PhysX, the physics-acceleration technology developed by Ageia and later acquired by Nvidia, has always had the capacity to impress. But it’s taking a long time for the eye-popping effects seen in demos to show up in retail games. Electronic Arts’ DICE studio is taking the plunge, so to speak, with the PC version of its upcoming action-adventure game Mirror’s Edge.
The game, based on the concept of a network of acrobatic couriers who take to the city’s rooftops and aerial skyways in order to avoid detection, is already available on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox gaming consoles; the PC version is scheduled to ship in January 2009.
The “world in Mirror’s Edge is visceral, immediate, and very dangerous” said Owen O’Brien, senior producer at DICE, “it is imperative that the gameplay reflect this level of urgency. Nvidia PhysX technology affords us the ability to bring a totally new level of immersion to the game, and by doing so, gamers can truly become part of the world.”
In-game physics effects—including wind, weapons impact, and movement—will impact how the game unfolds. Insubstantial, opaque objects such as cloth, flags, and banners can mask a player’s presence, but won’t protect them from weapons or flying debris. Ground fog will interact with the players’ footsteps, and explosions will fill the air with smoke, particles, and other debris.
Nvidia lists about 80 PhysX-enabled games on its website, either available now or in development, but relatively few of these are A-list titles like Mirror’s Edge. Many of the games that are—such as Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter—don’t make extensive use of the technology. Nvidia needs games the caliber of Mirror’s Edge to deliver a more compelling experience with PhysX enabled than without in order to convince more developers to take advantage of it.
Nvidia dumped the PhysX hardware when it acquired Ageia earlier this year, relying instead on its existing CUDA parallel-computing architecture to handle accelerate the PhysX middleware. CUDA technology is included in any graphics card equipped with an Nvidia GeForce 8-series or later GPU.