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NVIDIA 'The Way It's Meant to Be Played' 2013 Press Event

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Flex: Unified GPU PhysX

NVIDIA's first big announcement was a new addition to the PhysX SDK. PhysX is the most popular physics engine, used in over 500 games! It's integrated into many of today's major engines, like Unreal and Unity, and features multi-platform support.

Flex is the world's first unified solver, has two-way coupling effects, shared collision detection, and parallelism at all stages. In layman's terms, it basically allows multiple physics objects to interact with each other in realistic ways. To illustrate this, we were shown several live demos: bouncing, squishable balls; fluid displacing rigid bodies and then those rigid bodies floating realistically; fluid and cloth interaction; deformable objects; and even a water balloon simulation where the demonstrator could pop the balloon in random spots and the water inside would react realistically, either bursting open or streaming.








GI Works

NVIDIA's second big announcement was a new addition to the VisualFX SDK, which consists of tools for creating complex, cinematic visual effects across multiple platforms. GI Works is the world's first real-time global illumination solution. It's a fully dynamic system with scalable architecture. Light bounces off surfaces, which also has real-time glossy specular reflections. It basically means that future game developers who utilize GI Works into their games won't have to bake lighting, which is basically "faking it" – it also means that less light sources will actually be needed in the game because a light's "cone of influence" is greater than it may appear due to the bouncing. For anyone who's dealt with game development before in a 3D environment, you know that lighting is a painful process, so this should be very welcome.

We were shown a live demo a museum setting – presumably the prehistoric section due to the dinosaur skeleton displays. There were two main lights (spotlights) in the room, but when the demonstrator flipped global illumination on, the whole room became visible due to the "bouncing" of lights. In real-time, he moved the lights around and you could see how the light changed realistically throughout the room, even when outside the spotlight's cone of influence. This is a much better solution to baking lights because baking is static. As someone who has dealt with lighting in the past, needless to say, I was impressed.



Flame Works

NVIDIA's third and final big announcement for Day One was also a new addition to the VisualFX SDK. Flame Works introduces film-quality volumetric fire and smoke effects to video game development. It features stochastic shadows and scattering, along with a multi-grid solver. We were shown a demo featuring a fire-breathing dragon. The fire was different each time and interacted with physical objects in the world. The demo could be paused and you could see that it was indeed a volume-based system.

When I asked if a developer could combine Flame Works with Flex to have water and fire interact realistically, I was informed that it hadn't been tested. Tony stated that one of the best aspects of the job is seeing how developers utilize the tools in ways NVIDIA never thought of, so he wouldn't put it past developers to work that out.


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