Havok Reveals Indie Developer Programme

By John Walker on December 8th, 2009 at 10:15 am.

How much?!

You know how in a fairytale if someone is generously feeding a child it’s inevitably because they plan to eat them later? I’m suspicious someone’s planning to eat all the indie developers. We’ve now got the Unreal 3 engine freely available for non-profit development, and surprisingly fairly offered for those planning to sell their game. We’ve got Unity available to the masses. And now Havok – the pioneers of gaming physics – introducing a licensing plan for independent game makers. Although there’s a slight confusion over how “indie” this is.

The press release detailing this is, as you might expect, written in press-release-speak, beginning like this:

“Designed to enable independent game studios to execute their creative visions using Havok’s premium, developer-preferred middleware technology, the Independent Developer Program helps studios minimize the overall risk and high cost associated with internal creation of the tools and technologies required to power today’s sophisticated video and PC games. Havok’s Independent Developer Program will give developers access to the company’s full suite of cutting-edge, award-winning products and technologies including: Havok Animation™, Havok AI™, Havok Behavior™, Havok Cloth™, Havok Destruction™ and Havok Physics™. Havok’s modular suite of tools puts power in the hands of creators, empowering them to reach new standards of believability and interactivity in video games. All of Havok’s software tools are fully multithreaded and cross-platform optimized.”

They don’t detail how much this will cost, rather referring to an “annual agreement”. However, it seems to offer flexible access to all the technology, and also the use of Havok’s customer support. But it’s a little ambiguous, especially in light of the first company to try this. Krome Studios CEO Robert Walsh explains,

“Krome has the unique opportunity to develop multiple prototypes using Havok’s world class products and then, if required, to license those technologies from Havok. Havok has ascended from being just a middleware provider to becoming an instrumental business partner. Havok enables Krome to manage its risk during development and allows it the freedom to explore fresh possibilities with Havok’s technology.”

But Krome employs 400 people, recently made LucasArts game Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes, and is the largest developer in Australia. Which isn’t, perhaps, the “indie” that would spring to most people’s minds.

You can, however, get at much of the Havok tech for free using the “Intel-funded, binary-only versions of Havok Physics, Havok Animation and Havok’s Content Tools for the PC.” They can be found here, and there’s no charge for these so long as you’re giving your game away for free.

We’ve contacted Havok to find out more – our question being: is this new plan affordable for the sort of indie developer most people would think of – three or four people working out of bedrooms? Or is this simply for those who aren’t tied to a major publisher who would otherwise fund major software/middleware licenses? We’ll update with any replies.

Let’s hope it’s the former, because just imagine the potential power at an indie team’s fingertips. The Unreal 3 engine, Havok middleware, online distribution… Cor.

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46 Comments »

  1. CMaster says:

    Although there’s a reason you normally need a big team to get the most out of that combination.

    Anyway, to me while “indie” has come to have a certain “homemade” vibe, any developer who isn’t owned/tightly locked in to a publisher is independent. Letting devs use the tools without coughing up upfront fees they can’t afford seems both good business for Havoc and good for the developers too.

  2. Karry says:

    “They don’t detail how much this will cost”

    Thats the way Havok people always operated. Its quite degrading, basically they are saying “if you even have to ask about cost – fuck off, we dont need any cheapskates here”. Great cost-efficient business model they’re running.

  3. The Sombrero Kid says:

    i have no intention of using this, there’s already perfectly usable free physics middlewares i can use.

  4. PHeMoX says:

    Perhaps they know more than we do about the imminent end of the world???

    It could also mean developers and engine creators are looking for new winds of creativity, preferably by people easily captured with a small bag ‘o beans.

    • RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

      They probably do, being specialized in physics calculations and all. They’ve had a simulation of the Universe running since half life 2 was released.

    • Gorgeras says:

      I’m boggled by the idea of a ‘simulation of the universe’. How fast would it be moving and how detailed would it be? After all; there are far more forces and molecules at work in the heavens than there are transistors in all the computers in the world combined.

      Would this simulated universe also feature a computer which is also simulating the universe?

    • Capital-T-Tim says:

      Gorgeras: it’s simulations all the way down

  5. Optimaximal says:

    I suppose this may well hinge on how they handle the transition from not-for-profit bedroom coders to small indie startup who catch Valve/Stardocks eye and get offered a deal.

    Would be pretty shitty if all the goodwill is for nowt if you get stung for a $100,000 license fee if you make a couple of quid accidentally.

  6. Paul Moloney says:

    The first Havok office was in my old apartment (it was a really shit apartment, incidentally – mostly made of plywood, with no windows, just 2 skylights).

    P.

  7. Schwerpunk says:

    Thank you for spelling ‘programme’ correctly.

    • John Walker says:

      There is no “correctly”. One is the UK spelling – the one I used since I’m in the UK – and the other is the US spelling. Both are correct.

  8. bill says:

    From that wording, it sounds like a free trial but you have to pay if you decide to use it.

