Posted by James
Mar 28th 2009 - 2:20 AM
Dave Smith, the technical director at Media Molecule, delivered a talk at GDC yesterday on the complexities and rewards of implementing physics in LittleBigPlanet.
Gamasutra folk were there recording the events, for us to copy paste their words today. (thank you Gamasutra!)
What is physics in games?
Smith wondered about the original 1981 Donkey Kong. “Does this have physics? I would say yes. You have objects moving, colliding with things… Arguably this is a form of physics.”
Though it’s limited, so is the current definition of physics in games, he argues. “We generally refer to rigid-body physics simulation as physics”; in real life objects collide and deform, and liquids aren’t yet simulated very well. Like with what Donkey Kong chose to simulate, “It’s a question of computing power.”
But with more realistic physics, Smith argues, you can make something that’s more than the sum of its parts—all items in DK act alone; in World of Goo the developers simulate a great deal through the use of springs, and “build complexity, which is interesting and useful in different ways.”
Why implement physics?
“The first possible answer, and I think it’s one a lot of games would give, is to make the game pretty,” says Smith. “It makes the world more believable.”
Many developers think physics allow you to get away with a smaller team, since things are simulated rather than hand-created. “I think there’s some truth and some wrongheadedness about this answer,” says Smith.
“Even though you get a lot of odd behavior [with a ragdoll simulation] it’s preferable to have the odd visual effects than having the characters not respond correctly to the environment,” Smith admits.
“But I think developers feel you can get something for nothing… You can just rely on one or two simple physical principles… As humans I think we’re good at seeing through, seeing to the heart of a game and seeing the true content. You have to have some sort of structured experience you’re given to the player.”
For LBP, the real reason to use physics was to “make use of players’ expectations.”
Says Smith, “From a very early age, we develop a very sophisticated understanding of the world around us. I think this is something games can really leverage. Your players already have a whole wealth of experience to solve problems the game poses.”
When you use physics, then, “You throw up less walls to define what the player can do. The game becomes more believable as the players can do more what they can do in real life.”
To read more of Dave’s very development focused talk, head on over to Gamasutra.
P.S Please bear with us through these bursts of technical failure, we’re not entirely sure what’s happening but we are working around the clock to resolve it!