It’s one of the world’s most popular pieces of middleware, but the first engine to get a pre-baked Havok Physics integration is Trinigy’s Vision Engine. Michael French caught up with Trinigy’s Dag Frommhold and Jeff Yates to discuss the partnership…
Why have you formed this partnership?
Dag Frommhold, Trinigy: As a self-funded company, our roadmap is first and foremost driven by customer requests. Over the past year, we have received many requests to integrate Havok Physics into the Vision Engine. We’ve enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Havok and know that the emphasis they place on simplifying the workflow is similar to our own. So the integration made sense from many perspectives.
What’s in it for Havok?
Jeff Yates, Havok: It’s primarily about customer choice. We view our partnership primarily as a way of enabling more choice for our current and prospective customers – and as a way of raising the bar on the quality of integration that can be achieved by working directly with a company like Trinigy. Havok has for some time been working to enable broader access to its core technologies, via the public download on our website.
However, to enable truly out-of-the-box integration between Havok Physics and a game engine that includes a complete tool pipeline and run-time solution, we needed to establish something more committed than just a public download. That’s how we came to our agreement with Trinigy, and we genuinely believe it will enable Trinigy/Havok customers to experience the most comprehensive physics-engine integration available in the commercial market.
So, from the other angle: what’s in it for Trinigy?
DF: The Vision Engine was architected from the beginning to integrate well with other game development tools and middleware. We do this because our customers want tools that are not only free of technical hindrances, but that also allow them to efficiently create the games they want to make. Working with an industry-leading company like Havok to improve our toolset benefits us and our customers.
Most importantly, what’s in it for developers?
DF: Trinigy focuses a lot of attention on giving our customers more technical and creative freedom with our engine. Part of that freedom can be found in the workflow and how our customers access various tools in their pipeline. By providing a more efficient workflow to share data, concepts and ideas between tools, our customers have more time to focus on quality.
Does the deal preclude either of you working with other similar companies in the middleware space?
DF: The deal does not preclude Trinigy or Havok from working with any other partner. In fact, the Vision Engine already has integrations with two other physics middleware products, giving our customers the freedom to choose the solution best suited for their applications.
Do you think more middleware firms should work together? Why?
DF: Absolutely. In our case, it is essential to allow our customers to freely move between the tools commonly found in their pipeline. The Vision Engine has been carefully designed to provide the most technical and creative freedom possible. We listen to our customers and integrate with many world class solutions, but also make it straightforward to integrate the Vision Engine with in-house tools. Again, it comes down to workflow. If game developers have problems moving or sharing data between applications, that can slow development time, drive up costs, limit creativity and ultimately affect the quality of the game.
What major issues in terms of workflow efficiencies has this partnership conquered?
DF: Developers get a fully integrated one-stop solution which allows them to interactively add Havok physics to their scenes. They can visually edit and tweak physical properties in vForge, our scene editor. Since the Havok integration leverages the Vision Engine’s modular object component system, Havok physics can freely be combined with any of our other features, and of course with other complementary middleware solutions.
What other issues facing developers do the two of you hope to tackle?
DF: Our focus is on providing an efficient and adaptable workflow while ensuring top performance across all our supported platforms. Developers using both Havok’s Physics and the Vision Engine for their upcoming projects will now find an integrated solution with vForge as a streamlined, unified editing environment.
How are you both preparing for the coming wave of smaller footprint portable devices, such as iPhone, new PSP, and netbooks?
DF: We continually optimise the Vision Engine to provide highly efficient code with a small memory footprint. Since our technology already scales to the largest multi-processor environments available, and we simultaneously support less scalable processing hardware such as integrated graphics chips on the PC, we’re confident we are well prepared for all upcoming platforms. We have ongoing conversations with both our customers and various platform providers to ensure we address the needs of our customers as the market evolves.
JY: Havok has historically followed customer demand in determining what platforms to support. To that end, Havok Physics, Havok Animation, and Havok Behavior have all been ported to the Sony PSP, and presently there are over a dozen titles released on the PSP using Havok technology. We are also quite familiar with the iPhone technology itself, and given sufficient demand, we see no major hurdles in moving Havok Physics on to that platform. Certainly, there seem to be many untapped possibilities in the realm of puzzle- and Boom Blox-esque games where physics can play a very meaningful role, without dwarfing the device’s computational power.
Similarly, how are you preparing for the multi-core processors that will be found in upcoming PCs and the next generation of consoles?
DF: We carefully optimise the Vision Engine for each supported platform, which allows developers to efficiently utilise available hardware resources right out of the box. The Vision Engine also supports multi-threading, stream processing, and a host of other performance-enhancing features. We work closely with hardware providers to ensure the Vision Engine is optimised for new GPU and CPU designs. It’s been designed with n-core architectures in mind. Customers have enjoyed multi-core support for years and can be confident we will continue to optimise as new hardware becomes available.
JY: Multi-core platforms like the PS3 and Xbox 360 have certainly become the litmus test for middleware in the last three years – and Havok has dedicated significant resources to optimising for that space.
This is an area where we only continue to deepen our expertise and product offering, through titles in production. So I suspect we will be very much focused on any new multi-core devices that enter the market in the future.
There’s currently a lot of talk of cloud and server-based gaming. How much of an impact do you think the potential move towards these systems have on the middleware business?
DF: We are following this discussion with great interest. Cloud-based applications have many of the same middleware requirements as today’s games. We will continue to watch for opportunities in this sector.