BELIEVABLE GAME WORLDS USING PHYSICAL SIMULATION
Interactive demonstration, 2012
The earliest video games were simulations. Tennis for Two  simulated a game of tennis and Space War  simulated a battle between two opposing spaceships. Although not the only possible way of framing the activity in a game [compared with abstract games such as Tetris], it’s clear that simulating a believable game world is an extremely effective way of drawing players in. Simulating a game world involves creating a mathematical description of the game’s entities and applying rules which account for how the entities move and interact over time. The ball in Tennis for Two moves realistically according to physical laws which describe air resistance and bounce. In Space War, the spaceships move according to Newton’s laws of gravity. Since those early days, advances in computing power mean that we can simulate many more entities and simulate them to a much finer degree. Stacks of boxes fall over in an unscripted and realistic manner. Characters fall down in a unique and believable way. Characters’ cloaks billow behind them realistically. Traditionally, game characters are rendered using an approach called skinning. However, the troll shown in this exhibit is modelled using state-of-the-art soft-body physics. Here, a physical model is used to give realistic “secondary” motion to the troll’s flesh and clothing. Contrasted with the traditional skinning approach, the model has astounding levels of believability and life.
"We use mathematics, physics and technology to achieve remarkably believable worlds within video games. This exhibit shows how a physical model of soft flesh and cloth enables us to create a troll model with a remarkable amount of motion and life."