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Video Game Graphics and Physics

  1. Oct 19, 2013 #1
    I was numerically solving the wave equation earlier just to produce a simple illustration of a vibrating string and my computer was working pretty hard. Then I realized how many video games nowadays have such awesome graphics with things like water, waves, motion in general, etc... Are these consoles numerically solving PDEs with obscure boundary conditions to make these animations??? If that's the case, it really makes you appreciate how powerful these consoles can be (especially when user input can alter the equations and boundary conditions and run so smoothly).

    My question: Are gaming consoles numerically solving PDEs with obscure boundary conditions to make animations?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 19, 2013 #2
  4. Oct 20, 2013 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    Highly doubtful. As far as I am aware in most cases they don't simulate real water behavior, they rather use algorithms that make the surface "look good". Sophisticated cheating in other words.

    See if this page: http://vterrain.org/Water/ doesn't help.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2013
  5. Oct 20, 2013 #4
    there was this video in which they used what they call " real physics engine "
    i then went on to read more about this engine , it claims that it uses real-life physical computations to compute the movement of particles like dust , bullets and whatsoever , i dont remember the name of the video
    but it was for one of UnReal games * no pun its just the name of the game :p *
    also check this PhysX engine
    to quote wikipedia
    " It supports rigid body dynamics, soft body dynamics, ragdolls and character controllers, vehicle dynamics, volumetric fluid simulation and cloth simulation including tearing and pressurized cloth. "
  6. Oct 20, 2013 #5

    Yes that's what I was looking for. That is truly amazing if you ask me... I wonder if physicists and engineers working in computational mechanics realize that their work is also being used in video games? LOL...
  7. Oct 20, 2013 #6


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    Staff Emeritus
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    Homework Helper

    No, they're totally oblivious to such things.

    I'm curious as to what you mean by 'PDEs with obscure boundary conditions'. Most of the PDEs describing fluid flow and such have relatively simple and quite common boundary conditions.
  8. Oct 21, 2013 #7
    Obscure was the wrong word, I meant seemingly random or a wide variety of boundary conditions. When you have user input and there's a bunch of possibilities you can get a wide array of boundary conditions. Sorry for the misuse of that word, I can't think of any boundary value problems that would arise in a videogame that aren't capable of being solved numerically...
  9. Oct 21, 2013 #8


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    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Not quite oblivious. A lot of "serous" numerical computing is taking a ride on the back of the hardware developed for mass-market computer gaming (e.g. the large scale parallel processing hardware in graphics cards), and the low hardware costs that come from large production runs.

    But the objectives are very different even if the hardware and even some of the numerical methods are the same. A video game animation has to look right (or at least, not look too wrong) when it is computed in real time. And if it doesn't look quite right, adding some smoke, flames, and/or sound effects can easily ihide that fact!. An engineering simulation has to be right, not just look pretty, but getting answers in real time is usually irrelevant. At work, we use simulations that run for hundreds of hours, to compute what happens to something in a few milliseconds.
  10. Oct 22, 2013 #9
    I do the same thing with molecular dynamics simulations. It takes weeks to get a few nanoseconds in real time. I'd like to get into more classical simulations (even though molecular dynamics is primarily classical mechanics...) like fluid flow or vibrations.

    Out of curiosity, what do you do?
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