When’s the last time you played a racing game, or perhaps an action game with a driving component, and marveled at the realism of the crashes? For every one that gets even mildly close there are handfuls more that suffice with the bare minimum of slightly crumpled panels and scuffed paint jobs.
And it doesn't have to be this way at All!
A Earlier New startup company called BeamNG just proved it.
BeamNG’s debut reel is a little like the automotive equivalent of the first time we all saw NaturalMotion’s euphoria engine in action way back in 2006, in that tech trailer of the Indiana Jones game that never came to fruition. Just like euphoria gave us tumbling bodies that look like real tumbling bodies, here were car crashes that looked like real car crashes.
This is soft-body physics.
You may have come across this video before; it chalked up two million views in just three days when BeamNG published it back in March. Perhaps you saw their second video, released in July, or the pair of single crash clips they uploaded just days ago. Or perhaps you’re a Rigs of Rods aficionado, an open-source driving sandbox game loved by fans for its soft-body physics (although they’re not as good as those on display in the videos here).
Where you haven’t seen these amazingly realistic vehicle collisions, however, is in a big budget commercial racing or driving game.
In October 2011 the Rigs of Rods team decided the potential for the sort of soft-body physics on show in their game was too great to ignore. They began work on a new a new physics engine from scratch. It was built upon the same physics concepts, just more refined and optimized.
Perhaps what seems most stunning is not that a small team of four could put together such fascinating tech in the first place, but that in 2012 there’s still a hole in the industry big enough for them to do so. The game industry pursues realism tenaciously, and yet today’s games still do not feature cars that behave, flex under stress or deform as realistically as this.
The BeamNG team explain that the film effects industry and the motor industry have used this kind of simulation for some time, but their simulators are non real-time and require hours to calculate just one second of action.
“Concerning the game industry, while the whole mass-spring idea initially seems very simple, it's extremely difficult to make it work correctly in real time,” continues the team. “Mass-spring systems have very bad stability, they tend to explode, and are very CPU intensive. Also it is very hard to make them work for stiff materials, metals, in real time.
“Hence the majority of their usage is for calculating ‘soft’ materials like cloth.”
The team also expresses that it’s exceptionally difficult to calculate collisions in real-time for stiff mass-spring systems and keep them stable in the face of extreme collisions.
“[I]t is natural that most of a game company’s efforts will be spent on ‘how things look’ rather than ‘how things move’.
“It requires an enormous amount of knowledge, experience, time and effort to solve all of the above problems efficiently,” they continue. “So it is reasonable for game companies to choose the more direct, proven and good-enough approach of rigid-body for vehicles and soft-body for cloths and other special cases.
“In addition the wide held rule of the gaming industry is that looks are the major selling point for games. So it is natural that most of a game company’s efforts will be spent on ‘how things look’ rather than ‘how things move’.”
If games and game companies adopt this in their upcoming new projects the future of the game will get a bit more realistic. Driving, open world, stunt games etc. could and would utilize this next gen technology for better realism in our daily gaming lives, just like watching a CGI film.
The company stated they used the CryEngine technology to develop this on and it simply looks impressive indeed!
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