Nvidia Uses Hawken To Show Off PhysX Clevers

By Jim Rossignol on January 30th, 2013 at 11:00 am.


Handsome Hawken is ever more handsome – or at least that’s the intention – thanks to implementation of Nvidia’s PhysX tech. The new trailer (Below) shows how PhysX improves particles and debris in the world, creating effect that is partly awesome and partly, well, gaudy. I get that this stuff is super clever, mathematically speaking, but some of the particle effects just seem over the top to me. I suppose that’s the point, because it makes it stand out, but I suspect that this kind of stuff will only really sit comfortably when it’s used in a more subtle way.

Anyway, take a look.


Does anyone even have a graphics card that can run this stuff?

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65 Comments »

  1. Sc0r says:

    Well any nvidia card can do that afaik. So yea. Looking forward to try it out.
    The stomping particles are a little too much I think, but its beta, so I won’t judge.

  2. Nasser says:

    It looks a bit ridiculous at times, like when the mech’s every step kicks up a bunch of random debris from nowhere.

    • Sic says:

      That was my reaction as well. On the whole, it looks rather spiffy, but at certain points it looks like they’ve been pushed by nVIDIA to just throw as much particle effects in there as possible, ignoring visual design.

    • Cinek says:

      I’m shocked to be honest. After playing this game I thought it doesn’t have ANY physics AT ALL. It reminded me more of a games in ’90s where everything was control-driven, with no simulation of… well…. anything.
      I seen flash games with better physics then HAWKEN.

      • Ragnar says:

        Are you playing on an Nvidia card? Because game physics is an Nvidia exclusive. Nvidia bought all game physics, everywhere, and officially renamed it PhysX. It’s better because it has an X in it. It makes it Xtreme.

        All those other games, that purport to have game physics – I mean PhysX – that work on any video card, and even on consoles? Hogwash! Can’t be done! The next gen consoles with AMD video cards, they won’t have any physics PhysX. And even if they did have physics, it wouldn’t be as good because there’s no X in it.

  3. Daedalus29 says:

    Not impressed. This is just a bunch of particles flying around, at least at the end of the video.

    Why not making a water deformation effect for the energy shield? Or some nice fog effects? Nope, lets just put a load of particles everywhere with not apparent reason. Even the fire particles isnt done right.

    The game itself is fun, but it lack depth.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, those are terrible. Seriously, UT2003′s particle system supported forces from physics objects, back in an era where powerful gaming rigs were still likely to be single core, and a good graphics card was a GeForce 3 Ti.

      That the “OFF” section has no particle effects is not that it can’t be done; it’s that it’s been arbitrarily left out to sell nVidia’s crap.

      I honestly don’t know if that bothers me more than just how bad the “ON” effects are.

    • G_Man_007 says:

      I’m not impressed either, looks unrealistic, especially all that swirly particle stuff. Well, I am impressed in how nice it all is, but it’s more disappointing in its unrealism.

  4. Brosepholis says:

    Unfortunately CFD is one of those situations where it gets more expensive as it gets more subtle. So look forward to lots of gaudy faux-fluid particle effects, this year’s bloom!

  5. Gezbo says:

    To the left I can see what I need to see and to the right I can see nothing but some childish squiggles all over the screen, is this to punish Nvidia users or something?

  6. DrAmateurScience says:

    The alpha turbulence thing would be cool if it was applied in a situation where you might see that effect, rather than just being plopped in anywhere there’s some shiny shiny.

  7. Aaarrrggghhh says:

    Looks nice but from what I see this looks like exactly the eyecandy stuff a competetive players disables once he starts up the game the first time.

    • Screamer says:

      Exactly because crap GFX = WIN! :-/

      My friend disabled AF in BF3 because it makes you shoot better!!!! lol

      • AmazingFly says:

        What are you talking about? These graphical effects just seem distracting and could even obstruct your vision. Personally I think they could’ve used physx in a better way than just having random particles flying around on everything shiny.

        • Wisq says:

          Yeah. The debris effects were used to good effect in Borderlands 2, where they never got in your way and the gameplay was coop anyway.

          Extreme gratuitous effects in competitive multiplayer? No thanks.

      • MiniMatt says:

        Aarrgh is pretty much bang on the money. I don’t think he’s suggesting crap graphics = purchase. But turning down graphics for competitive advantage is very much a thing.

        Shadows are always a prime example. Shadows make everything look pretty. They’re also computationally expensive. And sneaky soldiers can hide in them. Turn shadows off, shoot sneaky soldier.

        Hell I’ve noticed in Planetside 2 the relative crapness of my PC means I can see right through smoke grenade clouds because my PC can’t handle them.

