. Like 3D back in the early 1990s. Our competition has made some aggressive claims about support for GPU physics acceleration by the end of this year. I.e. Support in many titles....but we can count the titles on one hand or just one or two fingers," added Cheng.

"It should be noted that title support for GPU accelerated physics simulation is NOT the end game. The end game is having GPU physics as an integral part of game play and not just eye candy. If it is optional eye candy, GPU physics will not gain traction. The titles we have seen today with shattering glass and cloth waving in the wind is not integral to game play and the impact on the game's experience is minimal. We are looking for ways to integrate GPU physics better into game play. Or even things like AI instead of focusing on eye candy / effects physics."

Cheng's final words make a lot of sense and I find myself agreeing with him. We said something similar when Nvidia announced that the PC version of Mirror's Edge was delayed because of the PhysX implementation which, following a brief hands-on preview last week, does nothing but add some additional eye candy. None of it influences the actual gameplay experience.

However, it still remains to be seen when we're actually going to see Havok Physics running on Radeon GPUs - we get the feeling that Intel is holding the aces back until Larrabee hits the scene. All we're hearing at the moment are buzzwords like OpenCL and DirectX 11 Compute - but they're not here today and Radeon owners are expected to play a waiting game.

What do you think to AMD's response to Nvidia's recent success with PhysX? Share your thoughts in the forums.
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