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Havok ships physics-on-GPU coding tool

Adds character-environment interaction too

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Havok, one of the two companies currently driving in-game physics acceleration, has launched the latest version of its game development middleware. Havok 4.0 rolls in the company's code that links physics-based visual effects to a host computer's graphics engine.

The Havok FX API, part of Havok 4.0, allows game developers to program complex interactions and have the fiendish calculations offloaded onto the GPU. Joining it is Havok Behaviour, which allows characters' actions to be modified by the virtual world they inhabit. Think of it as way to make it easier to have models automatically duck under obstacles and to react to, say, bricks falling from a rocket-demolished wall.

The movement of the bricks themselves are just the sort of thing Havok FX makes possible - or rather makes possible without restraining frame rates to unacceptable levels. ATI and Nvidia have both dashed to back Havok, which they hope will encourage gamers not only to keep buying the latest GPUs but also to install more than one of them.

Havok's advantage over a rival game-physics system from Ageia is that the technology is incorporated into its cross-platform software, which also targets the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and (soon) Nintendo Wii. That may make it more attractive to developers looking to offer games across multiple machines.

Havok said it expects the first titles to use its new technology to come to market in the autumn/winter timeframe. ®

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