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Physics Meets Art: Playing With Fire and Water

By Arti Gupta

Krzysztof Mieloszyk, one of the authors of Game Programming Gems 8 and a professor at the Gdansk University of Technology, is an expert on creating realistic-looking explosions, water flow, collisions and fire in game environments. I recently spoke with him about the chapter he wrote about the application of quasi fluid dynamics for arbitrary closed meshes.

Arti Gupta: Why is the role of physics becoming more important to game developers?

Krzysztof Mieloszyk: In the past, games were very simple. People generally found that in games, there weren t any effects. In the present, every game has to have effects and be realistic to keep gamers and players in the product. People don t want to play a game where the virtual world doesn t behave like the real world. They don t like games if something does not behave realistically, like fire or some objects. It s not realistic; it s not interesting. People need to feel like they re in the real world while playing the game.

A.G.: There are different simulations for water versus fire versus other objects. Are there any considerations game developers should pay attention to?

K.M.: Yes. General physic simulation is important in games, and it depends what you want to simulate -- waves in the tree or fire or water or object collision. Every situation usually needs different models of simulation. For object collision, you use different a model. For fire, you use models depending on the situation. If it s only bomb fire, you can use just smart animation. If it will be some kind of explosion, there needs to be some kind of simulation.

A.G.: Even particle simulation would come in there if you re doing an explosion, right?

K.M.: Yes. It depends on the factors what model you would use and how precise an algorithm you would use. Sometimes you can write an algorithm that s almost universal, for fire, liquid, everything. But it needs high computing, and it s not useful for the games. So you have to find a compromise between quality, heavy numeric computing and realistic behavior, especially in games.

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