Partial MMO innovation - Warhammer to use physics

There’s a press release out:

AGEIA and Mythic Entertainment Sign Licensing Agreement for AGEIA physX Technology

Mythic to use AGEIA physX SDK in upcoming Warhammer MMO, providing total immersiveness and stunning effects for players using AGEIA physX processor

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – August 25, 2005 – AGEIA™ Technologies, Inc., the pioneer in hardware-accelerated physics for games, and Mythic Entertainment, developer and publisher of massively-multiplayer online role-playing games including Dark Age of Camelot, today announced a publisher-wide licensing agreement in which Mythic can fully exploit the power of AGEIA physXTM technology in developing its massively-multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG).

Mythic will make extensive use of the AGEIA physX SDK in developing its upcoming MMORPG based on the legendary Warhammer fantasy world. One of the most enduring fantasy games in history, Warhammer will be released as an MMO for the first time in 2007. Players who have PCs equipped with the AGEIA physX processor will experience never-before-seen levels of online immersiveness, along with stunning effects and rich interactivity.

“At Mythic, we strive to continually upgrade our technology and improve the game experience for our online communities, and AGEIA’s physX technology adds a new dimension that will make Warhammer an incredible online adventure,” said Mark Jacobs, president and CEO of Mythic Entertainment. “With this agreement with AGEIA, we’re confident that we can continue to surprise and challenge our customers with new levels of immersion and realism in all of our upcoming titles.”

“Mythic Entertainment is a proven leader in the rapidly growing market for online games, and an excellent partner for introducing AGEIA physX technology to this target audience,” said Kathy Schoback, vice president of content acquisition at AGEIA. “With the dedication and talent of the Mythic team, we have high expectations for what they can achieve with Warhammer using the AGEIA physX SDK and the AGEIA physX processor.”

The AGEIA physX processor is the first and only dedicated physics processor on the market, and provides gamers with a much greater depth of physical interactivity than software-only physics. Developers and publishers who license the AGEIA physX SDK can create environments and effects that far surpass anything previously available in games. The AGEIA physX processor will be available on PC add-in boards in late 2005.

To my knowledge this is the very first mmorpg to at least integrate a physics engine. Now what would be interesting is to figure out how or if this will impact the gameplay.

We know that the use of the specialized processor will be optional, so the impact on the game must be scalable but there could be still hopes to see some concrete effects on the gameplay instead of just more realistic animations.

I consider this an interesting innovation with a lot of potential to tap. The problem is how an actual physics engine impacting the game could be handled. There are considerable accessibility problems about the use of specialized hardware and even more in the case the physics will be used to have an effect on the gameplay since there would be many issues about the netcode.

Probably this will be a timid attempt to play with new technology. If the use of physics is minimal it’s odd to support dedicated hardware when, two years from now, handling a decent physic engine should be trivial. On the other side a radical use of these possibilities (player collision is the first step, for example) sounds a bit too daring and very hard to handle in the practice. And again there’s the problem to have it “optional”.

I mean. If it’s optional it means it cannot have an impact. If it cannot have an impact the effects won’t be so different from the use of realistic ragdolls. And if they support realistic ragdolls only, why the need for dedicated hardware? Could it be used to keep the physics system usable when a lot of players are on screen considering that Warhammer suggests large PvP battles?

Anyway, it’s already a way to explore new possibilities. It can be as meaningful as they want and I expect a strong role of the physics in the future mmorpg. For Mythic this is a way to start practicing with the new technology, even if at a superficial level, and be ready for when it will be used in all its potential.

I basically agree with you. If the physics card is optional, you’re getting nothing out of it but eye candy. There can’t be meaningful effects unless they’re propagated to everybody, so my assumption is that you’ll get ragdoll characters and maybe some good destruction animations (e.g., players demolish a building. Player A with physics card sees physically-correct pieces flying everywhere. Player B sees generic “demolition” animation…but the leftover pieces can’t affect the world since they’re not seen the same by everyone).

Is it possible that a client’s physics calculations would be distributed to everyone in the area? E.g., player blows back enemy with special effect, server sends “blowback” command to client, client performs physics calculation and sends results back to server, server plays result (which is for the server essentially a prerender, just like a traditional stock animation) for everybody? Seems like you’d be really vulnerable to client-side hacks, and I don’t know if it’s even technically feasible.

Short of something like that, this seems like it’s going to be just eye candy. Which is better than no eye candy, but hardly a reason to add a piece of hardware to my computer. Like HRose, I’d rather see them come up with stuff like actual collision detection (which makes these games way, way better) than stuff like this (assuming I’m right about what it will be).

Auto Assault uses Havoc.

Second Life has been using their own (I think?) physics engine for quite some time. And in there, using it seems actually useful. Since you, y’know, actually design and build stuff in 3D and all that.

Sounds like a publicity thing.

WW2OL is all about its physics engine

I’m pretty sure EQ1 had collision detection for players. I remember specifically, because a ogre shaman buddy of mine had a good time getting positive faction with Qeynos, and then casting invis on himself and sitting in front of the bank doors.

He ended up allowing his slaves to escape their aristocratic prison only after GM intervention. Later, he was used as a stage prop in a “play” put on by RPers in game for the same effect.

