Ageia's PhysX and UT3

Finally, a major game engine has shipped with native support for Ageia's PhysX physics engine, the Unreal 3 engine version that drives UT3.

The only issue is that non of the maps that ship with it heavily use the physics engine. Ageia have shipped two levels that use moderate and heavy physics.

To summarise, the PPU sometimes helps a little on the stock maps, bizarrely in the situation where you're not CPU limited.

On their own maps (go on, guess) they get a sizable performance improvement. Their heavy physics map is not playable without a PPU and barely playable with. Their mid level map is the most interesting. It is playable without a PPU, but is much better with. This is exactly where they should be aiming for. PPU only games are not the way to sell PPUs.

There is a bit of speculation of new and better PPUs in the works. I wouldn't be surprised. Wether they're worth buying depends on wether there's a mass market, popular game out that gets 10-40% gains or more from having a PPU. So far, no, but in the future? Given Crysis is barely runnable and is selling, I don't see why not.


This is certainly a step in the right direction. Although, I remember reading somewhere that Intel thought that dedicated GPUs were stupid and pointless. Their argument that the future will not be in having a GPU, PPU and AIPU but instead having a cluster of generic processing units that could be assigned on a per-application basis. This is a bit of a no-brainer but until we get to that point, I think the PPU is a sterling idea. It's no the future but it's a nice step towards it.

I was one of those types who bought a graphics accelerator card (Matrox was the first one, then a Voodoo 1) and the driving factor was cost versus benefit. There will be big takeup if the cost is relatively small. At the moment it's $299 [edit - not £299! doh!, RL] (as quoted), which is silly money for something that adds some, but not a lot, to a game. What happens online? Do you not get affected by the physics if you don't get the card or are you limited to seeing it without the physics? That's a bit rubbish.

Time will tell. Let's hope the big boys (nVidia, AMD) climb onboard and start making these cards dirt cheap. There's no reason why not, physics processing (by feel) should be parallelisable (is that even a word) as it is a series of relatively simple calculations that produce complex results through scaling. This is one of the objectives of parallel systems.

Thanks for posting, Byrn. I think we'll all be watching this keenly. I am willing to bet 5p that Aggro ends up with them in SLi. ;-)

brainwipe's picture

np mate ;)

Both Intel and AMD have chips with integrated GPUs in their long term (3-5 years ish) roadmaps. PPUs are interesting, and do make sense, but they're in the chicken and egg scenario at present.

The only games that need PPUs aren't popular because people don't have PPUs. The only major games to add PPU use to their games used it for increased prettiness which doesn't affect gameplay (otherwise you have an uneven playing field in multiplayer) which often led to worse performance.

The tornado level is exactly what they need... something that doesn't require it to play, so you get the base of people playing it, yet benefits from it sufficiently that people are willing to shell out for it.

That article is a while old... they have dropped significantly in price recently to £88

byrn's picture

Now £88 sounds pretty good to us but I think our cousins across the pond aren't going to pay $180 for it. That sounds like a lot of greenbacks, for what you say is chicken and egg. No dobut the early-adopters (EMW, Aggro and their breed) will NEED to have one and get it anyway. They will help drive the money put into developing them and bring down the cost.

Ah, error in my article. $299, not £299.

brainwipe's picture

aah, that makes sense.

Yep, if one ubergefaustengame of high prettiness, preferably from a pedigree line of games needed it, or at least needed it for "high" detail, I suspect the enthusiasts would go for it.

The exchange rate is getting close to giving us stuff for reasonable prices... no doubt the manufacturers will notice soon ;)

byrn's picture