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A chat about NVIDIA's PhysX technology

Posted on Thursday, June 26 2008 @ 02:42:12 CEST by

PC Perspective had a chat with NVIDIA about the controversy regarding the firm's new drivers that enable PhysX. You would expect no one would complain about this because you're basically getting really cool PhysX effects for free if you own a CUDA-enabled GeForce graphics card but the competition isn't pleased at all.

Some sites even claimed NVIDIA was cheating because PhysX gives them a big advantage in 3DMark Vantage but IMO you can't really blame NVIDIA for that as they're just giving GeForce cards exactly the same capabilities as those now retired AGEIA PhysX cards. This issue just once again proofs that benchmarking in real-world applications is much more important than synthetic applications like 3DMark.
While the folks at NVIDIA did not come right out and say it, but considering how easy it is to enable GPU physics in 3D Mark Vantage, it is obvious that the program was created from the get-go to utilize accelerated physics and GPU physics. In the control panel the user can enable/disable the onboard PPU. Since the GPU is doing the PPU’s work, how exactly is that cheating? If the GPU were only intercepting and acting on only some calls, then we can say that this optimization may not be above board. But in testing the GPU physics driver is intercepting and acting upon all of the calls from the application in regards to physics.
You can read the full article over here, it also contains some comments from AMD, Futuremark and Epic Games. Futuremark explains they have no problem with it and says NVIDIA hasn't broken any rules:
I asked Oliver straight up, “Do you think NVIDIA is cheating.” His answer was clear and concise. No. NVIDIA was not breaking any of the rules that Futuremark has set up for its members of the program, and NVIDIA releasing a non-official driver, which exposes this functionality, does not go against the rules. This is mainly because all members need to submit their drivers to Futuremark to assess their quality and make sure there is no funny business going on before they can be approved. Once the drivers are approved, then the results from those benchmark runs can be considered official and be submitted to ORB.
The article also states NVIDIA wants to work with ATI on PhysX, we really hope ATI will accept this as this could give physics in games a huge boom. NVIDIA's Roy Taylor also explained some of the cool features PhysX will enable in upcoming games and it seems we can expect some really cool effects:
The example that Roy gave me was about an unnamed and unreleased title which uses PhysX, and supports GPU accelerated physics. This title focuses on sea battles in the mid 1800’s using wooden ships. In one scene if the user is able to hit the opposing vessel in the powder magazine, the ship explodes with a thousand pieces being thrown into the air, each piece making an individual splash and wave when it hits the water. Apparently the scene is quite breathtaking, and the coolness factor is simply second to none. This is all done with GPU physics, and if that is turned off then the ship merely explodes with no shrapnel and just sinks into the ocean.


Use Disqus to post new comments, the old comments are listed below.

Re: A chat about NVIDIA's PhysX technology
by Anonymous on Thursday, June 26 2008 @ 14:57:23 CEST
While I have my issues with Nvidia sometimes this was a ridiculous accusation. They enabled a processing feature to now be done by the GPU. Remember back in the day when the T&L engine moved off the CPU and onto the GPU? It made for a good speedup.

This is the same thing. They did nothing wrong and they moved the industry forward. ATI will also support the PhysX model and soon will also get the kinds of scores in Vantage that Nvidia is seeing. How often do we say that real games are what purchasers should go by? Nvidia did nothing more than demonstrate that a great deal of speedup can and will occur now that PhysX and similar calculations can be moved to the GPU.

Funny thing is most folks aren't really thinking that FPS may come down as the GPU gets tied up doing other things than pure FPS. So it's not a perfect world but a very good advancement.

Kudos for Nvidia.


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