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Carmack: Hardware Physics A Bad Idea

How does it feel when one of the biggest developers of this era thinks your product is a big waste of time and money? That kind of opinion is like a swift kick in the groin, but that's basically what id Software's John Carmack said--not in private behind closed doors--but during a Q&A session at QuakeCon 2009 when asked about his thoughts on hardware physics.

"I think I was fairly public about my thinking that that was a really bad idea, and in fact it was pretty clear to me from early on that the whole idea for that was to do a startup to be acquired," he answered.

As he indicated, Carmack made his feelings regarding hardware-based physics well known in the past (story), stating that he wasn't a "believer" in physics processing units (PPUs), and that multiple CPU cores would be much more useful in general. He also previously said that some tasks would work just fine when GPUs finally get "reasonably fine-grained context switching and scheduling."

But his answer during the QuakeCon 2009 Q&A session seemed more like an attack on Ageia and its PhysX PPU that was eventually assimilated by the Nvidia collective. "I actually had a really quite negative opinion about stuff like that because they went out, they evangelized, they got some people to buy a piece of hardware that I didn't think was actually a good technical direction for things on there; certainly was going to be supplanted by later generations of more integrated compute resources on there," he continued. "I don't think it was a good idea, I certainly wasn't a backer of the company, and I hope NVIDIA didn't pay a whole lot of money for them."

Ouch. To catch the full-blown attack on hardware-based physics, check out Carmack in action captured here on YouTube.

  • leafblower29
    But PhysX is one of the reasons I like nvidia.
    Reply
  • Aintry
    Are we allowed to breathe now? I mean, John Carmack is done talking, right?
    Reply
  • Upendra09
    how much of a difference do they make?
    and how many people actually use PPUs?
    I have seen them in rigs from Falcon Northwest and stuff but are they worth it?
    Reply
  • airborne11b
    Well, where I agree that "Physx cards" were a bad idea, since you payed for hardware that only showed performance increases in select games *like 4 lol*, now that new series of GPU's come with Physx support built right into the GPU, I think it's great!

    Lets face it, id software is a little behind the time anywho, even when they released Doom3 and quake 4, the games were pretty stale. The games had decent graphics for the time they were released, but the games were nothing special, and for the part pretty boring. And what have they given to the gaming community since then? Nothing. While other game companies are pushing forward with fresh new ideas, id is sitting around talking trash about how bad physx is.

    I think this can all be summed up in 1 sentence. Id is sore that they can't invent anything new and fresh, so they attack new ideas that they wish they had come up with.
    Reply
  • viometrix
    i think carmack is right to a degree, a seperate ppu unit does suck, but what nvidia did by intergrating it into the video card was the way it should have always been, and maybe with a combo of using an available cpu core that isnt being used by by a game or application it would maximise what we can do with physics without the need to spend extra money, use and available slot and consume more power
    Reply
  • airborne11b
    and to answer Upendra, No one buys PPU's because all Geforce cards from 9 series and up come with built in PhysX support And those have been out well over a year now.
    Reply
  • NuclearShadow
    I believe there is potentiality in physic cards but its really up to the developers such as id to decide to actually make it worth while or not the hardware is in the complete mercy to people like Carmack. However since the merger of physics cards and GPU's this certainly makes it much more affordable to the consumer and developers that take advantage of it have a edge over those who do not.

    I do however believe that Carmack's recent love for consoles influences his opinion on this subject. If a game was released today that had ground breaking graphics and to top it off a very advanced physics system that really took advantage of physics capabilities the game simply wouldn't be capable of running on the consoles we have today. With more developers looking to release on both consoles and PC this wouldn't be in their best interest.
    Reply
  • redgarl
    Totally right, I think the same thing. PhysX is impressive, but it was far from really more impressive than Havok was when we first saw Half-Life 2.

    I am sorry, but why do we need hardware to run physics? Havok was doing a fine job and it never required any additional physical hardware to be run.

    What will happens with DX11 around the corner?
    Reply
  • worst 3
    I think that with gpu having physx like my 8800gt it will be good, now i don't have to sell it or just throw it out i cant turn it in to a dedicated physx card when i buy a 300 Geforce cars. then keep moving the last gen card to physx or as needed. i think physics done right could change gaming a lot and make it more fun as well as help with graphics by helping with different effects to make them look more real.
    Reply
  • redgarl
    Airborne11bI think this can all be summed up in 1 sentence. Id is sore that they can't invent anything new and fresh, so they attack new ideas that they wish they had come up with.
    Well, I admit that Carmack is not a really good game developer, but he knows how to code. He's one of the few who can sell graphic engines and make money over his games that way.
    Reply