Ageia PhysX and Cellfactor

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Games, Technology

Lately I’ve been spending far more time than I should admit browsing forums on the internets. I was visiting one of my favorite anime forums when I saw a discussion on “Cell Factor!!!” I’d seen a demo of Cell Factor, which is a First Person Shooter game that requires an Ageia PhysX card, about six months ago. At the time I didn’t think the game warranted even one exclamation mark, much less three, so I was intrigued to see if it had improved.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, here’s a video of Cellfactor in action:

Another, more recent video:

Now, I started reading the thread on this game, which began with one forum member acting like he was Moses descending with the ten commandments. “This forum,” he proclaimed, “Has managed to miss this game, so I have taken it upon myself to spread the word of the next revolutionary game due.” I wish I were kidding about this, but, alas, the forums of the world are overflowing with intellectual lepers.

Does Cellfactor look entertaining? Sure. Is it revolutionary? Hardly. The game looks like a faster paced deathmatch in Half-Life 2 style, except instead of using the gravity gun to pick up and toss single objects, you’re picking up and tossing ten or twenty objects. As visually exciting as it may be to see a Gravity Grenade pulling in a hundred boxes, barrels, and pipes before exploding, when I think about spending an extra $300 so that I can see an order of magnitude more rigid bodies interacting I’m just not excited. Any game is going to perform better with dedicated hardware components, that’s a given. Is the gain here worth the cost? is the question that needs to be asked. I say no.

There were a number of other people who jumped in the thread, making similar points. I honestly don’t know anyone who wants to buy another card for their computer. Trying to remain competitive with your processor and graphics card is already impossible. For games to require a further card would be the final nail in the coffin of big-budget PC gaming, as far as I’m concerned. The original poster responds, getting more and more angry at the skepticism expressed by myself and others. How dare we question the next revolution in gaming? By now the whole thread’s turned into a flamefest and I can’t even understand why. Who wants to pay for an extra card for what looks like merely an excuse to litter play areas with superfluous crates, pipes, rocks, and other clutter? Do game developers really need excuses to put more boxes in games (possibly the most cliche thing in First Person Shooters)? Why are gamers advocating for hardware components they don’t even own? It’s boosterism for a phantom cause.

Here’s a video of Cellfactor running without PhysX:

I think that’s pretty damning about the need for this card. Sure, it’s only one character manipulating this environment and there aren’t any AI enemies running around taking up processor cycles, but it just goes to show what is possible in a single-player environment (where, I presume, physics-based gameplay features would be more relevant — At least in first person shooters).

Does anyone think that we’re going to be seeing the need for dedicated PPUs (not ones integrated into a GPU)?

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