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Microsoft Set to Produce Its Own Physics API


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Microsoft is attempting to recruit a physics-experienced coder for its DirectX team, in an attempt to add what it calls, "great leap forwards in the way game developers think about integrating physics into their engines" to its application interface.

It could be argued that any addition to its SDK could purely be based around adding simple physics, running via a system's traditional CPU, to further enhance Microsoft's rapidly growing DirectX /XNA portfolio for game developers. However, the job spec specifically states that the post entails work, "that is optimized for the GPU", meaning that Microsoft may be aiming to displace the current players within the burgeoning GPU-based physics API/SDK market.

It remains to be seen whether this late entry will have room to become a significant player. Both ATi and NVidia have announced varying levels of support for the Havok engine and proprietary hardware in the form of the PhysX chip from Ageia has already been released, albeit to a luke-warm reception (except, perhaps, from our Fudo. Ed).

Interestingly, it seems Microsoft has a fairly good working relationship with Ageia. Its most recent 'Rise Of Nations' game release (under the Microsoft Game Studios banner) utilised the Ageia PhysX API, among other licencing partnerships. Its recent Robotics initiative is also thought to be utilising some licence agreement with Ageia.

Havok is also no stranger to dealing with Microsoft - various XBox and XBox 360 SDKs have been released and utilised in many existing games, along with other middleware based upon Microsoft's XNA program.

The job spec points to both Havoc and Ageia experience - it could be that either technology has been licensed to ensure a quick delivery of a late-to-market product.

The current state of the hardware-based-physics market is fractured and immature. ATI is producing a three-slot on-GPU Cross-Fire offering for its Havoc-based physics offering. NVidia is also keen to offer a Havoc-based on-GPU physics product, and as stated, Ageia has its own SDK and product.

Various middleware offerings from competing companies and vendors along with the current slew of these GPU/PPU manufacturers announcing hardware-based product, is analogous to the graphics-card/GPU market in its early infancy. Various products supporting varying APIs, forced game developers to choose from one specific API/manufacturer several years before their game's release, causing great risk to the game-developing-company if it chose the least successful product.

Enter Microsoft, with its new DirectX architecture, allowing software to choose to ignore the underlying hardware and write to one unifying interface. DirectX has from inception grown from strength to strength, and is now utilised by the vast majority of PC-based games.

Even considering Microsoft's fairly late entry to this segment of market development, this is undoubtedly what will happen to the physics market too.

More Information: Microsoft Careers
Source: The Inquirer

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