        • SuicideKing says:

          Yeah but stuff like shadows and directional audio (agreed, not a graphical effect, still a high-endish feature) actually help, there have been a few times in BF3 where the shadow ‘s given away someone’s position.

          But i see what you mean, when i had a P4 and integrated graphics, the Active Camo wouldn’t render correctly, so i could actually see the ghost like person pretty clearly.

        • Joc says:

          The ghost of 16-bit smoke has come back to haunt us.

          @Flukie: which was the exact reference I was making =) Switching to 16-bit smoke (an ingame option) made its obscuring effect less.. difficult.

          • Flukie says:

            CS 1.6 had a fun feature where you could get it to render 2D smoke.

    • Runty McTall says:

      Just logged in to say this – in a single player game things like this and HDR may increase your immersion but in multiplayer you just get lots of extra crud blocking your view (or simulating your avatar’s inability to adjust immediately to changing light conditions, in the case of HDR).

  8. Jekhar says:

    It’s this generations lensflares.

  9. Snids says:

    I like it. Anything that helps more accurately depict the mayhem and destruction of war gets my vote. I know it looks over the top but it needs to be when you’re sat behind a monitor. I like messy.

  10. kyrieee says:

    Is that the best gimmick you can come up with? Those random particles with turbulence on them just look out of place. Make some cool volumetric smoke trails with turbulence instead.

  11. Humppakummitus says:

    I was hoping the next generation of consoles would have dedicated physics hardware so we’d finally see some gameplay based on them. Now it looks like we’ll get another decade of sparkles and billowing cloths. :(

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Don’t need them. Just need proper programmable GPUs and CPUs. A GPU is massively parallel, CPU is massively serial (or to that effect). The rest is balancing memory and stuff, but you should be able to use one of the other for physics. IE, Havok or DX11, which both support physics on any hardware that supports them. I’ve even run PhysX on ATI cards/AMD CPUs when tricking it into thinking it’s on Intel/Nvidia hardware. :P

  12. michelangelo says:

    I started play HAWKEN and you know what? I have no idea, if this feature is on or off :) Not really important to me.

  13. trjp says:

    Whenever a game promotes PHYSX, you know it’s going to run like crap on non-nVidia cards.

    I don’t get why a developer would want to promote their game to that extent – it’s one thing to take their money and put their logo in the startup, but this is saying

    “Got an AMD card? This game will stutter and generally run poorly on your card”

    and a lot of people have those…

    • Screamer says:

      Don’t really see why they would force it on for AMD cards, unless its someting sneaky by nVidia?

      • Baboonanza says:

        I think he means that all of the optimisation will have been done for nVidia cards with AMD as an after-thought. Therefor it’s likely to run like crap on Radeons.

        It’ll be interesting to see if this changes when the next gen consoles roll around though.

      • trjp says:

        Physx works ‘in software’ if you don’t have the hardware in your card – that means it takes-up CPU cycles instead of using your GPU.

        Another issue I’ve had with Physx is issues with specific versions and the way games auto-update it.

        Example: When NFS: Shift came out it had a problem – you’d get lots of slowdown in busy corners and no graphical settings would solve it. We eventually figured out was down to Physx – and by installing a slightly older version you could reduce the effect (only applying to AMD owners of course)

        Problem is, new games come along and update Physx and other games stop working again – and nVidia don’t really care about non-nVidia card owners and so nothing gets fixed properly.

        It’s a “keep away” sign for me, really – although we’re mainly talking racing games here I should add…

        • tehfish says:

          Also worth noting that Nvidia deliberately made CPU physx as inefficient/slow as they possibly could by using ancient cpu instructions and single-threaded code

          http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hardware/nvidia-de-optimizes-physx-for-the-cpu/8852

          When Nvidia brought physx they purposely crippled it on any system not running a nvidia card, turning it from an open platform to a propriety system for one brand.
          I’ve not brought an Nvidia card since because of this – they deliberately killed PC hardware physics for their own gain…

  14. Baboonanza says:

    Those turbulence effects look terrible, they match the environment at all and importantly they are the same in every place they’re used. How pointless.

  15. Correa says:

    The effects aren’t really that special. The debris looks as though it’s placed over the screen, doesn’t contain any of the textures or even the lighting in the scene.
    The flame like effect looked really bad for the burnt out mechs/robots. I think the normal sprite flame effect looks a hell of a lot better.
    The shield effect looked the worse of them. Nexus the Jupiter Incident does far better effects for weapons striking shields and how long ago was that game. Not to mention it wasn’t governed if you had a ATI/Nvidia branded card.

