Today I got a sneak peek at some of the graphics tech we’ll see in next year’s games. That came in the form of new Nvidia GameWorks dev tools — its visual and simulation SDKs, algorithms and libraries designed to push the limits of Windows and Android gaming. What’s new: advances for in-game fire, smoke, physics and lighting effects. Take a look...
The briefing took place at an editor's day in Montreal Canada, which I attended as a guest of Nvidia. Some quick video below...
In the video, you’ll also see how real-time GPU effects like foam, spray, water simulation, mass, displacement, rigid body and turbulence are all interacting with each other for the first time.
The GameWorks program plays a big part of Nvidia's close relationship with major game studios. For instance, Batman: Arkham Origins will use a range of Nvidia optimisations, including GPU PhysX for realistic turbulence, particle and cloth effects.
PhysX is now used by 500+ games and is the core physics driving the Unreal engine and Unity. It also ticks boxes for multi-platform support and scalability to mobile devices. Next year, Nvidia will introduce a unified simulation system for PhysX called Flex.
“For the first time ever, it will allow for effects to influence each other, explained Tony Tamasi, Nvidia’s Senior Vice President of Content and Technology. For example, devs will be able to have real-time cloth and fluid effects interact; or combine a rigid body simulation with a liquid simulation.
“Imagine characters with fluids squirting out of them." Blood splatter is about to get all kinds of crazy.
“It’s science, engineering and art.”
Next up is FlameWorks: a visual effects SDK for volumetric smoke and fire like you see in movies. A natural compliment to Nvidia’s WaterWorks fluid simulation and freaky FaceWorks face rendering.
In some situations, game devs and artists currently use work-arounds like sprites and billboards or alpha-blended quads to simulate depth without it being a true volume effect. However, I’m told this can cause side effects like blending and sorting issues or GPU intensive overdraw. That’s where FireWorks comes in and Nvidia has already started integrating it into core engines. So you can expect to see it start appearing in games next year. Watch the video for a glimpse of the tech demo.
So with Flex and FlameWorks joining the programmer party — will we see simulated water extinguish simulated fire? Good question. Nvidia hasn’t gone that far yet, but says it’s “headed in that direction."
Another step forward is GI Works: Nvidia’s new real-time global illumination solution. Instead of, say, placing thousands of little lights around to create an ambient effect, global illumination is a more elegant/time-efficient approach to help solve some of the problems that come when trying to develop realistic interplay between light and shadows.
“We’re trying to get things to interact with each other in a correct way, help developers and solve some fundamental problems.”