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PhysX Performance Tests - The way games should be played


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Introduction


Something that is often overlooked in games is the environment that surrounds the player.  This environment is extremely important as it shapes how the game will progress and oftentimes is an integral part of the storyline.   For instance exploding barrels and trash piles in Painkiller often gave the player extra ammo and coins. Grass, trees, and water in FarCry offered an awe inspiring picturesque setting and depending on the mission could be a key part in completing your objective.  In both of these instances the environment played a key role in playing the game, however in each instance there were limits to what the environment could offer.  In Painkiller for instance when a trash pile exploded it really just broke apart into large chunks that soon disappeared.  In FarCry when trees burned or exploded they did so in an un-realistic manner.

So why is that??  The quick answer is hardware and programming limitations.  Breaking something into smaller pieces is a complex problem for game designers as they have to account for everything, assign rules to falling debris, and determine how you can interact with different materials.  This process is very costly in terms of CPU calculations so game designers purposefully limit the environments to ensure a smooth gaming experience.

PhysX is the answer to this fundamental problem and finally gives game designers the ability to add realism to their games.  No longer does a NPC simply fall out of a window, now that character can rip curtains off the wall while shattering a pane of glass before falling to their death.  All of this with perfect physical properties and absolutely no additional load on the CPU.
 
In this article we are going to explore what PhysX really is and how it applies to different games and more importantly how this technology affects performance in those games.
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