‘As soon as you put physics in a game, it affects everything’

Havok’s Steve Ewart will be giving a talk at this year’s GDC event in Cologne

 

Anyone with even the slightest interest in gaming will be familiar with the Havok logo. The middleware company is best known for its physics products and the logo appears before just about every triple-A, mainstream console game. Havok’s work has been used in major game franchises from Halo to Infamous and appeared in countless blockbusters films, including the Lord of the Rings films.

Steve Ewart, field application engineer and Havok’s physics team lead, will be giving a talk at this year’s GDC event in Cologne from August 11th called: The Past, Present and Future of Havok Physics and the Influence of 3D Game Development.

“It is focused on developers,” Ewart says, “A lot of customers – both potential and actual – are in one spot. That’s why things like GDC Europe are very useful for us. “We will focus on the new physics core that has been a culmination of five years R&D. It was released at the start of this year. We have titles already shipping with new physics core.

“I want to contextualise that in the talk – history of how Havok Physics has been growing with the consoles as they’ve evolved and changed. We’ll be talking about new releases, and there may be people who haven’t heard about the new core and how it’s different from the previous one.”

Ewart agrees that Havok is still best known for its physics engine, but says it also provides other services. He argues that that changing the physics in a digital environment has a knock-on effect.

“As soon as you put physics in a game, it affects everything else. We will always return to physics as bedrock and this can help drive our other products as well. As soon as you do something dynamic, you have to consider the characters that are moving in that dynamic world, how they move, how they interact with that world and how they find their way around it. The graphics, AI and path-finding are affected, so Havok has a suite of products. The animation is the first that we added after physics.”

“Then if you have a world that is dynamic and if you can pick a box up and break it, why can’t you blow holes in walls? Games such as Battlefield that use destruction effects, that is based on physics. As soon as you can blow a hole in a wall, then characters have to know that they can go through that hole so that affects your characters’ artificial intelligence.”

A major recent change in the gaming world has been the introduction of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It is a change that Ewart welcomes.

“For us, it’s obviously a culmination of processes that have been going on from previous generation,” he says. “PS3 and 360 were very different [from one another]. It took us a few iterations of the middleware until the user didn’t have to worry as much about what platform they were on. From a middleware perspective, having a more common architectural type is great.”

On another major change, the explosion of mobile gaming, he says: “I think developers have had to adapt more than middleware providers. There’s a growth towards triple-A on mobile – we’re starting to see bigger [mobile] titles that use our middleware that leverage our technology in exactly the same way as previous triple-A developers would have been.”

Ewart is looking forward to GDC Europe and other events, not least because it showcases what developers have been doing with Havok products.

“GamesCom comes straight after [GDC Europe] and a lot of our customers are announcing various titles that we can’t talk about at the moment. Whether it’s E3 in LA or GamesCom in Cologne, it’s always good to see what we’ve been dealing with behind the scenes. There will be also new stuff linked to the talk announced in September but we can’t go into details about that yet.”

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