    All this can be easily coded to run on the actual CPU on the other cores that are idling by in any gamer’s ranged pc. So exactly where is the value of having Physx switched on in your games?

  16. HilariousCow says:

    Some of those particle effects, pretty though they may be, are plain obfuscating. When these “immersive” effects get in the way of being able to read the game, they become part of the immersion fallacy.

    mipmap 0 all day baby.

  17. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    Wow. Nearly all of those clips I preferred the non-physx version.

  18. psaldorn says:

    The Planetside 2 beta with it enabled is a much better example imho. Alien things look alien. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcJlTUgZTT8
    The end has the elevator pads, probably my favourite bit.

  19. reinodefiant says:

    Why talk about graphics? Who needs them? I thought this was a site about pixelated platformers with a twist! Give me them!

  20. Tei says:

    Some of the effects are overdone. Like the fire one and perhaps the walking that breaks the floor. But done this better (not overdoing it) could be absolutely a must-have.

  21. MrThingy says:

    I could imagine those swirly particles being nice around an artifact in something like a STALKER sequel.

    At the moment, in something like Hawken, it just looks like something that blocks the view for no discernibly good reason.

  22. Cameron says:

    I did some reading up on PhysX quite a while back and whilst it looked good in theory some shenanigans by NVidia tarnished its reputation in my eyes.

    An update to the software disabled PhysX if graphics were being rendered on a non NVidia GPU even if there was an NVidia card in the system. Some guys found a way to circumvent this so NVidia “time bombed” some later PhysX software versions, presumably to force upgrades. If you didn’t upgrade before the time bomb “went off” you would get strange effects such as massive slowdowns & reversed gravity.

    NVidia’s justification for the restriction was

    Physx is an open software standard any company can freely develop hardware or software that supports it. Nvidia supports GPU accelerated Physx on NVIDIA GPUs while using NVIDIA GPUs for graphics. NVIDIA performs extensive Engineering, Development, and QA work that makes Physx a great experience for customers. For a variety of reasons – some development expense some quality assurance and some business reasons NVIDIA will not support GPU accelerated Physx with NVIDIA GPUs while GPU rendering is happening on non- NVIDIA GPUs. I’m sorry for any inconvenience caused but I hope you can understand.

    Not sure if I can post links without having my post moderated so check out the Wikipedia article on PhysX for some sources to confirm the above.

    • sdancer says:

      PhysX is pretty much nvidia’s Glide for GPGPU: a toy that ultimately should die off in favour of proper alternatives like OpenCL or DirectX compute shaders. It’s pure vendor lock-in that so far had only a few uninteresting tech demo appearances in games.

  23. uh20 says:

    im going to try and pick up the dev stuff for physX when i get the chance, my only concern being is that you can only really use it for server/single player due to the graphics card restriction, as you will need to sync the physics with the rest of the players.

    i guess it could be used for particles and debris in a multiplayer setup, but it might be counter-intuitive to have 2 physics engines running at the same time.

  24. Core says:

    That man in the video sure has a weird way of pronouncing physics.

  25. bj says:

    Incoming rant. You have been warned.

    “Does anyone even have a graphics card that can run this stuff?”

    Technically, pretty much everyone at this stage. Saying it’s only possible with PhysX is marketing nonsense. It’s only possible on PhysX because they pressed the ‘disable this if you don’t have PhysX’ button.

    Okay, it’s not quite that simple, but the same sort of swirly particle effects are extremely straightforward to implement in software. Update the acceleration vector, integrate that twice, and that’s numberwang. The problem is that you have to do that once per particle, and you typically need a lot of particles to get something which looks nice. If your CPU is busy with other things then it’s not practical to do all that maths sixty times a second, but thanks to programmable shaders you can move all the computation to the GPU, and if you store the acceleration/velocity/position values as textures in the graphics memory instead of as arrays in the system memory then you don’t have to wait for the data to move around your ‘puter. Note the complete lack of PhysX in that summary.

    The demoscene has been playing with this stuff for years, and does a much better job of showing it off. This demo by Matt Swoboda from a few years ago is one of my favorites. Note the difference in appearance of the particles. These ones are lit and cast shadows. They have depth and volume. Also there are over a million of them. That’s kind of a big deal. Again, no PhysX, no Cuda, no Directx 10 or 11. Just good programming.