Maybe you’re discussing something else though as far as player collision goes. In my mind, it’s far too easy a mechanic to abuse. But, you probably already wrote about that in your blog, or were talking about something entirely different.

About EQ1 having player collision I have no clue, but it’s a news to me.

FFXI has a weak form of it. You can go through other characters only if you push and insist some. Which is already enough to give a physical sensation and make the perception of the space believable.

Er, City of Heroes has full collision detection for baddies, NPCs, and fellow heroes alike…

It’s not really an RPG - there’s some RPG elements in it - but it is indeed all about physics.

Yes COH has collision detection, somewhat rudimentary and it doesn’t alter play that much.

AA uses the Havok engine but the game isn’t out yet.

— Alan

EQ1 had player collision… I remember being stuck behind some big boys in the narrow passages in Upper Guk. It was a convincing counter-argument to the bullshit thing I hear so often about how MMOs just aren’t advanced enough to do that.

And why you don’t want them to anyway.

Speaking of Auto Assault, it’s been delayed until 2006.


AC1 had full collision detection (between players only on the pvp server) - non-spherical as well so you could stand on people’s/npcs heads if you wanted.

D&D Online is using the Havok engine for physics on server and client, so WHO isn’t unique in this regard.

Oh, I don’t know, getting a huge tank to block a doorway filled with goons is pretty useful.

Take a look at the whitepaper on Ageia’s site:

.PDF trying to explain their scope

If they can pull off even half of what they talk about there, I will be very impressed. Let me quote:

Liquids . . . barrels of oil, water towers. Real fluids interact naturally with dynamic bodies, pushing them around the world and flowing around them.

Do you remember the level in Far Cry where you went into a room and opened a switch which flooded it, thereby raising the water level and allowing you access to a tunnel in the roof? I know this trick has been done before, but I’m imagining something like a big firefight in a room where someone shoots out the legs on a big tank of water and all of sudden water pushes a bunch of people off a platform, over a railing, etc. Think the breaking of the dam near Isengard in LOTR. Besides being a neat trick, this would open up lots of neat gameplay. Imagine destroying the dam in BF2 and the resultant wonderful chaos. A sink or bathtub full of water that can be displaced in The Sims 3. Possible?

Material properties. . . wooden objects that bend slightly then crack . . . stones that shatter under great pressure.

Ever pushed really hard on the corner of an inside door in your house? Imagine you’re (in a game) in a room and you see the door kind of bending a bit, someone trying to force their way in. Neat stuff. Or, someone backs a truck against a wooden fence and instead of just the collision sound, the fence bends under the weight and mass of the truck’s rear end. Imagine your adrenaline if you are hiding behind that fence when it happens. As for crushing stones under weight, if we have the CPU power, the first thing I think about is fully destructible, brick by brick, buildings.

I’m not saying that they will acheive all these things, but it’s an exciting possibility. As for the engine being optional, I don’t see how this is possible. To me either you support these more realistic physics or you don’t. Gameplay would be way too different and the code too hard to write (you’d have to code every interaction twice, essentially). It’s not like a 3D graphics card where you get better resolution or prettier lighting. How can you code that in one instance you can smash through a fence and in another you can’t? Seem implausable to me, but maybe I don’t know enough about dynamic interaction.

Or, this could be the next Emotion Engine.

AC1 had full collision detection (between players only on the pvp server) - non-spherical as well so you could stand on people’s/npcs heads if you wanted.

Actually I think it was on all servers and it worked on players and creatures alike.
I seem to recall jumping off a hill or cliff and having mobs do the same and them landing on me and causing damage.
Also, not moving immediately out of the impact zone in the hub could prove fatal if someone landed on you.
In CoH, I remember that I tried to exploit their “physics”.
I used hover and attacks that did knockback damage on the upper levels of the bridge in that dock zone, I forget the name.
Anyway, it didn’t work. Knocking mobs off the upper deck never resulted in serious injury or death for them.
So, unless the developers are willing to allow this sort of fun, I don’t see any reason for a physics engine.

Well, no, it doesn’t.

CoH has collision detection for the heroes. Not so for baddies and NPC’s. What this means is that if you are a hero every NPC you run into, or who runs into you, will act like it is a solid object, but if an NPC runs into another NPC those two will happily share the overlapping space. If you’ve ever seen a good tanker herd you know what I mean.

I agree, this would be a great use of physics. Considering CoH already does this to a degree with heroes taking falling damage it seems possible in theory atleast, but I suspect it might take a lot out of the hardware.

Ah, good point, I only assumed player vs. other collisions.

As to bad guys falling, they take damage according to their level and the height they dropped from; they’ll also never drop below 1 HP. Try it in King’s Row though, at that level the damage sustained is enough to dent their (at that point) measly HP.

If you go back to KR with your level 20, 30 or whatever and jump off a building, your HP bar will barely budge, even though you’ve taken the same amount of damage as you have at level 5. Same thing for bad guys.

I assume “dock zone” is Indy Port, which is a 20-30 zone…falling damage becomes negligible.

It’s fun in Faultine though. Wind attacks plus chasm…

Yes it does, actually. Latency may make it look like some enemies are clipping through each other, but they’re actually not. A herd doesn’t form a ring where every mob stacked up within melee range of the tank, it forms a huge crowd with enemies jostling with each other for a position next to the tank.