  9. Lu-Tze says:

    I think the reason they don’t mention cost is that they probably operate on a case by case basis. They want you to use their middleware, and they’ll negotiate what they see as the best combination of money up front and royalty that makes you commit. The stickered price is “The most you can afford”.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      that’s what usually happens with these things, physx is free however.

  10. DMJ says:

    There should be some sort of global agreement – regulated by treaty and enforced by nuclear failsafes – about what exactly constitutes “indie” development.

    • Barton says:

      Come on man, “Indie” is the new “Extreme” or “Ultimate”.

      That being said, I can’t wait to play some Indie Frisbee after I down some Indie Energy Drink.

  11. Barton says:

    I’m surprised this hasn’t happened before Unreal to be honest, considering Havok is already free to use for development of digital content on PSN.

    Regardless, this trend among physics engines will enable people to start learning about developing for industry standard technology from their home rather than coughing up dough they may not have to go to a college that may or may not teach them anything useful. If we continue seeing more engines of varying disciplines being released to the public, I look forward to seeing what tomorrow’s developers will make.

  12. Collic says:

    This is interesting and potentially very good news. I agree with CMaster in that an Indie game need not only be the classic bedroom programmer ideal. While people like Ice Pick Lodge and CD Projekt aren’t strictly covered by the definition, i think the important thing is the type of game they put out; their ideals rather than the size of their dev team. Although maybe that’s just my appreciation for eastern european devs showing through.

    Nonetheless, getting smaller, more independent dev teams access to this stuff at fairer prices can only be a good thing. The only thing that matters is just how good a deal it is; it’s still great news, so its either great, or outstanding news.

    More power to you Havok. It’s a smart way promoting the adoption of your tech, and potentially great for the games industry, and by extension, us.

  13. nine says:

    PROGRAMME. I love you brits.

  14. Cooper says:

    Is it me or does the preponderance of Havok middleware give so many games a very similar feeling. Whilst i know they fiddled with it for the source engine, it still feels very similar to the (many) other games which also use it.

    You know those bowls of fake plastic fruit? The Havok engine always seems to feel like the whole game world is made out of the same deceptive fake plastic items. At distance and when stationary, fairly convincing. But pick one up or knock one and it goes flying (Oblivion was one of the worst for this). I don’t know about you, but things don’t go flying around the room when I walk through it.

    • Jacques says:

      It’s called Havok for a reason.

    • Collic says:

      I know exactly what you mean, particularly when you mention oblivion. I’d say that’s likely more to do with badly implemented havok physics, rather than the tech itself. Oblivion really was terrible for objects (often corpses) clipping into the ground only to spring back out, and boomerang around at super-sonic speed, or flap around like a frothing, speed fuelled epileptic. It would be great if someone could come up with a better alternative, but I don’t think that’s happened yet.

    • Taillefer says:

      Yeah, it definitely seems like most choose to leave everything on the default settings. Some games have horrible implementation where massive, heavy objects can be pushed around like it’s an air-hockey puck. Or giant, stone statues falling over if you sneeze on them (hello, Thief 3, ahem).

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      a little from column a and a little from column b i’d expect a better suite would make it harder to implement poorly, but the settings on a physics middleware are very difficult to get right and take a lot of tweaking, which some devs just can’t afford.

    • Gutter says:

      >but the settings on a physics middleware are very difficult to get right and take a lot of tweaking, which some devs just can’t afford.

      Physic middleware are doing it wrong then. If a team like Bethseda couldn’t set this right, who des Havok expect to be able do it?

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      it’s a bit more complicated than that, physics middlewares like the universe rely on constants that when scaled produce funny results, if everythings in what the middleware designer considers millimeters you need to use larger frictional values to get it to feel natural meaning you lose a lot of precision.

      Every physics middleware has it’s sweet spot and they’re all different, the only way around it is design middleware tools that let developers iterate their simulation quickly and pain free, which generally they don’t do cause that’s a lot of work.

    • Collic says:

      Bethesda make decent games but they aren’t god-like, infallible kings of their craft. They’re the same people who hired what seemed like 4 voice actors for the entirety of oblivions cast, and featured beggars who’d talk like toffs one moment, and toothless monty python crones the next. Point being there were lots of niggling problems with the game.

      I suspect the physics glitches are down to limitations with what Bethesda are able to do in concert with the (really pretty old now) Gamebryo engine, and juggling all the other things the game has to keep track of. Plenty of other games do manage a lot better. Incidentally, you can still see the same problems cropping up in Fallout 3.

      Oh, also. STOP CRIMINAL SCUM!

    • Cooper says:

      13 voice actors in Oblivion.

      Let’s leave Patrick Stewart, Sean Bean and Terence Stamp out and we have 10 voice actors.

      There are 10 playable races in Oblivion, all of which can talk. (There are also one or two vocalised non-playable races, but let’s be generous and only look at the main races). Each race needs both male and female voice actors. That leaves, on averag,e half a voice actor per gender of a race.

      There are over 1000 voiced NPCs in Oblivion. That comes out as, on average, 100 characters voiced by the same person. Yes, they did all sound the same.

      Oh, and barrels and crates are indestructible and immovable, but so much as look at a book shelf and those tomes will all fall on you.