    Admittedly, there are no stompy robots running around in the background, and even if there were this is of no more benefit to games than what Nvidia is pushing. It’s still pretty though. But not for long! The unlit swirly embers are almost certainly going to become as overused as bloom was ten years ago, especially once the new consoles appear. It’ll be the go-to effect when you want to inspire oohs and aahs amongst the crowds at E3. Eventually people will get tired of it, and it’ll be scaled back to a more reasonable and subtle level, supplanted by some other new shiny thing. Something fluid based, probably. I wish someone would give sound some attention for once, but that’s something for a whole other overly-long comment. I need a blog.

    Where was I? Oh, right, PhysX. It’s kind of a scam. The CPU based implementation that owners of AMD graphics cards have to use is really badly written. Perhaps deliberately so, depending on how cynical you want to be. Remember in the mid to late nineties when AMD and Intel released chips with 3DNow and SSE instruction sets to speed up floating point calculations? Well, whoever wrote the PhysX software doesn’t. That’s right, PhysX is optimized for, uh… processors from 1987. Or at least it was when I last looked into this junk. Frankly, the whole thing just makes me kind of angry.

    So, anyway! I’ve bored even myself now. If I haven’t made you tired of particles already, Matt wrote a couple of good pieces here and here. That second one is a whole other demo which goes into fluid dynamics and stuff as well. Definitely worth checking out. And if you’re still not sick of particles after that, don’t worry – Nvidia, AMD, and every game developer ever will do their best to remedy that over the next few years. Have fun!

    Edit: I am good at html.

  26. Clavus says:

    Still waiting for this proprietary junk to fade from the picture. Once developers start using OpenCL-based physics engines, EVERY card can do these effects. Then games can be build with these effects in mind (and having actual gameplay implications) instead of it being extra fluff.

    In this game it’s a pretty badly implemented too. They don’t even have cheaper / replacement effects for when PhysX is disabled. It’s just layered on top of it.

  27. Buemba says:

    As far as I’m concerned Mirror’s Edge still has the best implementation of PhysX I’ve seen.

    Hawken looks like it’ll follow Borderlands 2′s example of putting crap like flowing banners and water particles in your face while enemies you can’t see shoot at you. Granted that wasn’t a big problem in a single player game like BL2, but in a multiplayer game that’s a different matter.

  28. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    This looks like the same nonsense cluttering Borderlands 2. I’d be more impressed if they’d actually made it look good.

  29. Freaky says:

    I wonder how much nVidia pay to get developers/publishers to use PhysX, especially to use it in such a way that the only options are “Too much to run without GPU acceleration” and “Pretty much no physics at all”.

    Arkham Asylum? Lowest setting has debris effects that work fine on CPU, but also has really feeble fog effects that nonetheless make the game into a slideshow without an nVidia card.

    Mirror’s Edge? Lowest setting has fabric simulation which works fine on CPU, but also over the top glass breakage effects that, you guessed it, make the game into a slideshow without an nVidia card.

    I hope it’s a lot. Convincing publishers to give a great big “fuck you” to 40% of your market shouldn’t come cheap.

  30. JBantha says:

    I would love to see a game were all this thing Nvidia shows on their videos didn’t actually interfere with game play. i can see most people that can run them just turning them off as they take like half the screen just ’cause.

  31. Squishpoke says:

    Does anyone else think that the graphics look pretty sub-par in this game?

    No, not graphical design. That looks great. But the texture resolution, HUD scaling, and aliasing is awful. When I play it, it looks like an Xbox game scaled up to my monitor. It’s all blurry and everything, even on Ultra settings.

  32. Grey_Ghost says:

    PhysX, obstructing views in ever more fanciful ways!

  33. Arcanon says:

    Some of the effects are cool, others are just over the top or out of place.

    Not really a good enough reason to buy an Nvidia card in the price brackets where competitive AMD alternatives exist. I’ll stick with my 7950, thank you very much :P

  34. essentialatom says:

    This video makes me want to play one of those really cool modern shooters such as Hawken with APEX PhysX creating turbulence effects which is really cool and modern shooter.

  35. Citrus says:

    I like how people are actually bitching about nVidia paying developers to add PhysX effects. Oh noes, not the next-gen physics based effects, nVidia you are evil.

    nVidia actually pays to implement PC friendly features in a lot of PC ports (also provides next-gen display cards and machines for developers who can’t afford them in return for adding these features) which would be rather bland without nVidia slapping their logo in there. Keep bitching about it. Rest of us who like great graphics and effects love these additions.

  36. orange says:

    Strangely, I actually prefer to have those effects off. Or is it just me?

  37. Fyce says:

    I don’t get it when people get mad for an option.
    Isn’t that nice to have those features available for the ones who like this kind of things?

  38. PearlChoco says:

    Makes me think of those Sacred 2 movies.
    Did anyone actually play that game, or was it only to show off some PhysX particle fx?

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