There will be a more in-depth article coming, but I thought I'd get the ball rolling while I have a short lunch break...
Wesstron and I had the privilege of attending an NVIDIA press event these past couple days in Montreal, where a bunch of new technologies and architectures were unveiled.
One thing that's important to remember, and many people forget, is that NVIDIA is more than just GPUs. NVIDIA GameWorks studio employs 300 visual effects engineers that work on a whole slew of game developer tools - they strive to be to gaming what ILM is to movies.
Along those lines, yesterday NVIDIA announced three new GameWorks technologies:
1. Flex, a unified GPU PhysX system
Flex is the world's first unified solver, has two-way coupling effects, shared collision detection, and parallelism at all stages. In layman's terms, it basically allows multiple physics objects to interact with each other in realistic ways. To illustrate this, we were shown several live demos: bouncing, squishable balls; fluid displacing rigid bodies and then those rigid bodies floating realistically; fluid and cloth interaction; deformable objects; and even a water balloon simulation where the demonstrator could pop the balloon in random spots and the water inside would react realistically, either bursting open or streaming.
2. GI Works
World's first real-time global illumination solution. It's a fully dynamic system with scalable architecture. Light bounces off surfaces, which also has real-time glossy specular reflections. It basically means that future game developers who utilize this GI Works into their games won't have to bake lighting, which is basically "faking it" - it also means that less light sources will actually be needed in the game because a light's "cone of influence" is greater than it may appear due to the bouncing. For anyone who's dealt with game development before in a 3D environment, you know that lighting is a painful process, so this should be very welcome.
3. Flame Works
Provides film-quality volumetric effects for fire and smoke. We were shown a demo with a fire-breathing dragon and the fire was different each time and interacted with physical objects in the world. The demo could be paused and you could see that it indeed was a volume-based system.