    • Taillefer says:

      It’s always a bit odd when they’ve applied the physics to some objects but not others. Some things jump around like they’re having a seizure. And then you have the indestructible, immobile things which float a couple of inches above the surface they should be resting on.

      Most amusing in shooters where you can blow a hole in a wall, but if you fire a rocket at a glass bottle it’ll just stand there, defiantly as a Tall-Nut.

    • disperse says:

      @Collic

      “flap around like a frothing, speed fuelled epileptic”

      I’ve witnessed this phenomenon but could never put it into words. Until now, that is. Thank you.

  15. The Sombrero Kid says:

    programme wrt writing code is incorrect, if it is a television programme or a programme for a play in the uk, then it is correct, despite having the same derivation, you can’t programme a computer.

  16. Dr.Evanzan says:

    The Sombrero Kid said:
    programme wrt writing code is incorrect, if it is a television programme or a programme for a play in the uk, then it is correct, despite having the same derivation, you can’t programme a computer.

    True enough, but, to be pedantic, the ‘Independent Developer Programme’ here is “a plan or schedule of activities, procedures, etc., to be followed” rather than a computer program to be executed and so John is correct.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      whoops i couldn’t actually find the orignial use to check it ctrl-f came up with nothing and i’m too lazy to re-read, so i assumed :(

  17. getter77 says:

    From some website digging in their FAQ’ish section, I’m seeing something to the tune of if the game costs more thant $10 USD (subject to money magic), then there’s some license bits that have to be applied for and such also and Havok bits integrated. If less than that amount though, that would not seem to be the case. At least, that’s one less fee you’d have to contend with.

    http://www.havok.com/index.php?page=pro

  18. tapanister says:

    That’s awesome news. I’m playing Zombie Driver right now, and it uses Havoc physics, and damn I wouldn’t expect this little game to keep me up until 4 in the morning yesterday but it sure did. BTW, what’s “Cor.”?

    • Bob Bobson says:

      Cor: An interjection with a meaning between Gosh and Blimey, typically in a postive sense.

  19. Colin Barrett says:

    Yes, that is correct- this part of the article is wrong as far as I know:

    “there’s no charge for these so long as you’re giving your game away for free”

    You can sell your (PC) game, but need to execute a license agreement with Havok if it’s for more than $10. There isn’t a cost for the license, just a requirement for attribution (copyright notices, logos, etc).

  20. Colin Barrett says:

    Damnit, that was supposed to be a reply to getter77 a couple of posts up.

  21. Colin Barrett says:

    Expecting this comment to also not appear next to the thing it is supposed to be replying to; I just had a look at Zombie Driver and it claims to be using PhysX, not Havok. The only game I can think of that I suppose uses the free PC version of Havok is Twin Sector, although there may well be others.

  22. Greg says:

    I dont think Zombie Driver uses Havok Physics I think it uses PhysX…

    Upon looking at their website it says they use PhysX not Havok.

  23. John O'Kane says:

    This is largely about getting 3rd party studios access to the source code at an affordable price I would guess. The indie friendly binary version is out a long time now – as Colin says, you can sell games using it. Weirdly I don’t think the up take has been great. I think this is because a) it means you, as a small indie, are getting involved in a 3d game and b) you are probably using a low level language like c++; both of which are not the norm these days. Given that many great indie games are more 2d & flash, or 3d & xna/c# I can see why.

    Still this is a shame. If you are into coding in c++, it’s a good starting point for handling a lot of low level system things like arrays, serialization, fileloading etc, never mind the physics. SDL + Havok + Directx/OpenGL is a fast track to getting the back end of an indie game up and running quick.

  24. Joe Blow says:

    I love what Karry says………

    They don’t detail how much this will cost”
    Thats the way Havok people always operated. Its quite degrading, basically they are saying “if you even have to ask about cost – fuck off, we dont need any cheapskates here”. Great cost-efficient business model they’re running.

    I’ll tell you what degrading is… have to deal with people like you, who whine and bitch about everything. And cant ever press F1 and read a para or two.

    I’m glad you feel degraded, because you are a whiner. And I dont know any business that needs crackheads like you.

    And look lets be honest, its not that your ever going to amount to anything, the Koreans the Japanese the Chinese will wipe the floor with you ANY day of the week.

    Oh looks like back to playing pacman for you…lol

  25. Joe Blow says:

    I love what Karry says………

    They don’t detail how much this will cost”
    Thats the way Havok people always operated. Its quite degrading, basically they are saying “if you even have to ask about cost – fuck off, we dont need any cheapskates here”. Great cost-efficient business model they’re running.

    I’ll tell you what degrading is… having to deal with people like you, who whine and bitch about everything. And cant ever press F1 and read a para or two.

    I’m glad you feel degraded, because you are a whiner. And I dont know any business that needs crackheads like you.

    And look lets be honest, its not that your ever going to amount to anything, the Koreans the Japanese the Chinese will wipe the floor with you ANY day of the week.

    Oh looks like back to playing pacman for you…lol