AMD - Game devs only use PhysX for the cash

As AMD announced the next step of its Open Physics Initiative today, the company also hit out at Nvidia’s PhysX technology, saying that most game developers only use it for the money.

Speaking to THINQ, AMD’s senior manager of developer relations, Richard Huddy, said: “What I’ve seen with physics, or PhysX rather, is that Nvidia create a marketing deal with a title, and then as part of that marketing deal, they have the right to go in and implement PhysX in the game.”

There’s nothing wrong with this, you might think. However, Huddy spends a lot of time talking with game developers in his role, and he reckons that most devs would much rather Nvidia kept its hands off. “The problem with that is obviously that the game developer doesn’t actually want it,” he says.

“They’re not doing it because they want it; they’re doing it because they’re paid to do it. So we have a rather artificial situation at the moment where you see PhysX in games, but it isn’t because the game developer wants it in there.”

In fact, Huddy reckons that no developers outside Epic genuinely wanted to implement GPU-accelerated PhysX in their game. “I’m not aware of any GPU-accelerated PhysX code which is there because the games developer wanted it with the exception of the Unreal stuff,” he says. “I don’t know of any games company that’s actually said ‘you know what, I really want GPU-accelerated PhysX, I’d like to tie myself to Nvidia and that sounds like a great plan.’”

Unsurprisingly, Huddy is very confident in AMD’s open approach to GPU-accelerated physics as an alternative, and thinks that it will eventually force PhysX to join GLide and A3D in the proprietary API museum.

“I think the proprietary stuff will eventually go away,” he says. “If you go back ten years or so to when GLide was there as a proprietary 3D graphics API, it could have coexisted, but instead of putting their effort into getting D3D to go well, 3dfx focused on GLide. As a result, they found themselves competing with a proprietary standard against an open standard, and they lost. It’s the way it is with many of the standards we work with.”

This is a point that AMD plans to hammer home at the Games Developers Conference (GDC) tomorrow, where Huddy says he will unveil a “rather nice chart” with a “list of proprietary standards that have tumbled, because what the world wants is open standards.”

Of course, whether game developers want to use PhysX or not, AMD’s bigger problem is that GPU-accelerated PhysX is already being used in a fair few games. Meanwhile, AMD has so far only demonstrated a GPU-accelerated version of Havok at the GDC last year, and there aren’t any games available that take advantage of GPU-accelerated physics on AMD GPUs yet either. It also doesn’t help that Nvidia has openly offered to share its PhysX technology with AMD, but AMD hasn’t taken up the offer.

Either way, we certainly need a standard that everybody can agree on in order for GPU-accelerated physics to take off, and AMD’s Open Physics Initiative is currently the only system that will theoretically work on anyone’s hardware. The question is whether game devs want to use it, and AMD is hoping that it can tempt more developers its way with the offer of free physics tools.

As Huddy says, “When you have an open standard, everyone can join in and everyone can make free and well-informed choices, and it’s not about skewing the market with money.” We’ll get there, one day.